Grading the Phillies: Starting Pitching

The starting pitching was the sole reason the Phillies were so good despite a heavily inconsistent offense and and injury-plagued season. Resting on the backs of the Big Three, the Phils were carried to their fourth straight NL East championship and boasted the best record in baseball for the first time years.

It was a magical night in Miami as Roy Halladay celebrates after throwing the 20th perfect game in major league history back in May.

Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, Kyle Kendrick, J.A. Happ, and Jamie Moyer pitched the bulk of the first half of the season. But a trade right at the deadline sending Happ and prospects to Houston for Roy Oswalt turned the Phillies rotation into the best in the game, rivaled only by the World Series champion Giants.

Phillies starters this year were 70-48 and averaged 6.4 innings pitched-per-start. It was that effort that kept the weak bull pen fresh and allowed the Phils to rely on their three-four best relievers without burning them out in the late run.

(Since Happ was traded and Moyer got injured, I won’t grade them)

Halladay (33 starts): 21-10, 2.44 ERA, 250.2 IP, 9 CG, 4 SHO, 219 K, 30 BB.

Halladay had an almost inhuman season. He led the league in innings pitched, complete games, shut outs, and wins to win his second career Cy Young.

I could go on for days what type of season Halladay had in comparison to his past accolades. Instead, I’ll just highlight some of his achievements.

Halladay pitched the 20th perfect game back in May in Florida. It was one of the most beautiful pitching performances in my lifetime. Halladay had a near repeat performance in his playoff debut. In the first game of the NLCS, Halladay threw a one-walk no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds, becoming the second player in baseball history to throw a no-no in the playoffs.

Halladay was brought over the Philadelphia in December in a trade that sent prospects to Toronto. The Phils also traded Cliff Lee to Seattle in return for prospects that really haven’t panned out. Halladay quieted the protests with his Cy Young performance. Hell, a fan blog was made to parody Doc and numerous fan-made t-shirts were created (and forced to be deleted by MLBPA).

No incoming athlete has taken over the city of Philadelphia like Halladay has, not since a certain left-handed pitched in the 70’s won four Cy Young awards in this city.

Grade: A+

Hamels (33 starts): 12-11, 3.06 ERA, 208.2 IP, 211 K.

Left-hander Cole Hamels pitches against the Reds in game three of the NLDS. He threw a shutout that game to send the Phils to the NLCS. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Hamels wanted 2009 to be over – simply because he wanted 2010 to come. Hamels silenced every single one of his haters, putting up the best season of his career and confiding in Phillies fans that the “2008 Cole Hamels” is back.

Hamels had a career best 3.06 ERA and career high 211 strikeouts. He posted an ERA under 2.80 in each of the last three months of the season as he lined the Phillies up for another World Series run. He pitched a complete game in game three of the NLDS, possibly his best performance of the season.

Hamels caught so much crap for the poor 2009 he had. Many doubted he was mature enough to handle the role of ace. With Halladay coming to Philly, the weight was lifted off of Hamels’ shoulders. Hamels showed maturity and composure as he pitched beautifully in clutch situations to show he has a good head on his shoulders and his a reliable No. 2 guy.

Grade: A

Blanton (28 starts): 9-6, 4.82 ERA, 175.2 IP, 134 K, 43 BB.

Heavy B had an odd season. Starting a month late, Blanton was rough for the first couple months of the season. He got stronger as the season went on and with the arrival of Oswalt, Blanton moved down to become a very reliable No. 4.

Blanton’s 4.82 ERA was his highest since 2006 and his strike-out numbers were down almost one per nine innings. His walks totals decreased a bit though but his hit numbers went way up.

Overall, Blanton had a set-back season. You could blame that on losing the first month to a strained oblique. If he has a bounce-back season in 2011, the Phillies rotation 1-4 could be among the best in the majors again.

Grade: C+

Kendrick (31 starts): 11-10, 4.78 ERA, 180.2 IP, CG, 84 K, 49 BB.

Kendrick wasn’t even supposed to be a starter this year. But with Blanton’s early injury, Kendrick fit into the five-spot, battling with Jamie Moyer until the old man’s season ended.

Kendrick was either brilliant or absolutely awful. One of his biggest highlights was his complete game against the Yankees but he also had starts that made the fans question his presence on the mound.

For a No. 5, he had a very normal year. The Phils may have confidence in him as a No. 5 for next year unless they see it fit to go after Cliff Lee. And with that highly doubtful, Kendrick’s spot in the rotation could be safe.

Grade: C+

Oswalt (12 starts with Phils): 7-1, 1.74 ERA, 82.2 IP, 73 K, 21 BB.

The Big Three was complete when Roy Oswalt was traded to the Phils before the deadline. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Oswalt was the savior of the Phillies in late July. Being traded for Happ and prospects, Oswalt’s impact on the Phillies was almost unmatched.

What made Oswalt fit in with the other two Phillies aces so well was that he was a third completely different pitchers. Halladay is a power-pitcher, Hamels relies on deception, and Oswalt uses the movement on his fastball to set up batters to take bad swings.

The Phillies will have Oswalt for another year or two and would love to see what a full season of him with the Big Three will do for the team. With the offense likely taking a hit in losing Jayson Werth, they will need all the good pitching they can get.

Grade: A

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