And now, some positive thoughts about the Philadelphia Phillies pitching staff.
The big, beautiful Philadelphia Phillies equipment truck has left the City that Hates You Back and is making its way to Clearwater, FL, where it will unload its contents, which will be used beginning Feb. 11 – with hope – by a team with aspirations of moving higher than fourth place in its division.
That has happened only twice since the juggernaut 2011 season when the Phils set their season record with 102 wins. The ’12 and ‘18 third-place teams went a combined 161-163, however, and inspired no one.
But now the team is loaded with high-priced talent and a very questionable potential pitching staff led by a very good pair of right-handed starters, a recently repaired, past Cy Young award winner with “grit,” and about 40 question marks as Spring Training opens.
Nobody in the Delaware Valley believes that Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Jake Arrieta will haul the Phillies to glory without significant mound support. But it is the time of year for the “high hopes” of the corny song favored by a late, beloved broadcaster, so let’s imagine a best-case scenario.
(And, yes, I can see my Phillies dude in the back, in the faded Aaron Altherr t-shirt, sarcastically asking his buddy, “A what case what???”)
OK, let’s say Nola, Wheeler, and Arrieta manage to go 15-5, 17-4, and 13-10, respectively. This assumes that Nola doesn’t quite return to his near Cy Young form of ’18, but does better than in ’19; that Wheeler sort of blossoms in a way he didn’t with the Mets, and that Arrieta’s cleaned-out elbow gives him his best year with the Phillies so far in his contract year. None of this is wildly unreasonable.
Beyond that, let’s say of the 93 games they start but other pitchers get the decisions, the Phillies win 17 and lose 12. There’s a lot of firepower on this team now, and only one assumed position starter will not be at least a somewhat seasoned veteran – Adam Haseley.
So, this means the Phillies could go 62-31 in games started by three fairly healthy, quite effective starters backed by a bullpen that’s a bit better than mediocre. Note that 31 games started apiece for these three is not an absolute peak number of starts, but it’s good.
This is a pretty rosy picture, but still, the team must come up with another 28 wins, minimally, to win the division. Where do they come from?
The 40 question marks must go 28-41 in games not started by the top three starters for the team to reach 90 wins.