The 2008 Phillies restored order among their pitching staff following a season of chaos.
Here’s a number that jumped off the page when I was reviewing stats the other day: Brett Myers – 190 IP. That’s more than I thought. When you consider his early struggles and midseason demotion, it seems like it should be much less. Suppose he stayed up with the club, he might have made 33 starts instead of 30. Conservatively, let’s suppose he lasted 6, 5, and 6 innings. It would have given him 208 total innings, which would have placed him just outside the National League top 10 for innings pitched. Cole Hamels rated second (227 1-3). Jamie Moyer was 22nd (196 1-3).
Phillies starters logged 966 2-3 innings last season, which is quite good, plus, they only needed seven guys to do it – Hamels, Myers, Moyer, Joe Blanton, Adam Eaton, Kyle Kendrick and J.A. Happ. When Myers was demoted July 1, they became the last team in baseball to break up their original starting five.
Compare that with the hot mess of 2007 when they used 12 starters and 28 pitchers total, which set a Phillies record. Yanked from the rotation and reassigned to the closer role, Myers took the mound in just 68 2-3 innings, only a tick more than J.D. Durbin (64 2-3 IP).
There’s something to be said about reliable starting pitching, and the decision to reinsert Myers into the rotation and get Brad Lidge for the ninth inning turned out to be the best tactical decision any team made last season, even if it took Myers months to get it going.
But even at his worst, Myers ate innings, as did Kendrick, as did Eaton, contributing to an NL second-best 88 quality starts. Credit Charlie Manuel, who was noticeably more patient, almost to fault. Longer leashes allowed the bullpen to fall in line and assume comfortable, predictable roles. That’s when the Phillies’ bullpen has been at its best, not just in 2008, but in previous seasons. The other difference - there was little tolerance for failure. A guy like Eaton, for example, was yanked at the first major sign of trouble. The same for Myers and Kendrick.
There's never been a Phillies team with better pitching balance than the defending champions.