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Phillies: 2022’s Rotation Expectations

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

After waiting for months between offseason transaction frenzies, the Philadelphia Phillies faithful may set their sights too high during April. Yes, there’s winning ahead! But manager Joe Girardi’s pitching changes will be different from last April because of an abbreviated spring training.     

 

Patience Initially Required:

 Unfortunately, I’m anticipating Internet comments about the Phillies skipper removing a starter after five innings with 70 pitches and complaining the hurler was nowhere near 100. Will everybody express these sentiments on various social media sites? No, but some will claim Girardi doesn’t know what he’s doing.

Put Another Way:

“People who write about spring training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball.” - Sandy Koufax

One starter was behind due to visa issues, while another had physical obstacles requiring six weeks to be ready. So, Aaron Nola and Kyle Gibson may go 6-7 frames again, while Zack Wheeler twirls four innings or fewer. Plus Zach Eflin was between those two lengths, and Ranger Suarez could be also.        

Barring exceptions, I will tally average frames per outing when the hurler is no longer on a pitch count. Therefore, Nola and Gibson could need one or two turns, Eflin and Suarez could be there after two or three appearances, and Wheeler may require three or four. And, yes, all clubs have a similar situation.        

Regarding spring stats, most are irrelevant but there are some exceptions. The last start, though, is important because the moundsmen aren’t working on pitches. No, they treat the final outing differently, so this performance is a good yardstick for the five-man staff going forward apparently except for Wheeler.    

Phillies Rotation Stats and Pitch Counts:

STARTER

INN.

PC #*

INN.

PC 1***

PC #**

Aaron Nola

5.1

70

6.0

76

85-90

Kyle Gibson

5.2

72

7.0

82

90-95

Zach Eflin

3.2

64

4.0

68

80-85

Ranger Suarez

3.2

43

-

-

55-60

* Pitch Count in last spring start.

** Pitch Count projected for first or second turn through the rotation.

*** Game 1 Pitch Count

 

If Eflin, Suarez or Wheeler need a piggybacking hurler for one or two innings, southpaws Bailey Falter and Christopher Sanchez are here for this role. And they might be able to go three frames and not tax the relief corps: particularly the setup men.                           

When a starter is on a pitch count or exits due to any injury or the weather, this distorts the average innings per opportunity. So, I will note these contests aren’t in the total; unless a hurler, for instance, goes seven frames after roughly 70-85 tosses: Gibson is a rare exception.          

While many knowledgeable fans judge a starter’s ability by his ERA, many times they equate this for all pitching numbers, and unsuccessful appearances are top of mind. But some factors indicate otherwise. To illustrate, a national site reported Nola’s ERA estimators* were lower than his 4.63 ERA, and they chalked it up to bad luck. 

Nola’s ERA estimators:

  • 2021: 3.35 xERA, 3.37 FIP, 3.37 xFIP and a 3.26 SIERA.

Another measurement is innings per start, and locals expect 6-7 frames. For many, though, a hurler’s ERA determines if he can eat innings consistently. And some believe the Fightins should add one or two starters, but they have no answer with whom to replace.

2021 Phillies Starters:

Category

Wheeler

Nola

Eflin 

Gibson

Suarez

Innings

213.1

176.2**

102*

177.2****

46***

Starts

32

31

17

30

7

Average

6.7 

5.7

6.0

5.9

6.6

* Doesn’t include season-ending injury-related exit.

** Doesn’t include rain-shortened outing.

*** Doesn’t include pitch-count starts after closing and a health-related exit.

**** Doesn’t include following an opener.

 

With the universal DH, moundsmen trailing by one run after six frames with 80 pitches will return for the seventh. And they won’t tire running the bases or foul a ball off their foot. Ergo, the above numbers will increase. And working with an early lead and an offensive juggernaut will also be beneficial.                      

Despite these factors, negative-minded supporters will search for the downs in a normal up-and-down summer to express doubt. Unfortunately, the loudest voices at most games are the leather-lunged boobirds. They know their team’s warts and fear the competition.         

Although the Phils have no sixth man to replace an injured wing every fifth day, they have a chance to win daily: no bullpen days. And keep in mind, the Atlanta Braves have three hurlers and three question marks, while the New York Mets now have two with three “up in the air” arms: Both have better replacements.

Assembling a roster has limitations for a new front office inheriting the organization’s personnel. And the Phillies formula was completing a rotation by trading Spencer Howard for Gibson and also moving Suarez into that role. Then, they dramatically boosted the offense, signed relievers, and mixed in competing youngsters.                                 

How does it work? The offensive provides early leads, has a high runs-per-game average, and is always a threat to overcome any hiccups. For instance, the opposition either pitches to Kyle Schwarber and JT Realmuto or Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos. Basically, it takes the pressure off everybody: Relaxed hitting kills.      

This will make the rotation comfortable with early leads and not afraid of allowing a solo home run by challenging the opposition. Moreover, they’ll go deeper into the contest and limit the pen’s usage, and those arms will be fresh and ready. Plus they won’t pitch in fear of being one mistake away from disaster.         

While even 92-win clubs lose 70 battles, they have lulls, but they also can reel off 10 straight victories. So, enjoy the triumphs, deal with undesirable results, and hope for a healthy squad with fill-ins for stars who’ll miss a couple weeks. But avoid the extremes!  

 

NEXT:

NL East: 2022’s National Predictions

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