Monday, October 5, 2009

Decisions, Decisions for Phillies Post Season


With two off days and a Wednesday morning roster submission deadline, the Phillies brass are mulling over their options. They are likely studying match-up statistics, reviewing medical information and considering game scenarios. The key decisions include the pitching rotation, the number of bench players versus relief pitchers and who to keep in the bullpen.

The Phillies starting line-up is set and will likely only vary in order according to whether they are facing a righty or lefty starter. If Carlos Ruiz has any lingering soreness, it is possible that Paul Bako could get a start. Charlie Manuel could go a variety of different ways with his starting pitching. Considering the statistical splits and previous performances of his own pitchers, it would seem likely that J.A. Happ would join Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels in the rotation.

The most vulnerable area and biggest question mark is surely the bullpen. The loss of Chan Ho Park and J.C. Romero are big blows to an already tenuous situation. If healthy, both pitchers would have played very important roles and been called upon in critical situations due to their strikeout capabilities. The team desperately wanted Romero's left arm in the pen, especially with the Rockies left-handed line-up and the uncertainty created by Scott Eyre's elbow injury.

Brett Myers is just returning from a shoulder strain. Although Manuel's remarks seemed to suggest that he was tepid on Myers, it would be a large mistake to leave him off the roster. His closing experience, competitive spirit and ability to work out of jams with strikeouts could turn out to be a necessity in the late innings. Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge appear to be closers 1a and 1b, but in the heat of tense situation, there is a lot to be said for calling on a pitcher with Myers' demeanor.

Although first innings have been treacherous for him, Pedro Martinez may be the best choice to move to the pen. With adrenaline pumping in a tense situation, Martinez would probably have more velocity from the outset to complement his movement and other pitches. Pedro's pitch repertoire, guile and tough minded approach would seem to make him more well suited for a pressure packed situation.

Happ has been the Phillies best performing starter all season long. Considering his shut-out earlier this season against the Rockies, and their lessened effectiveness against left-handers, Happ is likely to start game 3 or 4. Blanton threw well in last year's post season, and would be better suited as a starter due to his durability and pitch to contact style.

Rather than name game 3 and 4 starters now, it would make more sense to see what happens in the first two games. If Lee and Hamels pitch games 1 and 2, they would both be available to pitch in game 5, if necessary. With the lack of lefties in the pen, and after throwing only two innings yesterday, Happ could be called upon on Wednesday for a key out or inning. Accordingly, Manuel could decide who to start Saturday and Sunday.

Here is how I would project things:

Line-up 8

  1. Rollins-SS
  2. Victorino-CF
  3. Utley-2B
  4. Howard-1B
  5. Ibanez-LF
  6. Werth-RF
  7. Feliz-3B
  8. Ruiz-C

Rotation 4

  1. Lee
  2. Hamels
  3. Blanton
  4. Happ

Bench 5

  1. Francisco
  2. Stairs
  3. Dobbs
  4. Bako
  5. Cairo

Bullpen 8

  1. Lidge
  2. Madson
  3. Myers
  4. Eyre
  5. Blanton
  6. Durbin
  7. Walker
  8. Condrey

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