The season did not start off pretty for the rebuilding Philadelphia Phillies. Three consecutive losses to the Cincinnati Reds to open the new year and a loss to the rival (and defending NL champs) New York Mets had them sitting at 0-4 and people wondering if this team was destined for 100 losses, which they avoided by one game last season.
We all knew coming into the season that the young arms would have to be the team’s biggest weapon, because on the offensive side no one scares anyone, besides maybe Maikel Franco.
With that being said, the rotation actually held their own during the early part of the season, but the bullpen was absolutely brutal.
2014 first round pick Aaron Nola has walked six batters. In five starts.
His command is the biggest reason why he was drafted by the Phillies in June of 2014 and was already pitching in the majors by September 2015.
With any young pitcher, you will get good days and some bad days, and Nola is no exception. He has a two-start stretch (one of those starts against the Washington Nationals) in which he posted a 8.24 ERA but that is sandwiched in between a three-start stretch where he has posted a 0.85 ERA, including yesterday’s start against the Nationals where he went seven strong innings and went pitch for pitch with Nats pitcher Tanner Roark.
Did I mention that he has walked only six batters this year?
The Ken Giles trade is looking more and more like a steal each day. I think it may be time to start calling it the Vince Velasquez trade from now on. Velasquez has already had a career day in a Phillies uniform, throwing his first complete game shutout and firing a career-high 16 strikeouts against the San Diego Padres on April 14th. He was expected to be maybe a #3 starter at best, but with the way he has pitched so far along with Nola, consider them 1A and 1B on this young squad.
The Phillies are two games over .500 at the end of April, which is nothing overly impressive but considering the roster they have and the 0-4 start it looks even better than it sounds.
The team is so young that guys like Jeremy Hellickson are considered the “old” guys in the rotation. Hellickson is only 29 years old by the way, but compare that to 23 year old Velasquez, 22 y.o. Nola and 25 y.o. Jerad Eickhoff, he is the veteran.
Hellickson has pitched pretty well this season, as the opening day starter has posted a 3.81 ERA so far. The problem for him during his time with the Tampa Bay Rays was also staying healthy.
Like I said before, every young pitcher has ups and downs, and Eickhoff experienced his biggest “down” during his last start, as he went into Milwaukee with a 1.89 ERA but gave up seven run to another rebuilding team, the Milwaukee Brewers.
Another one of the veterans in their rotation was Charlie Morton but he looks to be done for the season with a torn hamstring, and the team has called up lefty Adam Morgan to fill his spot, at least for now.
Morgan made 15 starts for the Phillies last season, but it didn’t finish quite like he had hoped, as he went 0-3 with a 6.23 ERA during the month of September. He has made three starts this season for the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (their Triple-A affiliate) and posted a formidable 3.57 ERA but I’m sure he wants that 1.30 WHIP to come down.
One or two things will happen by the end of the season:
The young rotation will fall apart by the time the dog days of summer get here OR they will keep things afloat and the team will trade for a veteran pitcher before the trade deadline to keep the rotation in check, because as good as these young guys are throwing right now, none of them are #1 starters that can carry a team to the postseason.
At least not yet.
- Khristian Peel