As someone who has spent his adult life in politics we would always say “money is the mother’s milk of politics”. What that means is you can accomplish very little without campaign funds to communicate your message to keep a campaign viable. To me in baseball pitching has always been its “mother’s milk” to win games and strikeouts many times define quality of the pitching. How can you win without starting pitchers with power arms? For the Phillies at the major league level it is especially important to have quality power pitching arms in a home run friendly park like Citizens Bank Park where a team wants to try to keep the ball out of play as much as possible with the strikeout.
Over the last several days something happened I have never seen before. Four starters on one team’s pitching staff are ranked “one, two, three and four” in strikeouts in the league. As the late, great, Phillies centerfielder and broadcaster Richie Ashburn would often tell his immortal play by play colleague Harry Kalas after an unusual circumstance, “Harry, I find that hard to believe”.
Though I can’t prove it, I would not be surprised if this type of ranking has ever happened on any pitching staff at any level after the first 94 games into a season. Going into games Saturday in the Florida State League this is the case with four starters on the staff of the Phillies’ Clearwater Threshers.
Adam Morgan leads the Florida State League in strikeout with 111. Jesse Biddle is second with 96, Austin Wright is in third with 96 K’s but has pitched more innings than Jesse and Brody Colvin is fourth with 90. All have earned run averages under four. Morgan has the best strikeout to walk ration of 4-1 while the other three have ratios of 2-1.
When the season started the best pitching in the Phillies organization was to be in Reading but Trevor May and Julio Rodriquez have struggle though they are in the top three in strikeouts in the Eastern League. These two have struggled with command and control issue. May’s ERA is over five and Rodriguez is at four earned runs per nine innings. Both have strike out to walk ratios less than 2-1 and have been plagued by the home run ball at AA.
If the Phillies do not choose to shut any of them down, the Clearwater starters each have the opportunity for eight more starts in the season. I recall several years ago the Phillies chose to limit Kyle Drabek’s innings late in the season to save his arm after 158 innings and 23 starts. Now with the Toronto Blue Jays, Drabek still needed his second Tommy John procedure this season. The Washington National are still talking about shutting down Stephen Strasburg after 160 innings this season. With the Nationals leading the NL East it will be interesting to see how they handle Strasburg’s innings after his TJ operation 23 month ago.
I am not aware any significant arm problems with the four starters for the Threshers this season. Adam Morgan missed several starts with a shoulder strain and Brody Colvin worked out of the bullpen for a few weeks earlier in the season but that has been about it. Right now Morgan with 103 innings pitched and Austin Wright with 102.2 innings pitched lead the Threshers and are ranked fourth and fifth in innings pitched in the FSL. The Phillies rarely let a starter go over 100 pitches in a game. It will be interesting to see if they limit the pitches or innings of the Threshers starters or shut any of them down as the season grinds to an end around Labor Day.
Its been a rare treat for us to watch Clearwater’s four starters pitch so well this season. We have made extra efforts to be be at Bright House this season including a couple of road trips to see them pitch. Lefties Morgan and Wright can throw fastballs which can sit in the mid 90’s which is a welcome change from the many soft tossing lefties who have made appearances in the Florida State League this season. Biddle and Colvin have the best breaking balls in the league and pitch off them for their strikeouts.
What ever happens for the rest of the season, 2012 will be a season to be remembered for the fact that four starting pitchers on the same staff, as the team approached the first 100 games of the season, ranked “one, two, three and four” in the league in strikeouts. Yes, that is hard to believe at any level.