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Starting Rotation Improvement

In last week’s article on the Phillies’ offense, the improvement of the starting rotation was brought up as an ancillary reason to be less upset about any potential decline in run scoring. Obviously, a full season of Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee is superior to that of Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick. The latter duo accounted for 50 starts last year; Kendrick finished with a 4.73 ERA in 31 starts and two relief appearances while Moyer had a 4.84 ERA in 19 starts before landing on the disabled list.

Overall, Phillies starters in 2010 combined for a 3.55 ERA in 1055 and one-third innings. How much better does the 2011 rotation figure to be?

Among the six starters last year who made 12+ starts, they combined for a 3.60 ERA. J.A. Happ, Vance Worley, and Nelson Figueroa accounted for six starts total and were not included. PECOTA projects the Phillies’ five to post a 3.44 ERA in 1,027 innings. The 0.16 difference is a little over 18 runs, or about two wins. However, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Oswalt are all expected to have worse seasons this year, while Joe Blanton is expected to improve.

If we remove the three constants — Halladay, Hamels, and Blanton — we can compare the 2010 and 2011 rotations.

Last year, Oswalt, Kendrick, and Moyer combined for 62 starts, 375 innings, and a 4.10 ERA (171 earned runs total). Oswalt and Lee are projected to make 62 starts, throw 419 innings, and post a 3.23 ERA (151 runs total). The difference is about two wins.

Meanwhile, Halladay, Hamels, and Blanton combined for 94 starts last year, throwing 635 innings, and posting a 3.30 ERA (233 earned runs). They are projected to make 89 starts, throw 608 innings, and post a 3.58 ERA (242 runs). The difference is about 10 runs, or one win.

Overall, an additional half-season from Oswalt, the subtraction of a half-season from Moyer, and the complete erasure of Kendrick adds about two wins. Half of that is negated by the expected regression of Halladay and Hamels.

Personally, I think PECOTA is a bit too pessimistic, especially with regard to Hamels. I don’t see him making only 29 starts and throwing only 184 innings, especially when Oswalt is projected to make 30 starts and throw 200 innings. I also don’t see Halladay’s K/9 dropping from 7.9 to 6.9. Those projections won’t tip the scales at all by themselves, but I think it is something worth pointing out.

Bet on the Phillies’ rotation being closer to two wins better as opposed to one win. It may seem insignificant, but Phillies fans should know better than to overlook the importance of an extra win.