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Can the Phillies fix their rotation for 2016?

Or, at the very least, not allow it to be the fright show it has been for most of 2015.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

No one is quite sure how the Phillies are scoring 4.8 runs a game since the All Star break, other than to assume some witch doctor or mystical force has climbed into the bats of Odubel Herrera, Jeff Francoeur and Co. But since the All-Star Break, the Phils offense is doing some pretty incredible things.

Back on August 6, the Phillies battered Los Angeles Dodgers starter Zack Greinke for six runs in six innings, including five in the first inning before they recorded an out. Greinke came into that game with a 1.41 ERA, it's now a still other-worldly 1.67.

On Monday night against the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park, the Phils knocked out one of the best in the game, Jacob deGrom, after 2 2/3 innings, scoring seven runs with three home runs, all of them no-doubters. deGrom has a 2.29 ERA, and came into the game with a 1.98 ERA. Only Greinke's was better.

And here's the pisser. The Phillies lost both of those games.

Last night, Adam Morgan could not secure a 7-2 lead, failing to make it out of the fourth inning, giving up five runs on seven hits. Hector Neris eventually coughed up the lead by allowing four runs on three hits in 1 1/3 innings. Justin De Fratus, who has struggled all season long as both Ryne Sandberg and Pete Mackanin try to find a way to use him (or over-use him), coughed up five runs on seven hits in two torturous innings, and left-hander Adam Loewen finished things off by giving up two runs in his two innings of work as well.

The Phillies pitching staff has been pretty awful all season long. Neither of the lottery ticket veterans they signed over the winter, Aaron Harang (4.63 ERA) and Chad Billingsley (5.84 ERA), panned out at all. Jerome Williams (6.10 ERA) has been largely horrific, Sean O'Sullivan (6.08 ERA) has been ghastly, and David Buchanan (9.00 ERA) has been cover-your-eyes, hide-the-children, don't-look-directly-at-it brutal.

In all, the Phillies have used 13 starting pitchers this year, including rookie Aaron Nola (3.59 ERA), Adam Morgan (4.43 ERA), Severino Gonzalez (7.92 ERA), Dustin McGowan (6.94 ERA), Kevin Correia (6.56 ERA), Jerad Eickhoff (one start) and Phillippe Aumont (one start).

Even with Cole Hamels, who was their best starter by far before he was traded to Texas, the rotation's ERA of 5.36 is the worst in baseball, slightly worse than Colorado's 5.34. In fact, this current Phils rotation has been historically bad (stats courtesy of Baseball Reference).

1 1930 156 6.15 107 1.766
2 1929 154 6.03 90 1.747
3 1928 152 5.65 83 1.706
4 2015 125 5.36 105 1.475
5 1923 155 5.30 77 1.679

The table above ranks the team's worst starters' ERA going back as far as 1914, and only the rotations from 1928-1930 have had worse ERAs than this year's group.

The rotation has been a true disaster, and the boys upstairs are going to have to do something about it for next season. Nola will undoubtedly front the rotation, and the assumption is that Eickhoff is going to get a chance to audition for a spot next year over the last five weeks of the season. A couple of the other arms acquired in the Hamels trade, Alec Asher and Jake Thompson, could also vie for spots. Jess Biddle, Zach Eflin and Nick Pivetta could all get looks in spring training as well.

But should the Phillies do anything big in free agency? After all, there will be a plethora of arms from which to choose, including Greinke, Johnny Cueto, Doug Fister, Scott Kazmir, David Price, Jeff Samardzija and Jordan Zimmerman. That is a lot of arms to go around.

However, it's unlikely the Phils will be ultra-aggressive on any starting pitcher, especially one on the wrong side of 30 (which is all of them). It's more likely the team will look for more short-term deals with lesser-priced vets like Jaime Garcia, Mark Buehrle, Ross Detwiler, Marco Estrada, Yovani Gallardo, Ian Kennedy, John Lackey, Mike Leake, Kyle Lohse, Brandon Morrow or Alfredo Simon.

Still, even though they're rebuilding, the team can't go through another season in which the starters are getting bombed on such a regular basis.


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