By Barry Jeffrey Jr.:
The offense may have lost a big part in losing Werth but the Phillies went out and trumped that by getting the one thing people always say brings wins, pitching.
The rotation that was already running three top flight pitchers in Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels, adds another World Series caliber lefthander. Cliff Lee replaces the ageless Jamie Moyer, who was injured halfway through the season last year and was let go as a free agent (Moyer also suffered another arm injury and will miss the 2011 season). This moves Joe Blanton back to the 5th starter slot and Kyle Kendrick or Vance Worley to the bullpen as a long man with the other pitching at AAA as depth.
Halladay, after coming over to the Phillies lived up to his billing as one of the top pitchers in the game. Throwing a perfect game and a playoff no hitter and becoming the first Phillies pitcher to win 20 games since Steve Carlton back in the 80’s, Halladay in one season stamped his name as one of the best pitchers in team history. His 21 wins could have easily been 24 or 25 had the Phillies offense scored some runs during a few of his quality starts. A tireless and hard worker, his work ethic has rubbed off on the other Phillies pitchers and even some of the position players. Halladay also proved his toughness during the playoffs pitching against the Giants on a groin that he injured while making a play in the field. The one factor many point to as possibly alarming is the 250 regular season innings he logged last season. In those 250 innings he struck out 219 and only walked 33 batters. Inning numbers like that the Phillies fans haven’t seen since Curt Schilling left.
Cliff Lee has spent the last two seasons pitching in the World Series, albeit losing both times. He is hoping a third time is the charm for him. Lee was the most sought after free agent pitcher this offseason and took less money than was on the table from the Yankees, to re-sign with the Phillies. Last season after his trade from the Phillies Lee was injured to start the season. When he came back he was pitching extremely well for a Mariners team that did not produce a lot of offense or wins, before he was dealt at the deadline to the Rangers. Lee almost ended up on the Yankees, the Yankees thought they had a done deal and were ready to fix paperwork to the MLB offices, when the Rangers jumped in and offered their top hitting prospect Justin Smoak and the Mariners reneged and sent him to Texas. He didn’t pitch as well in Texas, and word is the heat affected him while pitching in Arlington. The most amazing stat Lee had was he only walked 18 batters in 212 innings pitched. Back in the National League, Lee should once again flourish.
Roy Oswalt, like Halladay and Lee, knows what it is like to win 20 games having done so twice. With bad run support in Houston he was 6-12 when the Phillies acquired him for J. A. Happ, Anthony Gose, and Jonathon Villar. After escaping Drayton McClane’s faltering team Oswalt only managed to go 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, and an opponent’s batting average of .186. Those are pretty good numbers for someone who is “aging” and has “back issues”. The back issues remain a point of concern to some, but he made it through the entire 2010 season without having any relapse of the 2009 injury. Oswalt even managed to make an appearance in leftfield for the Phillies during a wild extra inning affair. No one expects Oswalts numbers to stay as dominant as they were down the stretch, but even if he goes back to numbers near his regular career numbers, the Phillies number 3 is still head and shoulders above most of the other team’s 3rd starters.
Barry Jeffrey Jr. writes “The Crow’s Nest” column for PSC.
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