Coming into the season, the Philadelphia Phillies looked as if they were headed for the bottom of the league. A massive rebuild was upon them, as well as depressing times for Phillies fans. No matter how loyal you are as a Phillies fan, 2016 was supposed to be unwatchable.
But so far, it’s been watchable. In fact, it’s been very watchable, and that’s in large part to the underrated, under-appreciated starting pitching staff.
As of June 7, the Phillies’ starting rotation ranks 11th in MLB with an ERA of 3.92. That’s not anything spectacular, but it’s certainly not a number to sneeze at. Especially since this team was supposed to be the garbage-fire burning at the bottom of the National League East. Right now, that’s reserved for just the Atlanta Braves.
The rotation deserves high praise for its exceptional job thus far.
Aaron Nola stands at the top of the rotation. In 12 starts this year, he’s gone 5-4 with a 2.65 ERA. Nola is showing ace potential, and is someone who the Phillies need to build their future around. In 2014, the Phils took him with the 7th pick in the first round. So far, it looks as though they nailed it with that pick. Cue the Cole Hamels comparisons?
Anyways, now we move to Vincent Velasquez. He started the year on a tear by pitching to a 1.78 ERA in April. He’s cooled off since, yet he still has an ERA of 3.67 to go along with a record of 5-2. For a guy who’s in his first season in the bigs, I’d say that’s pretty darn good.
Velasquez was one of the central pieces the Phillies got back in the Ken Giles deal with the Houston Astros. Giles has a 5.55 ERA right now and has struggled all year. Velasquez is 24 and pitching well enough to possibly become a mainstay in this rotation for years to come.
Jeremy Hellickson is the big surprise. After winning the American League Rookie of the Year award in 2011, his career has hovered around mediocrity. He was once thought of to be a possible ace for the Tampa Bay Rays but never really filled out.
The Phillies seem like his fresh start, as he currently sports an ERA of 3.80 with a 4-3 record. He’s 28, and acquiring him over the offseason can be a “plus” on Matt Klentak’s resumé as General Manager.
However unlike Nola and Velasquez, Hellickson provides a different benefit for the Phillies.
He’s perfect trade bait.
Since James Shields was dealt to the Chicago White Sox, the starting pitching market is rather bland. So, for a team looking for some consistency with a starter, Hellickson could be the perfect guy. And with so many offers coming in for him, the Phillies will probably bite at the highest bidder, meaning someone will overpay. Whether that be the Boston Red Sox or whomever, the Phillies will get a plethora of good prospects or players back in the deal.
The number four starter, Jerad Eickhoff, is also worth mentioning. He hasn’t been provided with much in the run-support category, so his record is 2-8. Nonetheless, in 11 starts this year, seven were quality starts. His ERA also sits at 3.93, which is pretty good for a fourth starter. He’s 25, so the Phillies should see how he continues to develop in the starting rotation.
The Phillies are currently 28-30 and sit 6.5 games back of the Washington Nationals for first place. Unless they get hot, the Phillies won’t be making the playoffs this year.
But due to a starting pitching staff showing early signs of stardom, who knows what they could become in the future. Heck, a dynasty could be starting up in Philadelphia.
Ring that Liberty Bell loud and proud.