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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Update on Phillies' Pitching Plans

Apparently I was incorrect and misread many published reports of the Phillies' intentions to keep Brett Myers as their closer. Read this and learn that Myers will move back into the starting rotation. He was, after all, the Phillies' opening day starter last season and has the distinction of throwing the first and last pitch of the team's season (the last one being the one that clinched the NL East title).

There's a big debate about what to do with outstanding young arms. For example, two seasons ago, when closer Jason Isringhausen went down, the Cardinals moved Adam Wainwright into the closer's role with great results. But Wainwright's stuff was so compelling (witness his curveball to Carlos Beltran that froze the Mets' centerfielder for the last out in the NLCS) that they moved him back into the rotation this past season. That said, the Red Sox don't appear to move Jonathan Papelbon out of the closer's role, and it doesn't appear that the Yankees will move Joba Chamberlain out of the setup role (and he projects as the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera). Both hurlers have outstanding arms and were projected as starters, but they have great value in relief.

Myers has great stuff. His makeup has been iffy, and he hasn't proven to be a stopper although he has stopper's stuff. If you pair him with Cole Hamels and pitch them back-to-back, you'll have the savvy lefty with the great changeup and the flamethrowing righty with an outstanding curveball. That's a pretty tempting combination and should fortify the Phillies' rotation, which is a point of great concern for the ball club.

Now the rotation looks like this:

Cole Hamels
Brett Myers
Kyle Kendrick
Jamie Moyer
Adam Eaton.

The problem is that Kendrick is probably a #4 starter, Moyer is old and if he's not on the lines he gets lit, and Eaton was the worst starter in the NL last year and has an iffy shoulder. I don't think that the Phillies are done here, and I look for them to make one more move for a starter. I don't expect them to re-sign Kyle Lohse, who could be this year's Gil Meche and command much more money than he'll prove to be worth (as well as a contract that will be too long). It could be that they re-up with Jon Lieber on a one-year deal with a club option, and don't rule out their bringing back Randy Wolf, whose days with the Dodgers might be over. They would have loved to acquire Curt Schilling for a last hurrah, but Schilling did the smart thing by re-signing with the Red Sox and opting to end his career in a town where he's a legend.

The gamble for the Phillies is that a) Lidge's psyche is better and that he can prove he can close again, b) that Myers can be consistent as a starter and c) that Michael Bourn doesn't turn into the next Lou Brock (and, correspondingly, that Lidge doesn't turn into Ernie Broglio). Geary and Bruntlett are a wash, the former a so-so middle reliever who doesn't walk people that often but who has average stuff, and the latter is the utility man the Phillies need now that Abraham Nunez is gone.

I still think they need to buttress their outfield and third base, because Wes Helms showed little last year and Greg Dobbs is a journeyman who had one good year. Chris Roberson is not a fourth outfielder, and you really could use five good outfielders. The problem is that the Phillies' farm system looks as though Oklahoma dust storms that John Steinbeck made famous have hit it, so they have little to trade. Still, Pat Gillick is not "Standing Pat", and he made a great statement by pulling off the first major deal of the post-season.


Blogger susan mullen said...

Re: Role of Joba Chamberlain, Hank Steinbrenner recently said he wants him to be a starter, unfortunately. Unless something has changed in the past few hours, Hank was quite adamant about it. Of course, we need Joba as a reliever, so we'll have to see if Girardi can change his mind.

2:58 PM  
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