Phillies: Where does the starting rotation stand?
By David Esser
Where does the Phillies pitching staff stand as we wait for opening day?
With the MLB season most likely being put on pause for the next couple of months, baseball fans everywhere are asking a lot of questions. When will Opening Day be? How will this affect the postseason? Will the regular season be shortened? How will the Phillies starting pitchers perform???
You like that seamless transition? In all seriousness, the COVID-19 pandemic has gripped the globe, and has found its way into our beloved summer pastime. Baseball is projecting to be delayed till around June/July, and a lot of players around the league have already packed up and left their spring training sites.
With that said, there’s still plenty to talk about in terms of Philadelphia baseball. The MLB season will hopefully be back sometime this summer, and when it comes to the Phillies, their starting rotation is always a hot topic to discuss.
One-two punch at the top
Since the departure of Cole Hamels in 2015, the Phillies have really relied primarily on just one elite pitcher to hold down their staff. They tried to add a bonafide ace in Jake Arrieta prior to the 2018 season, but that obviously hasn’t really worked out in Philly’s favor.
For the most part, it’s been Aaron Nola against the world over the last couple of seasons.
Finishing third in the Cy Young voting during the 2018 campaign, Nola honestly was good enough to carry a depleted Phillies pitching staff. He posted a 2.37 ERA and won the team 17 games. However, as 2019 rolled around and the pressure began to mount on the young righty, he showed clear signs of struggle.
His ERA shot up close to a 4.00 and his win total dropped by five. It became ever so clear that he desperately needed a legit “number two” paired next to him to alleviate some of that pressure.
Enter Zack Wheeler.
The 29 year old was locked up to a very lucrative 5-year deal right at the start of free agency, and the Phillies haven’t looked back since. Prying him away from their division rival in the Mets, the Phillies are clearly banking on Wheeler finally developing into a solid #2 or even a 1B in their rotation.
Wheeler has long been a fan favorite when it comes to analytics and projection metrics, mainly based on how hard he throws. If he can unlock some of that untapped potential, the front two in the Phils’ rotation will be a force to be reckoned with.
Overall grade? A-