Balls, Sticks, & Stuff
Pitching Needs to Git-R-Done
As you may have already noticed, much of the talk in the Phillies blogosPHere has turned to next year, thoroughly unimpressed with the fizzled Phightin's recent sweep of the Marlins in Miami. Naturally, talk of next year has phans wondering what moves will be made and what kind of roster we can expect for next year.

Several weeks ago, the major political parties had their national conventions and laid down their party's respective platforms for the direction they would like to see the country take. At roughly the same time, I laid down my platform for the direction I would like to see the Phillies take, and just like the GOP and the Democrats haven't changed their mind since August, neither have I in regards to the Phils.

If anything, my opinions have only strengthened, particularly after reading Rich Hoffman's analysis in yesterday's Daily News and The Berks Phillies Fans' follow-up. Despite the low number of base hits with runners in scoring position and the high number of strikeouts in the lineup, the Phillies rank second in the National League in runs scored in opponents' ballparks. On a game-by-game basis, Mike Lieberthal's poor clutch hitting, Pat Burrell's bail outs in the batter's box, and Jimmy Rollins's upper-cut hacks at high of the strikezone balls can drive a phan crazy, but the numbers don't lie - over the course of the season, the offense has held up its end of the bargain.

The pitching is a different story. As Hoffman points out, the Phillies starting pitchers rank near the bottom in the National League in terms of quality starts (a "quality start" is defined as a performance of 3 ER's or less in at least 6 IP, essentially an ERA of 4.50) and the pitching staff as a whole ranks 12th in the NL in ERA in opponents' parks (4.63). If the Phillies score the same number of runs next year and simply allow a median number of runs for a National League team, they will finish with about 93 wins.

Many fans however, wonder how the Phillies can possibly make such improvements, given the $50-$60 million designated already for players under contract. As I have stated before, it is quite possible to improve the pitching staff on less money:
Starters - The primary starters for the Phillies in 2004 have been Kevin Millwood (free agent), Randy Wolf, Eric Milton (free agent), Vicente Padilla, Brett Myers, Paul Abbot, and Corey Lidle, all of which have increased their career ERA's (except Milton, who is right at his career ERA despite switching to a more pitching-friendly league) and many have been injured. Recommendations: Fire Joe Kerrigan and Larry Bowa. Let Millwood and Lidle walk; don't let Paul Abbot come back; offer Eric Milton 4th-starter-type money and not 1st- or 2nd-starter money, and if he won't take it, find someone who will and can put up a 4.75 ERA; take Ryan Madson out of the bullpen and place him in the rotation; take the money Millwood's money and sign Carl Pavano, even if you have to overpay him because it will strengthen the Phils while weakening the Fish; if Myers can't be packaged in a trade for a centerfielder, then move him to the 'pen.

Bullpen - Like the starting rotation, the bullpen has not lived up to expectations, much of it due to injuries to key players forcing other pitchers into roles for which they are unsuited. Fortunately, a bullpen is an area of a team where you can save money and improve it at the same time (many teams do it every year). Recommendations: Fire Joe Kerrigan and Larry Bowa; let Roberto Horrendez, Rheal Cormier (French for "over-priced gas can"), Todd Jones, and Felix Rodriguez (the 3.15 million he is due for next year is just too much) walk; pick up the option on Billy Wagner; Insert Gavin Floyd into the bullpen - I like the idea of easing pitching prospects into the rotation (first-year quarterbacks are rarely expected to start, why should we expect young pitchers?) - using him as a starter only after the All-Star break if someone goes down with an injury; as I stated earlier, move Brett Myers to the pen where he can hopefully manage to focus for just one inning; fill in the rest of the pen with cheap help the way other successful teams do, no more 3 million dollar incendiary devices thank you very much; groundball specialists or high percentage strikeout pitchers would be preferable in order to negate CBP's short porches.
Couple that with a managerial change (5-game difference?), and the Phils have a mighty good chance to git-r-done (as they say down South) next year.

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