Five for fighting
As October draws to a close, the expectations for the Phillies' offseason are bubbling upwards, if only inside all our minds. This very well could be the most active winter months for the hometown club that we've seen in perhaps our lifetimes, at least for those of us born roughly around the time Michael Jack entered the majors. That is, these should be so active and for the first time since the later half of the Clinton years, we won't be subjected to the half-hearted moves of a thin-skinned, non-baseball hothead as our GM. Well, assuming we hire a GM, of course.
In terms of positions, the area of the club which has gotten the most attention -- and rightly so when you take a gander at who's representing each circuit in the World Series -- is starting pitching. While some teams' pitching staffs are clearly built to endur the regular season while others are better suited to post-season, both Houston and the ChiSox seem perfectly suited to both. The Phils on the other hand, have more or less proven to be suited to neither.
If you'll indulge me in another of what is sure to be my usual rudimentary comparison, let's see how the Phils stack up against the two WS contenters. Below is a list of wins and WHIP of the starting pitchers:
Astros 89 wins overall
Clemens 13 // 1.43
Pettitte 17 // 1.65
Oswalt 20 // 1.20
Backe 10 // 1.02
Astacio/Roderigez 13 // about 1.1 between the two
As you can see, the five starting spots accounted for 73 wins by the starters, of the 89 the ballclub had in the regular season. That's about 82%. I was a little surprised by Pettitte's and Clemen's WHIP. Both are a little higher than I would have thought for two pitchers so heralded throughout the season, especially Clemens when you consider how low his ERA was all season. Conversely, I had no idea Backe's was so good. Now the White Sox.
White Sox 99 wins
Garland 18 // 1.17
Buehrle 16 // 1.18
Contreras 15 // 1.23
Garcia 14 // 1.47
Hernandex/McCarthy 12 // about .80 between the 2
The Sox has a total of 75 wins from their starters out of 99, about 76%. Not quote the correlation to the Astros that I had expected. Admittedly, I included the WHIP, not to analyse it, but to provide some perspective since wins are completely misleading. It does, I think give you some indication of what is expected from the starters. As for the playoffs, it would seem that Chicago's big three might be a little stronger than Houston's, just based on raw stats. But that's not the point of this entry. On to the Phils staff.
Reports from the Phils are that Vicente Padilla will be allowed to walk and Ryan Madsen will be given every opportunity to become part of the rotation. Members of the blogosphere called for such a thing in mid-season when Wolf went down and Ed Wade decided not to trade for a proven starter. Based on Madsen's repertoire (fastball-change more suited to starting) and his success in the minors as a starter, there is reason for gaurded optimism that Madsen will pan out. Should he, that leaves exactly one starting spot left. Let's take a look at what we got, using this past year's wins, forcasting that the Phils will/need to win 90 games and the starters should bring home the bacon at an 80% clip:
Phils: projected 90 wins
Lieber 17 // 1.21
Myers 13 // 1.21
Lidle 13 // 1.35
Madsen ?? // 1.53
For the starters to get to 80% or 72 wins, assuming their pitchers turn in about the same numbers (maybe 2 wins less for Lieber, 2 more for Myers), the Phils need 29 wins from Madsen and their yet undetermined starts. If there were to get 12 from Madsen, not an unreasonable number for a first-year starter with some big league experience, they would need 17 out of the other slot. That slot would almost have to be a 1-3 man for the Phils to be a serious playoff team in the mold of the two pennant winners.
The top candidates in-house are Robinson Tejeda, Eude Brito, Gavin Floyd, and Cole Hamels. Brito is only a frontrunner in the respect that he is a lefty, while Tejeda has the most experience (and least control) of the thin bunch. Hamels is not expected to pitch winter ball due to his back problems, so he may be a candidate for middle relief shoudl he make the club. That leaves Floyd, the former can't miss prospect, and he was shelled all year at AAA after throwing a real nice gem against the Cardinals.
So, where does that leave us? In need of a 15-17 game winner, a WHIP under 1.30, preferrably a lefty not named Ted Lilly, with a contract that is not too big and doesn't run through 2006 only, ona team that needs a slugging corner outfielder with a big contract. Now, what team with that kind of need, has that lying around?