Terms like “best ever” have been thrown around to describe this Philadelphia Phillies pitching rotation, and with worthy reason. However, some in baseball, and many fans, including yours truly in a moment of overreaction, have anointed this Phillies team National League East champions already on the merits of this pitching staff. People are making statements that no team in the National League has a pitching staff that can even remotely compare.
Simply put, that’s not true. Not only do teams in San Francisco and St. Louis disagree with this, there’s another one located within the Phillies own division that probably is already tired of reading and hearing about how great these Phillies are.
The Atlanta Braves, remember, pitched pretty well last year. Fielding, well, that became a different story. Their pitching though, was outstanding. Never mind that the Braves bullpen enters the 2011 season head and shoulders above the Phillies, their starting rotation actually has the ability to compare pretty favorably.
Keep in mind that of the Phillies big four, three of them are in their 30s. Yes, the Braves also have two of their big four in their 30s as well, however, they also have two who are among the brightest young pitchers in the game. Halladay, Oswalt, and Lee could all see declines this upcoming season, though I wouldn’t at all bet on it. It’s just something to think about though. How much longer will those guys keep throwing 200 innings? The Phillies need them to, because they don’t want that bullpen throwing many innings this year at all.
It’s not age though that’s important, it’s on field production. On the field, the Atlanta Braves pitching staff has the potential and ability to rival the Phillies, and come close to equaling them, if they don’t indeed perform on an even bar with the Phillies.
In case you hadn’t noticed, Tim Hudson was a very viable Cy Young candidate last year. Fully recovered from Tommy John, Hudson was outstanding. Hudson’s ERA+ was better than that of the mighty Cliff Lee last season. It’s likely he probably won’t repeat the performance this year, due in large part probably to a weaker defensive infield for the Braves. However, the good news is, he doesn’t have to.
Jair Jurrjens was hurt all year last year pretty much, never able to get going. Perhaps you forget that in 2009 he posted an ERA+ that was on par with Roy Halladay’s performance last year. It’s funny how many people forget how good he pitched in 2009. His performance in 2009 would be the ace of just about any staff in baseball, including this years Phillies rotation.
Derek Lowe did indeed struggle to begin the year, mightily in fact. However, some adjustments got made during the year, and the results cannot be argued with. In 10 of his last 14 starts, including both in the playoffs, Lowe allowed two runs or less. This cannot be ignored.
In the seasons final three months, Tommy Hanson allowed 3 earned runs or less in 15 of his 18 starts. In fact, in EIGHT of those starts he allowed one run or fewer. In 25 of his 34 starts Hanson allowed two earned runs or fewer. That’s 5 more times of 2 or fewer earned runs than one Roy Halladay.
Just some food for thought for those who think this Braves rotation can’t keep pace with the one in Philadelphia.