Let’s talk about the Phillies starting rotation for a moment. You don’t need to be an expert (and I’m the precise opposite) to know that Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt have already lived up to expectations and then some this season. All four pitchers have an ERA under 4.00. All four have winning records. Three of the four have at least 25 strikeouts. Two of them have already thrown complete games. The Phillies have seized the NL East lead early this spring, and it’s doubtful they’ll relinquish it for the rest of the year.
The Phillies are great, and they owe it all to their starting rotation.
Which is not necessarily a good thing.
All told, the five starting pitchers for Philadelphia have logged 135 2/3 innings pitched, 71-percent of the team’s innings. And that percentage could climb higher, since closer Jose Contreras is going on the DL and the team’s bullpen is depleted. The Phillies are leaning on the Four Horsemen and Joe Blanton. Heavily. The team’s batting is fairly pedestrian right now (19th in team OPS in the league), and only got kick-started against the Brewers last week. That means the starting rotation has done most of the heavy lifting getting the Phillies into first and keeping them there. And it isn’t even May yet.
Is this a good thing? Is the Phillies starting rotation so good that balance needn’t be an issue? Or will the burden prove so much over the rest of the year that these guys have nothing left for the playoffs?
You see, time and again, teams win the World Series by coalescing at just the right moment and going on a run. Teams never look the same in October as they do in April. There’s gonna be a transition moment for this rotation at some point. Someone will hit the DL. Or one of the Four Horsemen will hit a rough patch and the bats will have to step up consistently to make up for it. And that’s not a bad thing. You want those variations. You want the team to be broken down a little so it can build itself back up again at just the right moment. And given the load they’re carrying, I bet a minor breakdown comes for this staff sooner rather than later.