Cliff Lee Back in the Philadelphia Phillies Rotation: Analysis of the Fatal Foursome

Former Texas Rangers’ pitcher Cliff Lee finally has returned to his home, the Philadelphia Phillies, with the rabid Philadelphia fans.  Even he acknowledged that Phillies fans understood the game and would cheer without the need for teleprompters, unlike other stadiums or among other fans.  He denied more money from the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers to come home.  For that, we, the Phillies fans, are grateful — for at least five years under his current contract.

Egos and Rivalries

Roy Halladay, in fact, motivated the Phillies ball club to pick up Cliff Lee again. General manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. consulted with Halladay to discuss the terms of his current contract and the terms of Lee’s current contract.  Halladay’s current contract consists of a three-year, $60 million extension with a vesting option for a fourth season. Under the current roster, it appears that Amaro has smoothed the transition from the Rangers to the Phillies.

In 2009, Cole Hamels performed below average with 4.32 ERA on 206 hits and 10 wins and 11 losses.  However, it could have been far worse. With the presence of Cliff Lee, Hamels performed better after mid-season.  I expect Cliff Lee to have the same impact on Hamel’s performance.

In 2010, it was not an issue concerning egos with Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels together.  Another pitcher in the lineup shouldn’t become much of an issue.

Potential Lineup

Based on 2010 statistics, Cliff Lee has the worse ranked statistics of the foursome with 12 wins and 9 losses and 3.18 ERA.  Therefore, he should be last in the rotation. Unfortunately, based on 2009 statistics, he had a 14 wins and 13 losses and a 3.22 ERA. Again, he should be last in the rotation.  It appears the optimal rotation should be Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.  However, with the personality of Lee, he should be first or second.  He carries a poker face and doesn’t appear easily rattled, unlike his teammates.  Also, he was the best post-season pitcher in 2009, and again, he should be the same in this potential post-season.

Rotation’s Impact on Bats/Offense

With most pitchers, they should not be batters, unless they lived in the era of Babe Ruth.  However, we live in a different era, with more days of rest for pitchers and quicker batters. All four batters are no hitters, but Cliff Lee has the best potential, based on 2010 statistics.  He had a .184 batting average, followed by Cole Hamels with .149 being the next best.  Cliff Lee is the best potential batter to be put in a lineup, without resorting to pinch hitters.  The Phillies will have to rely on Ryan Howard to hit like he did in 2006 with a .313 average on 58 homeruns.  However, he fell precipitously in 2010 with 31 homeruns and a .276 average. Additionally, the Phillies will require that Chase Utley performed like he did in 2008 with 33 homeruns on .292 average.   

Defense

Chase Utley’s high-flying ability and Shane Victorino’s fielding ability are the only visible defense for this team.  Utley has shown he is capable of making remarkable plays, but he is also error-prone.  This is perhaps the only major flaw of the Phillies this season and for the next few seasons.  The Phillies defense was unreliable coming into last year’s playoffs, and it is again going to become problematic.

Closer Issue

Brad Lidge had an ERA of 2.96 and 1 win and 1 loss.  If he could perform like he did in 2008, it would be great.  At that time, he had an ERA of 1.95 and 2 wins and 0 losses.  But I think we may face the same issue with Lidge as a closer, as the seasons prior with his erratic pitching.  Now only if we had San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson with his 1.81 ERA last year…

Playoffs or Pipedreams

With this lineup of starting pitchers, the Phillies appear bound for the playoffs, at least until the pitchers’ contracts begin expiring.  Also, all four of them will be in their late 30s when the contracts end.  All of them are seeking their respective rings.  But with the Phillies’ somewhat average defense and somewhat above average bats, the Phillies will have to lean on their starting pitchers to essentially win the game. Will it be good enough?  I believe so, if last season follows the current season, with a few strong teams dominating against mostly weaker teams. Whether we can a World Series or several, that would be a sight to see.

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