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It's Coming, Keep the Car Running: Next Series Pitchers Preview: Philadelphia Phillies

Well, after a good start to the week, the Jays not only dropped four straight games, but also lost ace, Roy Halladay, for at least his next start (get well soon, Doc!).  Perhaps they used the off day Monday to reflect on their recent difficulties and will turn things around 16-18 June in Philadelphia against the Phillies.  Tonight, we send Ricky Romero to start against the Phillies ace southpaw Cole Hamels.  The series continues tomorrow night, when Scott Richmond will probably start against the ageless Jamie Moyer and it concludes with a getaway game on Thursday afternoon with Casey Janssen starting against Joe "Cupcakes" Blanton.  Hopefully we can turn things around after getting swept at home against the Marlins.


16 June

Cole Hamels (4-2, 4.62, 1.380 WHIP)

Hamels is a gangly 25 year-old left-hander who, at first glance, has had a rough start to the season.  A 4.62 ERA and 1.380 WHIP is hardly what anyone was expecting from the pitcher who led the National League in WHIP last year.  As we look a bit deeper into Hamels's performance, however, we see that, outside of his high HR-rate (10 HR and 1.47 HR/9), he's posted excellent peripherals, with 56 strikeouts (8.2 K/9) and 12 walks (1.8 BB/9) in 62 1/3 IP.  What we are seeing, then, is probably an artifact of a high BABIP and possibly a low strand-rate.  In fact, his strand-rate has been fine (74.0%), but his BABIP has been quite high (.346), while last year's was a much tidier .259.  As I said earlier, he has been a bit prone to yielding the gopher ball so far, but whether or not that will continue is probably going to be based on speculation.  Pitchers occasionally have years when they give up a lot of homers, but whether or not this will be one for Hamels, I really can't tell.

So far this season, Hamels has been Feast-or-Famine, PQSing 0, 3, 0, 0, 5, 5, 4, 4, 4, 4 and 1 for a mean of 2.7 and Dominance- and Disaster-Rates of 55% and 36%.  The dominance-rate is good, but the disaster-rate needs to come down quite a bit.

Over his career, the lefty has been about equally effective against both lefthanded (.243 / .295 / .429; 3.68 K/BB) and righthanded (.239 / .288 / .407; 3.68 K/BB) batters, but part of that may be that teams usually only start their best lefties against him.  Righties have killed him so far this season (.329 / .364 / .561) but that is heavily influenced by a .392 BABIP as his K/BB numbers are a very solid 4.56 K/BB ratio.

Hamels, as his platoon splits might suggest to some, does not have an overpowering fastball (it tops out around 90 mph), but he has very good off-speed pitches, particularly his changeup, which he even throws to lefties on occasion.  He also throws a big, sweeping curve against lefties.


17 June

Jamie Moyer (4-5, 6.11, 1.492 WHIP)

A friend of mine from Philadelphia asked me a few weeks ago why Jamie Moyer didn't retire on top after having won the World Series last year.  I told him that it's probably because he was hoping the Phillies new GM Ruben Amaro would sign Raul Ibanez, who he played with in Seattle.  I'm sure it had nothing to do with the $13 million deal that Amaro inked him to.  Anyway, that's neither here nor there.  Jamie Moyer's been around long enough that there's very little need to introduce him, but I will say that his strikeout-rate this season (4.7 K/9) is down considerably from last season's 5.7 K/9 and 2007's 6.0K /9.  He has reduced his walks to just 2.1 BB/9, but his homerun-rate has doubled from 2008's 0.92 HR/9.

So far, he's PQSed 0, 4, 2, 4, 0, 0, 0, 3, 4, 5, 4 and 3.  Hopefully he has not found his stride lately, as we see that he's pitched pretty well his last five starts, while his first six were pretty bad.  His PQS-mean of 2.4 and Dominance/Disaster rates of 45% and 36% are not exactly what Amaro had in mind when he signed him to a two-year contract.

The southpaw who has remarkably won more games in his 40's than his 20's has made a living on his changeup since he first pitched for the Cubs in 1986 and, like Hamels, has exhibited muted reverse platoon splits throughout his career.  Lefties have had some success (.274 / .335 / .433; 2.06 K/BB) and righties have had about the same (.266 / .318 / .422; 2.11 K/BB).  This season, like Hamels, he's been able to limit the damage from lefties (.250 / .355 / .469) much better than righties (.333 / .364 / .557), striking out just 21 righties, while giving up 11 homeruns to them.  Hopefully our righthanded power hitters can put a couple over the fences, though they will need some patience against his change.

As I said, Moyer's bread-and-butter is obviously his change, but he has been working his fastball more this season, which may have more to do with being a bit wild in the zone with his change (the worst place to be wild with it).  In recent years he's been using the cutter a lot, but he's reduced its usage a bit this season with the increased reliance on his 80 mph "gas."


18 June

Joe Blanton (4-3, 5.17, 1.416 WHIP)

Cupcakes, as Blanton is affectionately known, is a flyball pitcher, who has regularly posted K/BB ratios below 2.0 (with the exception of his solid 2007 season, when he posted a 3.5 K/BB).  Personally, I am not a big fan of Blanton, but he has been much more impressive this season, drastically increasing his strikeout-rate to 8.1 K/9, while cutting his walk-rate to just 2.9 BB/9.  Unfortunately for him, his homerun numbers have been much worse, giving up 14 already for 1.74 HR/9.  This is, of course, something the Phillies must have been expecting when they traded for the flyball pitcher who'd made a living inducing long flyball outs in spacious Oakland Colisseum.

Blanton has given up at least one homerun in all but two of his starts this season, but has usually limited the opposition to only one per start, which has kept his PQS numbers pretty respectable, logging 0, 4, 4, 0, 3, 4, 3, 3, 5, 4, 5 and 4, including a 7 IP, 11 K, 2 BB, 5 H gem on 26 May against the Marlins.  His mean of 3.25 and Dominance- and Disaster-rates of 58% and 17% are very good, though as I said, his PQS numbers have been inflated because his homeruns have been spread out over his starts.  Nonetheless, going into the season I doubt anyone would have expected him to be as effective as the ace of the staff, so Phillies fans cannot be disappointed in his baseline numbers.

Similar to Hamels and Moyer, Blanton has weak reverse platoon splits.  Righties have hit him moderately well (.272 / .323 / .429; 2.38 K/BB), while lefties have him a bit less (.270 / .320 / .401; 1.88 K/BB).  This season has been more of the same, though he has drastically reduced the number of walks he is issuing to righthanded batters, while he is walking lefties quite a bit more (walks in 10% of plate appearances).

As you might expect from a flyball pitcher, Blanton does not really throw a two-seam fastball, and his four-seamer certainly doesn't really overpower anyone, clocking in around 90 mph.  Like Hamels, Blanton relies pretty heavily on his offspeed stuff, particularly his changeup and his curve.  He's been locating his slider better this season, as well.