The Phillies early struggles at the plate haven’t diminished the stellar job that their starting pitching has done, or has it? Their rotation is old news according to Tim Kirkjian of ESPN. Kirkjian claims the Phillies rotation has been passed by the kids in DC as the best in the game. It didn’t take long for someone to jump on the bandwagon of the upstart Nats. Their swift rise to first place has been led in large part by their young rotation, but put them up against the Phillies starters and it’s not as clear-cut who the best is, as we are lead to believe by the worldwide leader in sports.
The Nationals staff begins with young phenom Stephen Strasburg. One year removed from Tommy John surgery, Strasburg is showing fans and opposing hitters just what all the hype is about. His 1.42 ERA, coupled with 19 strikeouts in as many innings is impressive. But, is he Roy Halladay good? Doc has a 1.17 ERA through as many games, racking up 4 more innings than Strasburg. Advantage Phillies.
Cliff Lee and Jordan Zimmerman match up in the number two slot in their respective rotations. Zimmerman is another recovering abuser of his elbow ligament (2 years clean and sober) and has been downright filthy thus far. His sharp slider working off a high 90’s heater coupled with pinpoint control makes Zimmerman look like a right handed Cliff Lee. Lee’s continued success this year was highlighted by a 10 inning shut out performance against the Giants (the Phillies of course neglected to score any themselves). If these two pitchers matchup this season expect a fast game, as they both don’t hand out very many free passes. Its a close call, but Lee gets the edge on experience.
Third up are Cole Hamels and Gio Gonzalez. Both teams feature two of the best lefties in the game, who would easily be the staff ace on most ball clubs. Hamels weapon of choice is his fading change up, where as Gonzalez relies on a hard breaking curve that is equally dominant. Both pitchers have wracked up high strike out numbers (Hamels: 23 Gonzalez: 21) and don’t show any signs of letting up. A shaky start against the Mets has Hamels’ ERA a run higher than Gonzalez’s, but both have been dominant early on. I’ll give the slight edge to Gio. This isn’t a knock against Cole, but on the Phillies front office that traded Gio away for Freddy Garcia, Hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
The fourth spot features two youngsters on both sides in Vance Worley and Ross Detwiler. The Vanimal has picked up where he left off last year, freezing batters with his tailing fastball, including an 11 K performance against the Friars. Detwiler has been even better posting a 0.56 ERA in his first three starts. If these two kids pitched in the 50’s, they would be described as having moxy. I would call it chutzpa, but whatever word you choose these two bring an attitude to the mound that wills them to succeed. I’ll give the win to Detwiler by a nose, but Worley isn’t far behind.
The two rotations appear to be evenly matched based on the individual matchups. The teams 5th starters don’t offer much of a tiebreaker either as Blanton and Edwin Jackson are the epitome of average. The deciding factor that separates the Phillies rotation from the Nats is experience. It may sound like some hokey intangible attribute, but the Phillies have been their before and won. Hallday and Lee have won Cy Young awards. Hamels is a former World Series MVP, and even Joe Blanton has won a World Series game. By comparison the mantle in the Nationals clubhouse remains quite thin, lined with a few all star games brought over by Gio Gonzalez from Oakland. The Nats young arsenal does boast an array of intimidating fastballs and wicked off-speed stuff, but until they beat the Phillies and win in October their anointment as the best in baseball will have to wait.