Phillies 2018 season preview: Starting pitcher Ben Lively

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 20: Ben Lively #49 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning at AT&T Park on August 20, 2017 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 20: Ben Lively #49 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning at AT&T Park on August 20, 2017 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images) /
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With the regular season just a month away, battles are still to be won in the Phillies pitching staff. Here is the 2018 preview for pitcher Ben Lively.

With less than a month before the start of the 2018 season, there are still question marks in the Phillies pitching staff. Ben Lively, who is listed as the fifth starter on the team’s official website, showed promise last season, despite mediocre overall numbers.  What can we expect from Lively this season?

Before looking forward, let’s take a look back at what Lively accomplished in 2017. He was very good in his Major League debut, allowing just a run in seven innings, although he failed to record a strikeout. Lively continued to show promise, finishing his first month in the Majors with an ERA of 3.72 in 38 2/3 innings.

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After a loss to the Pirates July 5, Lively didn’t appear in the majors again until Aug. 20, allowing two runs and six hits in six innings against the Giants. Although striking out a career-high eight against the Cubs Aug. 26, Lively allowed six runs and four home runs in five innings.  Lively finished August with a 5.29 ERA.

September was much the same for Lively, pitching well overall with one clunker mixed in.

He allowed three runs or less in four of his five starts but got hammered for six runs and eight hits in five innings against the Braves.

Overall, Lively went 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. Not a strikeout pitcher, Lively fanned 52 in 88 2/3 innings. His biggest problem was keeping the ball in the park, allowing 13 home runs.

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What can be expected this season from Lively? As the number five starter, the team saw enough last year to give him a shot in the rotation. On the flip side, being the number five, any significant drop-off or lack of progression could propel the likes of Zach Eflin, Mark Leiter Jr, or Jake Thompson (currently sixth, seventh and eighth on the depth chart) into Lively’s spot.

Lively is off to a good start this spring, allowing no runs in five innings over two starts. A key to continued success will be his ability to keep the ball in the park. There are still teams that haven’t seen him, which will work to his advantage, but those that have will make adjustments.

Lively’s ability to make adjustments back will also be critical to long-term success.

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Should Lively stay in the rotation all season, 10 wins is a possibility. He’s likely to have an ERA in the low to mid 4’s and rack up 100 to 120 strikeouts. He is clearly not top of the rotation material, but Lively could be a solid number five. Another option would be to put Lively in long relief, where seeing hitters only once or twice in a game may be to his advantage.

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