News Forum Blogs Roster Players Schedule Depth chart Stats Videos Photos

Philadelphia Phillies News

News » Bob Ford: For starters, Phillies pitching has to get better

Bob Ford: For starters, Phillies pitching has to get better

Bob Ford: For starters, Phillies pitching has to get better
Just as they did a year ago, the Phillies began this season by hanging around the .500 mark for the first month, which doesn't inspire much more confidence now than it did then.

Everything came out fairly well in 2008, though, so it's a nice reminder that the seeds of doubt from April and May don't always bloom into a weed-strewn September.

For the sake of clarity, however, let's get two things on paper right now: This ain't 2008 anymore, and the Phillies are walking a very scary tightrope at the moment.

The record itself isn't a worry. After yesterday's tedious, 6-5 extra-inning win over the Mets, the Phils are a game ahead of where they were at this point last year. What is worrisome is how they are winning those games. Ten of their 12 victories this season have required coming from behind, which is very exciting, but it is no way to play Baseball for six months.

"I think we're going to try to play the best Baseball we can and win games however we can, regardless of what the plan is each and every day," Jamie Moyer said yesterday. "Sometimes that plan doesn't work and you have to make do with what you have and find a way to get through it. It's early May. I've got to believe we'll pitch better at some point in time."

Any point in time now would be just fine. After Moyer struggled with his control and gave up five runs in 52/3 innings yesterday, the Phils' starters have a combined earned run average of 6.71.

Moyer, who had been hoping for his 250th career win yesterday, got his 207th no-decision instead. He has still been the bright light of the starting staff. His 3-1 record is the only winning mark among the starters, with the four others a combined 1-7.

No doubt they will pitch better eventually, but there is reason to wonder if this starting group can pitch well enough collectively to contend for the whole season.

Cole Hamels, who said he didn't prepare properly in the off-season, had two poor outings to start the year, then two bad-luck starts, one in which he was hit by a batted ball and one in which he twisted his left ankle. Hamels might have to miss a scheduled start Tuesday, but he is going to pitch well before the season is over.

Brett Myers, conversely, has the best ERA of the starting staff, but he has pitched in pretty good luck, working out of some walk-induced jams that could have turned ugly.

Joe Blanton and Chan Ho Park both have ERAs over eight, and the next win for either of those two will be the first. Park is not even assured of taking his next turn in the rotation. The Phillies may decide that J.A. Happ, who has one career win as a starter, is a better option.

And that's your pitching staff, which is being led right now by a 46-year-old whose pitches top out around 85 miles per hour. Opposing hitters are batting above .300 against every starter except Myers, and are .279 against him.

"We've got to get better," manager Charlie Manuel said yesterday. "The starting pitching has got to get more consistent. We talk about it all the time. We've got to get Hamels well, and then we've got Myers, Moyer, and Blanton in our rotation, the [same] guys we had at the end of the year when we pitched good down the stretch. To me, that's what got us in the World Series, and it's definitely what won it for us. We've got to get better."

Saying it is not as easy as doing it, particularly in Citizens Bank Park. Not that the park matters right now. The Phils have given up 43 home runs this season, which is the most in the major leagues. It is very difficult for any National League pitching staff to have worse numbers than a staff that pitches in a designated-hitter league, but the Phillies are doing so when it comes to home runs.

They have played most of their games at home so far, but the problem is the same, with an average of two home runs per game for the opposition regardless of the location.

So what, you say? They're 12-10 and just one game behind the Marlins in a division that doesn't appear to have a super team? They'll come around.

Perhaps, but there is little room for error if four of the five don't all come around, and what exactly are the odds of that?

Baseball is a fickle game, but it is steadfast in its love of pitching. It can let you slide along for a month or two without much of a starting rotation, but there is an expiration date on that free ride. The Phils are starting to push it a little.

Contact columnist Bob Ford

at 215-854-5842 or Read his blog


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: May 3, 2009

Philadelphia Phillies Photos
All the latest Philadelphia Phillies Photos Store photographs. Major League Baseball MLB.
The most recent photo
Add to Google
Add to My Yahoo!
Subscribe in NewsGator Online
Add to Windows Live

Copyright ©, Inc. All rights reserved 2008.