The Philadelphia Phillies‘ pitching staff has pulled off the near impossible this year: Lead the major leagues in both quality starts and in ERA. That’s a little like leading the league in both hitting and striking out, which is very hard to do.
However strange that stat might sound, it’s true and is probably as good a reason as any that the latest trade rumor — Michael Young to the New York Yankees straight up for Joba Chamberlain — would make the most sense for the Phillies right now.
The problem is, was, and if nothing is done, will be the eighth inning. As Phillies radio announcer Larry Andersen (himself an eighth-inning guy for the 1993 NL champion Phillies) said, “When the Phillies relievers come into the game in the eighth inning, the game comes to a grinding halt.” That’s probably because the set-up guys the Phillies have now have had so little success in the past, they want to hold onto the ball as long as they can before releasing it.
The eighth inning was a problem last year and it’s been a problem this year. With Michael Adams out for the season with an injury, the Phillies have been forced to go with Antonio Bastardo and a group of pitchers who did nothing to distinguish themselves at Triple-A Allentown (Pa.) before being promoted by necessity. When you have to rely on minor-league pitchers, it’s a problem. When you have to rely on bad minor-league pitchers, it’s a compounded problem.
Getting rid of Michael Young would also make sense from the Phillies point of view since his $16 million contract is a hefty one and might allow them to trade for another eighth-inning piece. He’s hitting .289 and would be valuable to the Yankees because he can play either first, third or be used as a designated hitter.
In Chamberlain, unlike the Phils’ other eighth-inning options, he’s at least had some major-league success. He’s only 27 and, as recently as 2011, posted one of his better seasons, striking out nearly a batter an inning and going 2-0 with a 2.83 ERA. The only reason he’s on the market now is his last two seasons.
This year his ERA is 5.75, but maybe a change to a new league will re-energize him. The Phillies can only hope.