The Phillies now have the fifth-best team ERA in baseball (3.88), underlining the fact that their success this season has been all about pitching.
The Phillies have reached 86 wins, which matches the prediction many Beerleaguers issued at the start of the season. Most people said they’d finish somewhere in the 86-90 range, but what they didn’t predict was just how good the pitching would be. The offense would be a given. The pitching would be the wild card. It’s been the opposite.
The Phillies’ 3.88 ERA matches the pitching-rich Angels for fifth-best in baseball, and they trail only the Dodgers and Cubs in the National League. It’s a dazzling improvement over 2007 (4.73) and 2006 (4.60). At best, the Phils have been just an average, park-adjusted staff over the last five seasons, and in the previous two, they were borderline brutal. (There was a point in '07, before he took one off the leg against Colorado, when Kyle Kendrick gave the Phillies the best chance to win in the starting rotation. Good times).
Quality starts have become so standard, they’re easily taken for granted. They have 83 of them. They also have 11 shutouts, second in the NL. They are 73-0 when leading after eight innings, a testament to Brad Lidge and a vastly improved bullpen. Consider the dimensions of Citizens Bank Park and it makes their performance this season even more exceptional.
The reason is simple: their staff is rubbish-free and healthy. Gone are the likes of Jose Mesa, Brian Sanches, J.D. Durbin and others. Even Adam Eaton can’t buy his way back into the mix. Included are improvements like Scott Eyre, Chad Durbin and Lidge, obviously. The company line about Brett Myers, how he was both the biggest off-season and mid-season acquisition, proved to be on the mark. Then you have guys like Jamie Moyer showing us that you can teach old dogs new tricks. He’s allowed less than one home run per game, which is off the hook.
Indeed, there have been hiccups, like the 8th inning, Kendrick's fall and Myers’ first half, but nothing compared to the turmoil of previous seasons.