The Phillies’ home-grown gem fully blossomed in 2012, and as a result is now getting paid like one of the best pitchers in baseball. He was worth 4.4 wins to the Phillies last season, 16th among starting pitchers.
Despite breaking through with a career-high 17 wins, Cole Hamels’ advanced metrics were only slighter better than his career numbers in many places. His fielder independent pitching (FIP) was up from 2011 and just .28 better than his career mark (3.30 in 2012, 3.58 for his career). One indication that Hamels’ could be better in 2013 is his unusually high batting average on balls in play (BABIP) last season. If he gets a little luck in that area, he could be in line for his first 20-win season.
On the surface, it’s easy to say Cliff Lee was bad in 2012. I mean, he was only 6-9! That’s, like, $4 million per win!
Let’s settle down and realize that Lee pitched more like one of the best in the game than his W-L record would indicate. Lee’s 4.9 WAR was actually better than co-ace Hamels, as were his walks per nine innings (BB/9) and his FIP. Lee suffered from an exceptionally high BABIP - .309, his highest since 2004. He also gave up a much higher home run to fly ball ratio than he’s had in past seasons. Those things tend to correct themselves, leaving little reason to worry that Lee will be a stud in 2013.
After his miserable, injury-marred 2012 season, Roy Halladay is the biggest question mark on the Phillies’ pitching staff. Doc’s first two seasons with the Phils were nearly perfect - 40 wins, nearly 500 innings pitched, and an ERA under 2.50 both seasons.
Last year, though, Halladay barely cracked 150 innings and posted a 4.49 ERA. His strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) dropped significantly, while his walk and home run rates both spiked dramatically. If Halladay can get those latter two measures under control and down closer to his career rates, he’ll look a little more like himself. Reports from spring training have been worrisome though, as his fastball velocity has been called into question.
Kyle Kendrick has drawn the ire of Phillies fans for much of his career, mainly just for being there and being mediocre - at best. He actually filled in adequately in the starting rotation last season, putting up a K/9 rate nearly two strikeouts better than his career rate and keeping his ERA under 4 for the second straight season. If he can keep his walk rate at an acceptable level and limit the costly home runs he’s prone to giving up, Kendrick can remain a solid back-end starter for Philadelphia.
The Phillies found themselves another starter with nothing more than back of the rotation potential in John Lannan, formerly of the division rival Washington Nationals. Lannan has a sad K-rate, with a 12.1 career strikeout percentage, and struck out just 4.71 batters per nine innings for his career. Lannan doesn’t have exception control, either, as his walk and strikeout rates are a little too close together for comfort. Lannan gets most of his outs via ground balls (53.0 career ground ball rate), so he’ll need the Phillies’ infield to be strong behind him.
After signing Jonathan Papelbon for big money before the 2012 season, the Phillies brought in another pricey reliever with Mike Adams. With their investment, the Phils have themselves a potent late game combination. If Adams can bring his strikeout percentage back up to the high 20s-low 30s, like it was during his first three full seasons, he and Pap will be sending a lot guys back to the dugout with their heads down.
The acquisition of Adams also allows Charlie Manuel to use lefty Antonio Bastardo as more of a situational pitcher rather than as a full-time setup man. While last season he struck out right-handed batters at a higher rate than he did lefties (15.11 K/9 to 12.75), lefties managed to hit just .165 against him.