Sports Section Crystal Ball.

130 Pitches, 130 Cautionary Tales.

I’m writing this minutes after the Phillies closed out a 4-game sweep of the Padres.  It gives me something to do while I’m waiting for the Flyers to start overtime.   We’ll get to the Flyers I’m sure, regardless of the result, but I wanted to get something down on the record here.  I’ll be interested to see how long it takes before we see the first of, “Are the Phillies starters too good for their own good,” articles.  I love those absurd headlines.  You know they’re coming.  You can only talk about the bullpen and the sporadic offense for so long, eventually the scribes will turn to something else, and I’ve got a pretty good idea it’s going to be pitch count.

Roy Halladay’s 130 pitches on Sunday is a very high number by today’s standards.  The watch begins at 100, 110 is nervous time, 120 is for exceptional situations only and 130 most people probably consider ludicrous.  Throwing these 10 or 20 extra pitches will have people concerned about 6 months from now.  Did those extra 15 pitches Roy threw on April 24th hurt him in the NLDS?  People will wonder.  They’ll also wonder if the rotation has so much credibility, so much ability to go deep in games that it skews the manager’s judgement.  Does he let them in too long?  Are they masking problems in the bullpen that will eventually haunt the Phillies?  This is how you turn a 5-game winning streak into a time for concern.

Quickly addressing the points:

1.  The Pitch Count–Halladay has now thrown a ton of pitches twice this year trying to lock up a shut out.  He’s been unable to do it both times, but Charlie continues to give him the benefit of the doubt out there.  Cole Hamels also threw a high number of pitches in the San Diego series.  Bottom line is the Phillies starters are fine.  The built-in off days this time of year are giving them extra days off and a week-long stretch of high pitch counts this time of year isn’t going to chip away at October effectiveness.  Obviously, you don’t want them going 120-130 every night, but every once in a while isn’t a big deal.

2.  Is Charlie not decisive enough with the pen?  Charlie is a little hand-cuffed.  We find out that Jose Contreras is going to the DL.  So, in the San Diego series Chuck was a little limited in his options out there.  With the extra inning games and the little bit of breathing room he’s getting a lot of innings from his starters and still has a taxed bullpen.  Manuel seems to opt for his starters over a middle reliever in most tight occasions, regardless of pitch count.  In that sense, the Phillies probably need more trust in someone in Herndon’s slot, but considering what is out there, he’s extending guys. Contreras’s injury brings the debut of Mike Stutes, who has had people excited since Spring Training.  Can Stutes establish himself and can Madson get over past 9th inning problems?

3.  How big a role does the offense play in this?  The Phillies have won 5 in a row, but they could use a laugher.  San Diego hit them with two left-handers, they’ve been facing better pitching in general and it is exposing some of the weaknesses in the Phillies line-up.  They are short some talent, that’s the bottom line.  In this series they got some guys on base, looked better than they did against Milwaukee, but they couldn’t deliver a knockout blow.  They’re having trouble stringing together hits, or getting a big two-out hit with guys on base, but that could be the way it goes this year.  It’s time for Rollins and Ibanez to step up and make some contributions.  We could be moving closer to a true platoon in the outfield, but otherwise we’ll wait for Chase Utley and maybe even Dom Brown…remember him?

The bottom line is, enjoy what you’re seeing, and if you don’t like it, well the games seem to be averaging under 2.5 hours, so at least you get your result in a hurry.

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