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The Phillies Starting Staff Is A Force To Be Reckoned With Right Now

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In 2011 it was Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt, Worley/Kendrick. In 2018 it’s Nola, Arietta, Velasquez, Pivetta, and Eflin. Who would have thought this group of misfits would go on to dominate opposing lineups night after night. The baseball world isn’t in tune with the Phillies staff so allow me to introduce them.

Aaron Nola

I know I’m a homer for saying this and I truly don’t give a fuck, but Aaron Nola is the Cy Young in the National League. He leads all of MLB pitchers in bWAR with a 6.8. His 2.37 ERA is third in the NL and his .99 WHIP is also third. He leads all of baseball in winning %, HR/9 and his team is 16-7 in games he starts. MOST IMPORTANTLY, his Phillies are in First Place. While Scherzer and Degrom have been far more dominant, they haven’t nearly carried the weight of the team on their shoulders like Nola has.

In the 9 games against teams with .530 or better winning %, Nola’s Phillies are 5-4. In those games Nola has a WHIP of .92 with an ERA of 3.10. The former 1st round pick and projected “Number 3 Starter” has become a bona fide ace and a top 5 pitcher in all of baseball.

Jake Arietta

Theo is definitley clinching his butthole during every Jake start. While Yu sits his $126m ass on the DL like he has a majority of the season, Jake is 8th in the NL in ERA. Theo knows he screwed up. Just as bad, if not worse than Dave Dombrowski did when he signed David Price over Lester. Theo may have gotten the last laugh there, but now Little Matty Klentak and the rest of the front office are quietly giggling in their suit.

The regression with Jake over the past couple years has been very evident. This is what scared the Cubs away and frankly, it made me a little nervous as well. The decrease in fastball velocity by 2 MPH and the more reliance on the fastball as opposed to years past has really hurt his K/9. In his 2015 CY Young season, Jake’s 9.28 K/9 was a direct result of his cutter / curve ball combination which he threw 45% of the time. With a fastball that averaged 95, Jake was untouchable.

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Jake still has some pump on his ball, but in order to preserve his arm he has had to pitch smarter. While Jake is still throwing his fastball 58% of the time and the cutter/curve combo at 31%, it’s a more effective change-up that he has helped him adapt. His 1.94 GB/FB rate is 5th in all of baseball. Since he can’t strike em out as much, he is just forcing opposing hitters to beat it into the ground instead.

Vince Velasquez

Vinny the K, Vinny Velo, Vinny Bag O’ Donuts…whatever you prefer to call him. All I can tell you it’s pretty obvious at this point who won the Ken Giles deal. Since coming to Philly from Houston in the 2015 trade, Vince has been a project. Running up pitch counts and over throwing was his specialty. Unfortunately for him, he had Old Man Mackanin and Moustache McClure taking their afternoon naps during his first 2 seasons here. It wasn’t until Gabe Kapler who has been able to corral Vince’s energy and guide him into the starting pitcher we all knew he could be.

For years, Phillies twitter and media were imploring to take Vince out of the SP role and turn him into Andrew Miller. While that could still be a possibility in the future, I think he is perfect right where he is. Since coming off the DL on July 11th, Vince is 3-0 with a 0.71 ERA .435 OPS against. This is no fluke people. Vince has finally developed an effective off speed pitch to complement his fastball. Vince’s slider has been his saving grace leading to a decrease in HR/FB rate as well as BABIP.

Nick Pivetta

Nick is absolutely filthy. Like too filthy for his own good sometimes. Last night, he went toe to toe with Zach Greinke and won. He had 3 strikeouts on fastballs in which the batter was looking. That’s REALLY hard to do in this league, especially against a lineup like the DBacks.

After 13 starts, a 3.76 ERA and a .659 OPS against to start the season, Nick kind of unraveled for a little there. In his next 8 starts, the 6.70 ERA and .897 OPS against would be enough for the casual fan to be like, fuck this guy. But, I am here to talk you off the ledge, particularly because he has been masterful in his past 2 starts.

Nick’s 11.04 K’s/9 are 9th most in baseball. I think this growing pain he experienced in those 8 starts was his most important lesson because it is oddly similar to what Vince went through the past couple years. He knows his stuff is some of the most overpowering in the game. But, 97 is nothing in this league and the good hitters will feast on it. His past 2 starts which he has allowed 2 earned over 12 innings, which include 12 K’s is more representative of what kind of pitcher Pivetta is. He has learned if he tones down his fastball just a smidge and doesn’t try to overpower everyone, his slider and curve ball combo will become that much more effective.

I think at this point it’s obvious that the Phillies got the better end of the Papelbon deal.

Zach Eflin

2 bum knees and a shitty shoulder weren’t enough to stop Eflin from re-emergence. The Phillies #5 starter is playing that role exactly how you are supposed to. His 3.61 ERA and 1.10 WHIP over 15 starts are #3 starter numbers on most teams. In those 15 starts, Eflin has pitched into the 7th in 5 of those starts. And horrible May which ballooned most of his stats, Zach is 7-1 with a 3.22 ERA and .666 OPS against since.

My favorite part about Zach is he lives around the plate. While Zach can gas it as good as anyone averaging 95 MPH on his fastball, his slider command is his most effective attribute. Being able to rely on a secondary pitch as well as Zach does separates him from most of the other 24 year olds in this league. Since June 5th, Eflin is 9th among all MLB pitchers with 1.5 BB/9. That is the perfect compliment to come from your #5 guy, especially when your 3-4 guys can be very erratic.

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How long can this rotation with an average age of of 26 years old keep this up? I wish I had an answer to that. But right now, they are looking in pretty good shape. All I can say is I can not fucking wait for meaningful September baseball again.

We got Velasquez vs. Corbin to close out the series this afternoon. Patrick Corbin is very good, but as I mentioned above, so is Vinny. Vince hasn’t been his best in day games with close to a 5 ERA in 4 starts. Corbin eats strikeout heavy teams like the Phillies alive. Looks like we will need to rely on some late inning magic again.

Go Phils.