SP Roy Halladay. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Cole Hamels certainly is not the fourth best pitcher on the Phillies, but the Phillies rotation may just reflect that heading into a highly anticipated 2012 season.
After reading Jim Salisbury’s post on CSN’s website, splitting the lefties may just be a great direction to take this rotation. By splitting the lefties, it would most likely require Hamels pitching fourth in the rotation.
Though the Opening Day starter hasn’t officially been announced, it will most likely, and should be Roy Halladay taking the first ball in Pittsburgh. Granted the right-hander hasn’t been as immediately effective in his tune up games to the season, there shouldn’t be a doubt in anyone’s mind that he’s the ace of aces.
“I’m going to use the entire spring to get ready,” Doc said. And by all spring, he means all spring.
One example of that came today. Halladay threw a change-up to Minnesota’s Josh Willingham that didn’t have any of the proper movement Doc puts behind that pitch and it was mashed for a solo home run.
He immediately sought his catcher Carlos Ruiz and told him to keep calling the change-up because Doc wanted to get it down pat.
“I told Chooch, ‘Keep calling it as much as you can,’” Halladay said. “See if we can figure out how it feels when it’s off. We have some ideas and things I can play with in my next bullpen.”
Without any doubt that Halladay will be ready, that puts Cliff Lee in the number two spot of the rotation and the young phenom Vance Worley as the number three.
That leaves the fourth pitching spot open to Hamels, which will slate him to start the home opener – a real treat to the fans paying extra money for their first tickets of 2012.
The decision will be up to pitching coach Rich Dubee, who handles all matters pitching. Granted Dubee hasn’t officially announced his rotation, his current order of pitchers during Grapefruit League action suggests that he plans to split lefties Lee and Hamels.
Last season, Halladay and Lee were at the top of the rotation while now-free agent starter Roy Oswalt and Hamels took up the third and fourth spots with Joe Blanton as the number five to open the season. But injuries to Blanton gave way to Worley, who impressed the Phillies immensely with his 11-3 record and 3.01 ERA.
SP Cole Hamels. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
By splitting the lefties, it puts Hamels in a very familiar position he was in during a career season in 2011. The 28-year-old went 14-9 with a career low 2.67 ERA and 0.98 WHIP while striking out 194 batters in 216 innings.
Hamels also finished fifth in Cy Young voting behind Halladay (second) and Lee (third).
A large portion of Hamels’ success could be credited to exactly where he pitched in the rotation. With Hamels as the Phillies fourth pitcher, he was facing opposing teams’ fourth best pitchers.
Hamels is a number one pitcher on all but a very small handful of teams but the third best pitcher in this staff. It creates such an unfair advantage that Hamels is going into the game with a noticeable head start.
Granted Hamels will tell you that he isn’t doing all the hitting for the Phillies as well as would be facing the exact same offense regardless the opposing pitcher on the hill, he has to at least go into every start knowing that his team is already in a better chance to win.
In fact, that’s what all three of those guys will tell you, even Worley and Blanton (or Kyle Kendrick depending if the Phils can trade Blanton). They all know that they form one of the top rotations, if not best rotation in all of baseball, which is a clear advantage for their offense.
But why not create more of an advantage by splitting Lee and Hamels?
It’s all up to Dubee. He knows this staff better than anyone.