Four the Win: Who gets the fourth starter nod in postseason?

Posted by Kevin Durso

Philliedelphia/Kevin Durso

The Phillies have won 88 games this season, and as usual, the top of the rotation has picked up most of them. Roy Halladay leads the way with 16 wins, followed by Cliff Lee at 15 and Cole Hamels at 13. They are clearly the Phillies' three-headed monster on the mound – how can you argue a combined 44 wins – but three is usually still not enough in the Postseason.

Most teams could go the whole season, win the division with ease, and still not have a suitable fourth starter. So, for the 2011 Phillies, a problem lies ahead. But it's a good problem to have.

Vance Worley has been pitching like a man possessed, holding a 10-1 record. Roy Oswalt has struggled with injuries, but may finally be back on the right track. If you were just judging these two pitchers, Worley gets the nod easily. But, the last two games from the Phillies' bullpen are indication that the Phillies need some help in that area come playoff time.

Look into the Phillies' bullpen now. Regardless of some recent outings, Ryan Madson, Antonio Bastardo, and Mike Stutes will all be in the pen for the Postseason. Add in Brad Lidge, Kyle Kendrick, and possibly even Joe Blanton, all with veteran experience. That leaves one spot open, and it will likely go to either Worley or Oswalt. Despite an excellent, rookie-of-the-year worthy season, Worley should take a spot in the bullpen.

When I first thought about this battle, and how the Phillies needed to pick one of these two, it was easy to choose Worley, because Worley simply has a knack for coming up big this season. He has done enough to lose all of three games this season, and only has one to his credit because the rest of the team has been that good behind him. But, the reason for moving Worley to the bullpen in the Postseason comes from a game back on May 13th. Cole Hamels managed six innings in that game, before turning the game to the bullpen in a tight battle against the Braves. Obviously, a name like J.C. Romero, who followed Hamels, wouldn't be possible for the Postseason, but the rest of the bullpen that night, in the Phillies' 5-4 win, were as follows: Mike Stutes, Antonio Bastardo, Vance Worley, and Ryan Madson. Those four pitchers combined to allow just three baserunners the rest of the way. Stutes and Bastardo each faced just one batter, both with the bases loaded. Both picked up strikeouts. Worley then came on as the set-up man, and allowed a hit and a walk in a scoreless inning. Madson picked up the save.

That night did several things. It was the beginning of Ryan Madson's emergence as a closer. It showed you just how good Stutes and Bastardo were in the clutch situations. And, it showed you just how much Vance Worley could handle. Have Worley start, or have him close – he can pretty much do it all. So, with the way the Phillies' bullpen has been lately, Worley might be better suited for late innings, while someone like Oswalt tries to give you a solid five to seven innings.

The Phillies will likely carry seven relievers for the Postseason. Only five of them should ever have to be used: Madson – the closer, Stutes, Bastardo, Worley, and Brad Lidge. If anything, Lidge has proven in his attempted comeback that he can still be called on as a last resort, and he will be the only short-arm last resort the Phillies have, especially if they give Kyle Kendrick and Joe Blanton the other two spots.

Worley's great season should be commended, and yes, next season, he should be a full-time starter, even in the Postseason. But, with people questioning his ability on a bigger stage and the bullpen needing help, a move like this all adds up.