With tonight's start by Brett Myers kicking off the 12th trip through the rotation this season, it's time to consider a question that will likely follow the Phillies throughout the season.
Is the rotation strong enough to propel the Phillies to a second division title?
(The question isn't: can this rotation pitch the Phils to a World Series? Let's just worry about the regular season first. Anything can happen once the postseason arrives, so don't even think about it right now).
Here are the numbers as of today:
1) The Phils rotation is 12th out of 16 National League staffs with a 4.59 ERA.
2) Phillies starters have allowed opponents to score 181 runs, the third worst mark in the league.
3) Opposing batters are hitting .282 off of Phillies starters. Only Pittsburgh has a worse mark.
4) Phillies starters are giving up an average of 1.43 walks and hits per inning pitched, ninth in the NL.
5) Phillies starters have combined for 17 wins, tied for eighth in the NL.
On the other hand. . .
Phillies starters have pitched more innings than every NL club except St. Louis. So as mediocre-to-poor as their numbers may be, the fact remains that they are staying in games, and they are handing the ball to the bullpen with a chance to win.
Here's a stat that I find fairly impressive: since losing to the Nationals 11-6 on Opening Day, the Phillies haven't allowed an opponent to score double digits in runs. Conversely, the Mets, who have one of the better staff ERA's in the league, have allowed opponents to score in double digits six times. The Braves, also among the NL Leaders, have done so three times.
To me, that means Phillies pitchers are keeping the team in games.
Is that enough?
I think it could be, given these prerequisites:
1) Cole Hamels continues to be Cole Hamels: I think there is a high probability of this. He's the one guy you don't really have to worry about, save for an injury.
2) Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick continues to do what they do: What they do is this -- limit damage, avoid crooked numbers, consistently give the Phils a chance to win (They've won seven of Kendrick's last eight starts). I'd say there's a pretty good probability of this as well.
3) Brett Myers improves: The Phillies entered the season hoping he'd be a second ace. Now, they are just hoping that he can get his ERA down into the mid-4's.
4) The fifth spot doesn't implode: This team could make the playoffs even if Adam Eaton's ERA creeps back up into the 6's -- see last year -- but it won't be a comfortable ride. But if Eaton can be the guy we've seen his past two appearances, I think they'll get enough production out of the No. 5 spot to improve on last season's win total. The wild card, of course, is Kris Benson.
Tonight, Myers goes up against Mark Hendrickson, a former Sixers draft pick.