Thursday, April 4, 2013

MAKING THE PITCH: Philadelphia Phillies

Felipe M

Even though the season has started, it's still early enough to take a quick look at the rest of the pitching staffs.

We left off reviewing the Pittsburgh Pirates.  

The Philadelphia Phillies are equipped with arguably the best 1-2-3 combo in all of baseball.  

2013 Pitching Projections
Cliff Lee
Roy Halladay
Cole Hamels
Kyle Kendrick
Jonathan Papelbon

Kyle Kendrick seemed to have received a lot of attention this offseason as he saw his strikeout totals go up in 2012.  He even left spring training with a K/BB of 12/3, but still got lit up for a high ERA of 6.88.  However, Kendrick's game is all about control and pitching-to-contact as his projected WHIP of 1.35 is more of a reality than the 1.28 he posted last season.  I would keep an eye on him just to see if his improvement from last season is legit or a fluke. There's a reason why he's still available in 80% of CBS leagues.  

Jonathan Papelbon is clearly one of the best closers in baseball.  The only knock on him is that saves might be hard to come by as the team is loaded with starters that can eat up the innings, costing Papelbon a few save chances, but that's just me nit-picking, obviously. 

John Lannan is listed as the 5th starter.  I don't like him, never did like, and never will like him.  However, my curiosity as to why this guy continues to be given chances to pitch in the Big Leagues has been piqued.  So upon further review, after making all the calculations and reading all the reports, here's what I found out: Lannan did have a solid spring, but gave up 12 runs in 4 innings in his last exhibition start; He had a mediocre year with the Nationals in 2012, but did finish with a 4-1 record and based on what we know about GM, Ruben Amaro, that's good enough for him because that's how he defines "production."; Plus he did have a FIP of 3.17 which isn't so bad, but he has a career K/BB of 1.39.  Please don't make the mistake of giving this guy a chance on your team.  

 I don't think I have to explain myself on Cliff Lee.  His 2012 season was such a major fluke, but was still able to post good strikeout totals and even improved his BB/9.  

The same thing goes for Cole Hamels.  Albeit, he did struggle against the Braves on opening night, but he is coming off a successful 2012 campaign and spring training.  He'll be fine.

I didn't think I had to explain myself on Roy Halladay, but there were whispers of doubt in the offseason, but I didn't think they deserved my attention.  And then, today, sports pundits from everywhere are acting like a bunch of Chicken Littles after one start from Halladay.  What's wrong?  He's coming off a sub-par, by his standards, 2012 season.  Injuries limited him to only 25 starts last year.  Nevertheless, he still had good strikeout totals and did a great job in limiting his walks.  He did give up a lot of hits which raised his WHIP to 1.22, but the last time he had a WHIP that high, 2007, he won 16 games for the Blue Jays and still did a great job in limiting his walks.  He did, however, have low strikeouts and a high hit rate.  He also had a H/9 of 8.94 in 2012, the first time he's given up that many base-hits since 2009.  So perhaps 2012 was just an isolated incident and injuries might have played a bigger role than anticipated, right? 

Well, what the numbers don't tell us is that in 2012, there were reports of decrease in velocity in his fastball.  Like I explained though, there were small murmurs throughout the spring that got louder and louder until his opening day start to the season yesterday where he got lit up by the Braves.  Here's a quick timeline:

  • February 13, 2013: Halladay declares that he's healthy entering spring training.  He credits a new, offseason workout regiment that focuses "on movements to build strength and flexibility in his lower back and core."
  • Feb 19: Halladay throws live Batting Practice and according to witnesses, he looked impressive.  Even new teammate, Michael Young stated that he looked like the pitcher he used to face when Halladay was still a Blue Jay.
  • Feb 24: Halladay throws 22 pitches, gives up one homerun, but doesn't allow a baserunner against the Tigers.  One scout did report clocking his velocity between 89-91 mph
  • March 1: Strong performance against the Yankees
  • March 6: Dominated the Nationals
  • March 12: Rocked against the Detroit Tigers
  • March 13: Pitching coach, Rich Dubee reminds fans and media that "Halladay is healthy this season."
  • March 17: Leaves game after one inning because of stomach virus.
  • March 18: During a bullpen session, Halladay is only able to top his fastball at 87 mph
  • March 19: Still recovering from a stomach virus. Lost 10 pounds because of illness
  • March 23: Has a terrible game against Triple-A hitters.  Can only top 90 mph once!
  • March 28: Another poor outing and once again, his fastball reaches 88-91.
  • April 3: Throws 95 pitches, 40 in the 1st inning, ends up only completing 3 1/3 innings. He strikes out 9, walks 3, and gives up 2 homeruns.  
    • Becomes first pitcher to get 9 K's, but only record 10 or less outs in MLB history.
    • Halladay states that he will fix problems.
During all this time, Halladay and coach Dubee were constantly working together throughout the spring to try and figure out how to improve his mechanics and such.  The Phillies also said that they weren't concerned with Halladay.  Halladay himself stated that he would be ready for his first start of the year.

Personally, I would give the benefit of the doubt to Halladay.  The team was high on him to begin the year and although he has been getting rocked, overcoming stomach issues is a difficult endeavor.  And even though his fastball is down, it's like opposing hitter Jason Heyward says, "he has a lot of weapons" in his pitching repertoire.  He was able to strikeout 9 hitters so that has to be a good sign.  I'm optimistic that he will be able to get around a dwindling fastball and focus more on location instead of trying to blow by everybody with his fastball.  And as mentioned before, Halladay wasn't always known as a strikeout artist as evident by his 2004-2007 seasons in Toronto.  Might take some time to make the adjustment, but if anybody can adjust, it's Halladay.  He's done it before.

The pessimist would point out the terrible command and the ineffectiveness of his fastball and secondary pitches, as well as his struggles in the 2nd half of the spring.  The low velocity might mark the beginning of the end of the 35 year-old Halladay.  

Nevertheless, it's sort of odd to see a pitcher like Halladay just suddenly see his production and ability go up in smoke so quickly.  I would practice patience with a guy like him, no doubt.  Would I activate him for his next start?  No, I would let him sit on the bench and let him figure it out there.  But one start doesn't predict an entire season.  Perhaps, after a few more starts (4 or 5 seems about right) would be a reasonable timetable to reevaluate him.

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