Should the Phillies Keep Their Six-Man Pitching Rotation?

by Marc Narducci | Aug 18, 2023
Should the Phillies Keep Their Six-Man Pitching Rotation?
The Phillies are not home-free into the playoffs with more than six weeks left in the regular season, but they began the week as the No. 1 wild card team in the National League, which is significant. The No. 1 wild card team will earn home field advantage for the entire best of three first round series. 

Even though the Phillies won both wild card games last year in St. Louis, showing they can win on the road, they would have a greater chance at home, where the fans at Citizens Bank Park give them one of the best home field advantages in the sport. 

Of course, the Phillies won’t be much of a playoff threat if their top offensive players—Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos, Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber and JT Realmuto, don’t perform up to their previous standards. 

Turner has come out of a horrific slump, but we’ll see if that can continue. Castellanos also has come out of a slump that occurred after the All-Star break. Harper has been hitting, but not for power and Realmuto, while having the rigors of catching to deal with, hasn’t hit the way he has in the past for the Phillies. Schwarber continues to be a hit or miss player as his batting average stays way below the Mendoza line. 

Yet one real key will be the starting pitching. The Phillies are currently using a six-man rotation. The plan was to eventually go back to a five-man rotation, but now nothing is set in stone. If I were Phillies manager Rob Thomson, I’d keep a six-man rotation for the rest of the season. 

Thomson announced over the weekend that Taijuan Walker would get at least one day extra rest. Walker was supposed to start Sunday in Williamsport, PA against the Washington Nationals, but now his next date has yet to be announced.

In Walker’s last two starts he has allowed seven earned runs in 12 innings (5.25 ERA) and has lost some zip on his fastball. Walker has averaged 158 innings over the previous two seasons, and he has thrown 131 2/3 in this, his first year with the Phillies. Other pitchers on the mound could also use the extended breather that a six-man rotation provides.

Michael Lorenzen pitched a no-hitter in his second start and threw 124 pitches, giving him 17 innings and 225 pitches in his first two Phillies starts. Lorenzen has already thrown a career-high 122 2/3 innings. For much of his career he has been a reliever and only went over 100 innings one other time, when he pitched 113 in 2015 with the Cincinnati Reds. He has already thrown 25 more innings than he did last year when he tossed 97 2/3 for the Los Angeles Angels. A pitcher who increases his innings by a large total, usually tires at some point. 

And remember, Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola pitched all those extra postseason innings last year. Nola threw 205 innings in the 2022 regular season and another 25 2/3 in the playoffs. He began the week having thrown 148 1/3 innings.

Wheeler threw 153 innings in the 2022 regular season and an extra 35 2/3 in the playoffs. He began the week with 137 innings pitched.

And Ranger Suarez, who missed the early part of the season due to injury, has pitched 97 1/3 innings, after throwing a career-high 155 innings last season. 

Cristopher Sanchez has pitched well as a starter and it may make sense to use him in that role the rest of the regular season.

The extra day rest for all the pitchers that a six-man rotation would provide, may be needed if the Phillies hope to qualify for the postseason and like last year, enjoy an extended stay.

 

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Author: Marc Narducci

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