This is the first of a series of posts previewing the 2013 Philadelphia Phillies prior to the start of Spring Training.
In 2012, the Phillies projected starting rotation started 132 of 162 games (81.48%). In essence, the team had a 6-man rotation (and the not kind that Jim Tracy implemented with the Colorado Rockies, either). For the Phillies to be successful in 2013, that number needs to be north of 150 (92.59%). The key to reaching that number will be the right shoulder of Roy Halladay.
As it was meant to be from the day Doc first pulled on the red pinstripes, the Phillies success begins and ends with the soon-to-be-36-year-old righthander. That, more than anything else, is the scariest number on the back of Halladay’s baseball card. Missing a significant amount of time in 2012 with an injured shoulder—and not looking like himself when he was “healthy”—the biggest question mark heading to Clearwater isn’t the outfield platoons or how the bullpen shakes out, but how Doc looks by the time the team heads north for the season opener.
A healthy Halladay means very good things for a Phillies rotation anchored now by the other two aces—Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee—both of which tossed over 200 innings in 2012. Both were their usual dominant selves and neither take any concerns to Clearwater. Yes, I know Lee only won 6 games in 2012, and didn’t tally his first “W” until Independence Day. But did you watch him pitch last year? It wasn’t really his fault—5 of his first 13 starts ended in one-run losses for the Phillies and in 7 of the 13 games the Phils held a lead or were tied when the southpaw exited the game.
In the fourth slot, many will worry about Kyle Kendrick, the 28-year-old righthander Phillies fans love to hate. But when you look at what K-squared has done for the Phightins over his career (54-42, 4.30 ERA), he’s really been a solid pitcher. And putting up an ERA under 4 in 2012, despite bouncing back-and-forth from the bullpen to the rotation (something that has killed many a pitchers careers) was pretty impressive. For the first time in his career, Kendrick will head to Florida without needing to fight for a spot in the rotation—and that’s a good thing.After trading Vance Worley to the Minnesota Twins to secure a long-term centerfield solution in Ben Revere, the Phillies left themselves with an opening at the back of their rotation. Tyler Cloyd pitched respectable in six starts last year, but he lacks experience and his upside is limited. Still, he’ll have a shot at the fifth slot in Clearwater. However, Cloyd is the underdog in this fight with John Lannan, inked to a one-year deal by Ruben Amaro, Jr. shortly after the Worley-Revere trade.
Lannan is most famously known around Philadelphia circles as the soft-tossing lefty who broke Chase Utley’s hand back in 2007. Crossing-over from the dark side, the former National has a chip on his shoulder and is looking to take the Nats down a peg-or-two after they forced the vet to spend the bulk of 2012 in AAA. Lannan doesn’t put up flashy stats, nor light up a radar gun., but he does know how to pitch. His career record is only 42-52, but keep in mind the Nationals were pretty horrible until the last year or two. His career ERA, though, is at 4.01, and only once (2010) has he put up an ERA over 4.50. That’s certainly a solid 5th starter, especially at just $2.5M.
All in all, the starting rotation again looks to be the core of this Phillies team—the one area it can rely on night-in and night-out. The only blemish on their collective medical chart is Doc’s shoulder, which is a significant concern, but not one worth giving yourself an ulcer. Look for the staff to hit that 150 games started mark in 2013—possibly the biggest step in returning to October baseball.