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Philadelphia Phillies Finish Month of April: Grading the Pitching, Player By Player

The Philadelphia Phillies are fortunate to have a pitching staff to die for, because the offense certainly isn’t doing its part, especially with both Ryan Howard and Chase Utley dealing with injuries right now. The big three are as good as advertised for the second straight year, but Vance Worley has been a pleasant surprise following what seemed to be a fluke rookie campaign. The team’s starters have a collective ERA of 2.77, the lowest walk rate in the major leagues at just 1.85 per nine innings, and a 3.7 WAR that is second only to the overachieving Washington Nationals.

Roy Halladay: The Doctor is the best pitcher in baseball, and he’s maintained that honor for several seasons now. Roy Halladay is 3-2 with a 1.95 ERA in five starts, and he’s averaging 7.4 innings pitched per start. He is his typical workhorse self, as he leads the National League in innings pitched (37) and batters faced (146). Halladay hasn’t given up a home run yet either. The only concern about Halladay is that his strikeouts are down to just 5.8 per nine innings after being above 7.5 for the last four seasons, and his walks are up to 2.4, the first time in eight years he has been above 1.9. Still, Halladay is so good that I’m sure those numbers will go back to normal shortly, and it’s tough to argue with the ERA or the phenomenal 6.1 hits allowed per nine innings, or the fact that he has given the team five quality starts in five times out on the mound. Grade: A

Cliff Lee: Cliff Lee finishes the month of April without a win, as he made just three starts before suffering a left oblique strain that landed him on the 15-day disabled list. Lee is 0-1 with a 1.96 ERA in 23 innings, but he’s been worth what the Phillies are paying him when he has pitched. Lee has allowed just 14 hits, he’s struck out 18 against just two walks, and who can forget his legendary 10-inning performance against the San Francisco Giants in his final start before he landed on the DL? Grade: A-

Cole Hamels: Cole Hamels is pitching for a new contract, and if he keeps it up, he will get that deal. He is 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA in four starts, and Hamels has struck out 30 hitters in 26.1 innings pitched. He has an absolutely jaw-dropping strikeout to walk ratio of 10:1, and he is averaging nearly 100 pitches per start. Hamels is going to be a hot free agent at the end of the season, and if the Phillies don’t lock him up before October, they can start counting down the number of starts he has remaining before he’s wearing a New York Yankees uniform. Grade: A

Vance Worley: I’ve never been sold on Vance Worley, but I’m turning the corner. After a stellar rookie campaign in which he went 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA, Worley is even better in 2012. He is 2-1 with a 1.97 ERA through five starts, and he is pitching the best ball of his career. After striking out 8.3 hitters per nine innings last season, Worley is at 9.0 this year, and his walks are at 3.1, giving him a pretty solid 2.91 K:BB ratio. He has four quality starts in five trips out to the mound, and if he continues to pitch as well as he is pitching, the Phillies may take a little more comfort in allowing Hamels to walk. Grade: A

Joe Blanton: I’ve always been a fan of Big Joe, even though he’s nothing really more than a third or fourth starter on an average team. Blanton is 2-3 with a 3.81 ERA in five starts, and he’s giving the team a good chance to win every time he goes out on the mound. I like Blanton in that he strikes out a decent amount and he limits his walks. His K’s are down this year, at just 5.2 per nine innings, but he’s also walking fewer batters than ever before. Blanton has issued just three free passes in 26 innings on the mound, and he has a strikeout to walk ratio of 5.00. For a fifth starter, I’ll gladly take Blanton’s numbers so far. Grade: B+

Kyle Kendrick: Kyle Kendrick is in year one of a two-year, $7.5 million contract that I don’t think he deserves, so forgive me if I am taking bias into my ranking of him. But Kendrick absolutely flopped in his first start in replace of Lee, giving up seven earned runs and 11 hits in fewer than four innings, and that has led to a 6.59 ERA in the month of April. Kendrick has been very solid other than his poor start, but the start still happened, and Kendrick will need to pitch better to make his contract worth it. Grade: C

Jonathan Papelbon: Boston Red Sox fans were thrilled to see Jonathan Papelbon go, and the general consensus around the game seems to be that Papelbon is a below average closer. I really don’t care what the general public says about him; I’m thrilled to have him closing games for my team. As much as I loved Ryan Madson, Papelbon is better (plus he’s not out for the year like Madson). Papelbon has a 0.90 ERA in 10 appearances on the mound, and he leads the National League with eight saves in eight chances. He hasn’t blown a chance yet, and in his last five innings, he has allowed no hits, two walks, and recorded six strikeouts. Grade: A+

Chad Qualls: I liked the Chad Qualls pickup in the offseason, and he is a dependable veteran who can pitch in the seventh or eighth inning of close games. He has a 3.24 ERA in 8.1 innings this season, and he has recorded five holds. Qualls is a journeyman relief pitcher but a good outing from him in 2012 could go a long way to the Phillies clinching their sixth straight division title. Grade: B

Antonio Bastardo: I’m extremely concerned with Antonio Bastardo this season. After a nearly record-breaking 2011 campaign, Bastardo has struggled mightily in 2012. He has walked four batters in just 3.1 innings and he has a 5.40 ERA in his seven appearances. Bastardo strikes out a ton of batters still, but the walks need to go down, and he needs to regain the form he displayed when he was so dominant early in ’11. Grade: D

Michael Stutes: Michael Stutes pitched just 5.2 innings before he was placed on the 15-day DL. He has struggled as well in 2012, with a 6.35 ERA, four walks, and a 1.94 WHIP. Stutes has been hit hard, and he has the tools to be a very dependable relief pitcher for the Phillies, but he needs to improve his control some and show more consistency on the mound. Grade: D

David Herndon: David Herndon is like Kyle Kendrick; he is an innings-eater who pitches to contact and strikes out a very low percentage of hitters, but he seems to find his way back onto the 25-man roster year after year. Herndon has a 4.70 ERA in 7.2 innings this season before going on the DL yesterday, and that’s about what the Phillies are going to get from him. He gives up a fair amount of hits and he doesn’t overpower hitters, and he’s really nothing more than a dime a dozen relief pitcher. Grade: C-

Joe Savery: I am excited to see what Joe Savery can do for the Phillies this year, and he has performed well so far. Savery has allowed just two hits and one run in 5.2 innings, and he has an 0.53 WHIP to go with his 1.59 ERA. He is a dependable lefty from what the Phillies have seen from him, and with Bastardo struggling, Savery is all the more important. Grade: B+

Jose Contreras: I really don’t expect the Phillies to be able to count on Jose Contreras much this season. He is a 40-year old pitcher coming off an elbow injury, and there doesn’t seem to be much left for him at this point in his career. Contreras has a 7.36 ERA, a 1.64 WHIP, and he is currently on the DL. Grade: F

Michael Schwimer: I like Michael Schwimer a lot, and I am excited to see what he can bring to the Phillies. Schwimer struggled in limited opportunities in 2011, and he has done the same so far in 2012. Schwimer has a 7.71 ERA in 2.1 innings, he hasn’t struck out a batter, and he only throws in the low nineties despite his massive figure. Schwimer has torn up Triple-A the last two seasons, but he hasn’t translated the same success to the major league level. This could be a big year for him in terms of showing the team that he can pitch to big league players. Grade: F