2010 NL Playoff Rotations: Philadelphia Phillies

Matt has already started looking at AL playoff rotations. Since the NL demands equal treatment, we’ll also look at the rotations for those six teams. The only sensible starting point is the team that has already clinched. As with Matt’s, we’ll go with each pitcher’s basic season numbers, plus the park- and defense-neutralized ERA (nERA) from the CHONE August projections and the FIP derived from that.

1) Roy Halladay CHONE: nERA 3.15, FIP 2.84
2010: 6.5 WAR, 3.07 FIP, 2.95 xFIP, 3.44 tERA, 2.53 ERA

Halladay has done exactly what everyone expected following his move to the National League. His ERA, 2.53, is his lowest since 2005, which is in some part due to his high strand rate, 82.5 percent. On one hand, that could change in the playoffs when he’s facing the better lineups in the league. On the other hand, the Phillies could face the Giants in the first round.

Even still, there’s little reason to doubt Halladay. He’ll be pitching more innings than in years past, but that doesn’t seem like much of a concern. The way Halladay has thrown the ball in the past five years it looks like he could keep going forever.

2) Cole Hamels CHONE: nERA 3.88, FIP 3.66
2010: 3.9 WAR, 3.09 FIP, 3.44 xFIP, 3.74 tERA, 3.70 ERA

In 2010, Hamels has established himself as a model DIPS pitcher. For the past three seasons now he has sported nearly identical FIP numbers while seeing fluctuating ERAs. Last year was a down year, a 4.32 ERA, but this year he’s back to the 3.09 mark he had in 2008. Chances are Charlie Manuel will name him the Game 2 starter, if for no reason other than his handedness. But that doesn’t take away from Hamels’ excellent season.

Like Halladay, Hamels has a higher strand rate than normal. That’s about the only bad thing about him. His groundball rate is higher than ever and he’s striking out a batter more per inning than he did in 2008 and 09. While the Phillies had questions about Hamels heading into the 2009 playoffs, there are none this year. It’s like 2008 all over again, only this time the Phils have a pitcher even better to take the ball in Game 1.

3) Roy Oswalt CHONE: nERA 3.86, FIP 3.58
2010: 4.7 WAR, 3.29 FIP, 3.44 xFIP, 3.42 tERA, 2.80 ERA

While the CHONE formula projects Oswalt to perform a bit worse than he has, it’s tough to watch his starts and come to a similar conclusion. Even with his rough first start for the Phillies, he has a 1.76 ERA and 3.07 FIP with his new, contending team. Even though he’s 32 he’s proven that he’s durable. He’s also worked through a long playoff run, pitching almost 270 innings in 2005.

In 2009, the Phillies acquired Cliff Lee at the trade deadline, and he led them through the regular season, into the playoffs, and eventually to the World Series. In 2010, Roy Oswalt doesn’t have to do that. Just as the Phillies have 2008 all over again with Hamels, they have 2009 all over again with Oswalt replacing Lee. Only, again, they have the best pitcher in the league taking the ball in Game 1, and another top of the rotation starter in Game 2.

4) Joe Blanton CHONE nERA 4.52, 4.26 FIP
2010: 1.9 WAR, 4.34 FIP, 4.04 xFIP, 4.58 tERA 4.94 ERA

As long as the Phillies hang onto the NL’s best record, they won’t even need Joe Blanton in the first round. They can simply skip him over and start Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt on normal rest in all five games. He only becomes a factor in the ALCS and World Series, and even then it’s just one game. Even then it’s not all downside. His 4.94 ERA might look ugly, but as you can see nearly every component ERA rates him a bit better. This doesn’t make him a good pitcher; it simply means that having him start once a series shouldn’t kill the team. There’s a chance, too, that Blanton makes zero postseason starts.

Update: On the advice of commenter NEPP I checked the splits, and Blanton has seemingly gotten better every month this season. His overall numbers are certainly hurt by his first two months, which came after he missed April with an injury. He has also struck out 30 in 29 innings this month, which boggles the mind. I’d still advocate a three-man rotation, but with the way Blanton has been pitching and with the decisions Manuel made last year I’m fairly certain he’ll stick with having his guys on normal rest.

Question marks

The only question mark facing the Phillies rotation is of whether they’ll take the 2009 Yankees’ route and use only three starters. As David Murphy explained last week, Oswalt, Hamels, and Halladay can start 17 of 19 postseason games. But perhaps Charlie Manuel learned last year that going all-in is the right tactic.

Because the only off-days in the LCS occur between Games 2 and 3, and Games 5 and 6, the Phillies would have to throw each of their starters on short rest in order to avoid Blanton. That changes the situation somewhat; the Yankees were able to get through the 2009 playoffs with three pitchers largely because they got an extra day off in the LCS and had to throw only CC Sabathia on short rest in that round. But unless the Phillies find themselves up 3-0 heading into Game 4, it sounds like a good move for Manuel to go with Halladay.

It’s tough to pick against the Phillies in the NL as it is right now. Imagine if they throw out the inferior fourth starter and just go with their top three throughout the playoffs. They already have three of the top five or six playoff starters. If they throw only those three I don’t see how any other team stacks up.

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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

19 Responses to “2010 NL Playoff Rotations: Philadelphia Phillies”

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  1. Tom says:

    In the longer LCS and WS, I think the Phillies will go with Blanton and save their horses. If either series came down to the final game, they wouldn’t want to have Halladay going on short rest for a second time in any potential game seven. The only situation I can foresee that would require Halladay on short rest in a game four would be if the Phillies are down 0-3 in the series. But then again, if that’s the case, then they have bigger problems than throwing people on short rest.

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  2. NEPP says:

    You might want to check Blanton’s splits. He started off very rough this year coming off an injury. Since the Break, he’s been very solid…especially for a 4th starter.

    3.59 ERA in 14 2nd half starts.

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    • blackout says:

      Good call on Blanton’s steady improvement as he distances himself from the early season oblique strain, NEPP, and good on Joe for updating the post. Blanton has been fairly steady since the middle of July. Most commentary re Phils starters focuses on the cornily named H20; how many likely play-off teams have a #4 starter as reliable as Blanton?

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  3. Phillies Red says:

    So you don’t think they’ll start Kendrick in a playoff series?

    I kid.

    And NEPP is right, Blanton is doing a decent job in the second half (and earning his paycheck, too): xFIP of 3.6, 3.4, and 3.3 in July, August, Sept, respectively. I could see the team skipping Blanton in the WS, but probably not in the division series (if they get there) unless they are down.

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    • NEPP says:

      Unless they’re down 3-0 or 2-1 going into Game 4, I doubt they’d skip Blanton even in the WS. If they’re up 3-0 or 2-1 I could very well see them going to Big Joe in the WS. It worked well for them in 08.

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  4. Wilsonian Democracy says:

    A minor point, perhaps, but while I realize strand rate is a significantly luck-dependent stat, it shouldn’t necessarily follow that having a high one is either 1) entirely luck-dependent or 2) a bad thing. In Halladay and Oswalt’s cases, the combination of two of the better historical starting pitchers at stranding runners (both within the top 125 or so career) and a top third defense makes their strand rates much less luck-dependent than you may otherwise assume.

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    • neuter_your_dogma says:

      Agreed. I read, “[l]ike Halladay, Hamels has a higher strand rate than normal. That’s about the only bad thing about him” and thought, “what’s so bad about a higher than normal strand rate?” Isn’t that a good thing?

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    • Wilsonian Democracy says:

      @Faithdies Right, but given you’re talking about guys with WHIPs of 1.07 and 1.03 respectively, they ain’t exactly struggling with that either.

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  5. Wilsonian Democracy says:

    If I’m Philly, and especially if I’m getting a weak NL West lineup in Round 1, I seriously consider starting Oswalt in Game 1 and Halladay in Game 2. Halladay would currently be slated to throw in Game 162 on Sunday on 5 days’ rest. You give him a 3 inning tune-up there, then line him up for Game 2 and either Game 5 (if necessary) or Game 1 of the NLCS. That in turn leaves him available for Game 7 of an NLCS or to start Game 1 of the World Series.

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  6. bill says:

    Just a question on strand rate – wouldn’t you expect pitchers who strike out a higher percentage of batters to have a higher strand rate than league average? I might be missing something here, but it kind of stands to reason that pitchers who are better at getting outs without putting the ball in play will be better at stranding baserunners.

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  7. Nick says:

    Joe Blanton would be the Reds’ ace right now if we were going by xFIP. He’s really not a bad pitcher and probably gets a little underrated because granted, he is nothing compared to H2O.

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    • NEPP says:

      Blanton is year in and year out, a solid 3/4 on most teams. There’s value in that and he’s pretty much getting paid that full value (assuming he bounces back in 2011 and doesnt have another injury plagued 1st half). He’s a guy that will normally give you around 30 starts, 180-200 IP and a low 4s ERA.

      He’s done that and more in the 2nd half for the Phillies…and he was a big part of them doing well in 08 & 09.

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  8. Mark says:

    Small point, but you have Hamels’ FIP and ERA backwards.

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  9. Jimmy the Greek says:

    All the idiots who think the Giants’ rotation is as good as the Phillies should take a look at xFIP numbers.

    Doc, Hamels and Oswalt are all in the top 10 xFIP in the league. Sanchez and Cain are nowhere to be found–in fact, they’re both below Blanton, who wouldn’t even get a start in a divisional series. The Phillies are a significantly better team.

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    • JR says:

      That’s why there’s other stats than xFIP.

      Cain and Sanchez both have lower FIPs than Blanton, and they’ve both been more valuable than Blanton, especially Cain (4.4 WAR)

      To insinuate Blanton is better than either of them is flat out moronic.

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  10. Ken Bland says:

    Seems a majority project Blanton as a number 4 in either of the last 2 potential rounds. As he is almost guaranteed not to start in the first round, especially with the Phils opting for the 8 day set, he’d go on a ton of rest. Doc, on the other hand, unlike Cliff last year, at least has a history of pitching on short rest, with a 2.79 ERA. Real time circumstances probably dictate any decsion by Charlie and Dubee, but if last night was an indicator of return to max strength, I wouldn’t be so quick to think Blanton gets a start so easily.

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