Here’s a riddle for you:
What’s the difference between the Phillies’ starting pitching in 2019 and the Phillies’ starting pitching over the last two months of the 2018 season?
If you answered “they both have eerily similar horrendous numbers to each other,” well then you win the grand prize of not being punched in the face by Jason Vargas.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – the Phillies’ starting pitching has not been good in 2019. You can crunch the numbers any way you want. The classic stats, advanced metrics, the eye test, the smell test, the sound test, the hate-the-face test.. the starting pitching has drastically underperformed all season.
Most depressingly, the 2019 starters may not even be outperforming the epic collapse of the Phillies starting pitching late last season, which saw the third best overall starting pitching staff based on WAR through July plummet to the 16th best starting pitching staff by the end of the season.
It’s clear that Phillies GM Matt Klentak was gambling on the largely unchanged 2019 starting pitching staff of Aaron Nola, Jake Arrietta, Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, and Zach Eflin to revert back to the four-month sample from the start of 2018 that saw the staff as one of the best in baseball.
Instead of looking at the four-month 2018 sample as a predictor of success for the 2019 starting pitching, Klentak should have heeded the 2018 August and September performance as an omen of disaster for this season.
Through July 30, 2018, the Phillies starting pitchers were 40-32 with a collective 3.86 ERA, 8.98 K/9, 1.00 HR/9 and a 1.23 WHIP. The staff WAR was 11, tied with Boston for third best IN THE ENTIRE LEAGUE. Batters hit .240 off the starters during that time period.
Through August and September of 2018, Phillies starting pitchers were 13-24 with a collective 4.77 ERA, 9.35 K/9 (how that increased I have no clue), 1.25 HR/9 and a 1.34 WHIP. The staff WAR plummeted to 3.7 and opposing batters hit .255 off of them during the last two months of the season.
If you really want to see a horror show, check out their 2018 September starting pitching stats. Phillies starting pitchers were 5-16 with a collective 5.92 ERA, 10.54 K/9, 3.38 BB/9, 1.52 HR/9 and a 1.41 WHIP. The staff WAR was a humiliating 1.3 and opposing batters hit .263 against them.
Oh God, I’m woozy.
Sadly, the 2019 starters haven’t fared much better FOR THIS ENTIRE SEASON compared with the 2018 starters over the collapse of August and September.
Through July 30 of this year, the Phillies starters total a positively dreadful WAR of 3.9, good for the fourth worst staff in all of baseball. The staff is 35-35 with a collective 4.59 ERA, 8.21 K/9, 1.69 HR/9 and a 1.37 WHIP. Opposing batters are hitting .259 off the starters.
I’ll wait for a few moments to let you finish retching… everyone back? Good.
The 2019 Phillies starting pitching staff is statistically worse in K/9, HR/9, WHIP, and opposing hitters’ batting average for the entire year than the horrendous August and September pitching collapse of 2018.
All of these numbers are prior to Phillies GM landing starting pitchers Jason Vargas and Drew “Don’t Call me Cliff Lee” Smyly, but it’s clear that Klentak did not make the correct gamble when he entered this season confident in his staff.
Yes, Arrieta is injured and Pivetta seems to be flourishing in his relief role, but Klentak’s undoing just may be his confidence in a staff that showed so much promise in the start of 2018 and just as much heartache at the end of it.
Or hey, they could turn it all around in August and September. We’ve seen it before, just in reverse.