Just how good has the Phillies’ pitching staff been?
What was once thought of a weakness for this Phillies’ team, is now considered it’s greatest strength. As of right now, the Phillies are the third-best pitching staff in the major leagues. They are only behind the Astros and the Red Sox, which means the Phillies have the best pitching staff in the national league. This may have you thinking, what has made the Phillies’ pitching staff so dominate this season?
This ranking system is from fangraphs.com, and its major factor behind comparing pitching staffs is WAR. WAR stands for wins above replacement, and the Phillies’ pitching staff has a 15.0 WAR. This means that the Phillies’ pitching staff as a whole is worth 15 total wins.
As I said earlier, the Phillies rank third behind the Astros (19.3 WAR) and the Red Sox (15.1 WAR). This leads us to the major question, what has made the Phillies’ pitching staff so successful? To answer that question, we need to look at both the starting staff as well as the bullpen.
If you have been following the Phillies this season, you should be able to tell me who is in the starting rotation. However, if you have just started to follow them, don’t worry I am going to tell you anyway. The Phillies’ starting rotation includes Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, and Zach Eflin.
There is no question that Nola has been the ace of the staff. He is 12-3 on the season with a 2.30 ERA in 129 innings. Nola leads this pitching staff in WAR at 6.1, this is more than double any other pitcher on this staff.
Phillies All-Star, Aaron Nola
MLB Batting leader, Mookie Betts pic.twitter.com/e69cHSA6WE
— Marc Farzetta (@MarcFarzetta) July 18, 2018
Besides Nola; Arrieta, Velasquez, Pivetta, and Eflin have all been terrific at different points this season. Arrietta, Velasquez, and Pivetta have all had starts where they have looked unhittable. However, these guys have also had starts where they couldn’t get past the third inning.
When looking at this rotation, Eflin should be considered the second-best starter. He is 7-2 this season with 3.15 ERA in 12 starts. Although he has just 12 starts on the season, if you have watched him pitch, you know that he has been outstanding for the first place Phillies.
For the rest of the season, expect Nola to continue his dominance, as well as Eflin who will continue to find himself. I also expect Arrieta to be better as the season stretches on. Arrieta is just 7-6 with a 3.47 ERA, this will surely go down as he feels more comfortable in Philadelphia.
Once again, the Phillies’ pitching staff was once thought of as a weakness. This statement includes the bullpen guys. Hector Neris started this season as the closer, and this was because of the job he did last season. Although Neris has lost the closer’s role and been demoted to triple-A, he is still leading in the saves category for this ball club.
With that being said, the Phillies’ bullpen has five guys with ERAs under 3.00. Seranthony Dominguez has been the X-factor for this group. In 29 games, Dominguez has 9 saves and 10 holds, as well as 43 strikeouts with his 1.59 ERA.
Seranthony Dominguez, in roughly 3X less innings pitched has a higher WAR (2.0) than Jake Arrieta (1.8). Who saw that coming?
— sixers (@ThePhuturePod) July 14, 2018
Along with Dominguez, Edubray Ramos has been just as good. Ramos has pitched in 39 games and holds a 1.91 ERA with 1 save and 9 holds. Both Ramos and Dominguez have not been in the majors for a long period of time, but both have been able to successfully get batters out.
The craziest part of the Phillies’ bullpen success has been the fact that they have done all of this without Pat Neshek. Neshek was the Phillies’ lone all-star in 2017. This before being traded to the Colorado Rockies. After an injury that has kept him out for most of the season, Neshek has returned. Since coming back, Neshek has pitched in eight games and has not given up a run.
Tonight was Pat Neshek's 50th relief appearance as a Phillie. 48 of them have been scoreless.
— Corey Seidman (@CSeidmanNBCS) July 21, 2018
With Neshek returning to the bullpen, there is no doubt that the Phillies’ pitching staff could get better.
Is this sustainable?
This is the golden question for the Phillies. I’m not going to sugar coat this, I do not think this is sustainable. Now, before you think that I’m being a negative nancy, I do think that the Phillies’ pitching staff will be able to continue to pitch well.
The starting rotation and bullpen have both shown signs of promise as well as some head-scratching moments. The goal of this pitching staff each and every day should be to go out and get 27 outs.
Believe it or not, the Phillies‘ pitching staff has been great this season and there is a chance that they will only get better.