Had someone told you in March that through 91 games the Phillies’ rotation would lead the majors in quality starts, what would you peg their record at?
You’d likely have them comfortably over .500, and you’d probably have guessed Roy Halladay was healthy and effective and that the John Lannan signing was playing out smoothly.
Well, the Phils do lead all of baseball with 58 quality starts. But Halladay and Lannan, who made up 40 percent of the opening day rotation, have been responsible for only seven of them –- the same amount as 22-year-old rookie Jonathan Pettibone.
Much of the production has come from the trio of Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Kyle Kendrick. Those three have 40 quality starts in 55 tries; Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister of the Tigers have 38 quality starts in 55 tries.
While Hamels hasn’t gotten the run support or wins of the other two, he has pitched well to this point in the season. His ERA is 4.17, but he’s been a true-talent 3.73 ERA guy based on his strikeout, walk, home run and ballpark-adjusted numbers (see: xFIP).
Hamels has come on lately. Since the start of June, he’s 3-2 with a 3.06 ERA and has five times as many strikeouts as walks. By winning Tuesday night, he earned back-to-back victories for the first time all season. Through all the injuries, inconsistency at the plate and woes in the bullpen, Hamels remains the Phillies' key. If things fell slightly differently and he was even 8-7 rather than 4-11, the Phils would be over .500 right now.
Two other areas in which Phillies starting pitchers have thrived are avoiding crooked numbers and multi-home run games. They’re third in the majors in starts of two or fewer runs, trailing only the Pirates and Cardinals, the top two teams in the NL.
And Phillies starting pitchers have allowed two home runs or fewer an NL-leading 89 times. Only twice all year they’ve given up three or more bombs in a game –- Hamels on opening night and Halladay in the 14-2 loss at Cleveland. Joe Blanton, Matt Cain, Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie have more three-homer games by themselves.
With five games remaining before the All-Star break, each Phillies starter has one more chance to improve his numbers. Next up is Cliff Lee, who hasn’t lost in 70 days.
Lee is 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 0.70 WHIP this season against the NL East. He’s been a major reason the Phillies are 23-13 in the division.