“Pitching wins World Championships”. That is a statement made by many baseball people in the industry. Last night former Phillies first round draft picks Jesse Biddle (2010) pitched 7.2 innings of shutout three hit ball for Reading and Shane Watson (2012) did the same over five innings giving up only one hit for Lakewood. Good young starting pitching is being developed in the Phillies farm system. But is it enough?
In yesterday’s action the Clearwater Threshers loss both ends of a doubleheader to fall to a 22-22 record. As of today none of the Phillies farm teams Lehigh Valley, Reading, Clearwater and Lakewood, are over .500. The main reason is lack of pitching depth in the organization.
We have seen some outstanding pitching from the likes of Biddle and Watson. Both Hoby Milner, who went on a four game winning streak for Clearwater, and teammate Nick Hernandez, with his major league quality change up, are in the top six in strike outs in the Florida State League. They are the exceptions and not the rule this season as the minor league season approaches the one-third mark of the season.
Team statistics paint a story of a lack of pitching depth in the Phillies system. The top two farm teams each have the worst ERAs in the International and Eastern Leagues. Lehigh Valley’s staff ERA of 5.09 is the worst of the minor league teams. Even with Jesse Biddle’s 2.50 ERA and being tied for first in Eastern League strike out with 60, Reading’s team’s ERA is a league worst 4.58.
Down at the lower levels the teams’ ERAs are slightly better with Clearwater’s staff ERA at 4.03 which is ninth of the 12 team Florida State League and Lakewood in the South Atlantic League has a staff ERA of 4.31 good enough for tenth in the fourteen team league.
With the first year draft coming up on June 6th it is clear the Phillies will still be looking for more pitching. Since Biddle, Milner and Hernandez are left-handers, the Phillies have some promising young left-handed starters in the system.
Three young right-handed starters have been impressive too. Jonathan Pettibone has been effective in his four major league starts. Last night Tyler Cloyd’s second straight quality start for the Phillies was interesting to watch. The continued outstanding pitching of Ethan Martin for Lehigh Valley also gives hope that these three starting pitchers will be battling to establish themselves for back end of the rotation spots at the major league level.
Clearly based on the injuries to starters Roy Halladay and John Lannan and a weak major league bullpen other than closer Jonathan Papelbon has forced the Front Office to evaluate what is available on the open market. The signing of someone as controversial as veteran Carlos Zambrano shows that not much is available at the major league level.
The Phillies will still be focusing on pitching in the upcoming major league first year draft. Additionally, all four minor league teams in the Phillies farm system need pitching help to get above .500 in their respective leagues during the rest of the season. And most importantly good pitching wins championships at any level.