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Phillies First Half Grades: Starting Pitchers get passing grades

One of the strengths of the 2013 Philadelphia Phillies was supposed to be the quality starting pitching. With Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels at the front of the rotation, that much should go without saying. Kyle Kendrick and free-agent pick-up John Lannan provided the Phillies with a decent enough back-end of the rotation as well. Of course, two starting pitchers would land on the disabled list by early May, forcing the Phillies to call up a couple of players from the farm system and Hamels went through a 2012 Cliff Lee like stretch as the Phillies were practically left for dead in the NL East.

Now, as the team reaches the all-star break with an even .500 record, it is the starting pitching that continues to be one of the strong suits on the roster.

Keep in mind that each player is being graded individually, and not being compared to another player. This means I am taking in to account my expectations of each player as part of my evaluation. If a player is exceeding my expectations, they may receive a slightly higher grade than you might expect. The same could be true the other way around as well.

Cliff Lee
10-3, 2.86 ERA, 0.995 WHIP, 8.1 SO/9

Cliff Lee is the lone pitcher on the entire staff representing the Phillies in the all-star game. Lee is well under his career average ERA for the first half of a season (3.44) and above his career average strikeouts per nine innings in the first half of the season (7.9). Lee has also been the most consistent pitcher in the rotation since the start of the season. In his final start of the first half of the year Lee took the loss against Washington, but that was his first loss since a loss at Cleveland in which the Phillies were shut out. In Lee's three losses, the Phillies have scored just one run, which came against the Nationals in that most recent start. Lee has pitched in to the seventh inning in all but two of his 19 starts this season.

Grade: A-

Cole Hamels
4-11, 4.05 ERA, 1.225 WHIP, 8.2 SO/9

Wins and losses do not always tell the true story for a pitcher, and that can be argued for Cole Hamels, who entered the all-star break already tied for a career high for losses in a season. Hamels did get off to a rough start, allowing four home runs in his first two games, including three to the Braves on Opening Day and he went the entire month of May taking a loss every time he took the mound to drop to a stunning 1-9 mark. Hamels does end the first half on a high note though, winning two straight and coming one blown save from Jonathan Papelbon away from a third. Hamels has dropped his ERA about half a run since the start of July and may have benefited from an adjustment in the pitching schedule recently to get back on track. Hamels has allowed three runs or fewer eighth times this season without recording a win.

Grade: C

Kyle Kendrick
8-6, 3.68 ERA, 1.259 WHIP, 5.3 SO/9

Yes, I did run a wild with the Kyle Kendrick stuff earlier in the season but he has been one of the more dependable pitchers in the rotation from the start of the season. At the break, Kendrick is having some career best numbers so far and he has cut down on his home runs allowed and walk ratio to opposing batters to help him out. Kendrick still gives up a good amount of hits when he takes the mound but he has shown a new level of composure when the bases start to get crowded, at least more than he has before in his career. He headed in to the break throwing a clunker against the Braves but coming back with a solid performance against the Nationals, allowing just one run on five hits over seven innings. Kendrick needs to keep this trend going if the Phillies are going to have any shot at a postseason run.

Grade: B

John Lannan
2-3, 3.76 ERA, 1.272 WHIP, 4.8 SO/9

Free agent pick-up John Lannan pitched just three games before having to be placed on the disabled list with a quad strain. The Phillies won Lannan's first two games with his new team but he did not receive a decision. In his third start Lannan lasted just 1.2 innings before being pulled in a blowout loss to the Reds. He was then placed on the injured list and out of action until mid-June. Since his return Lannan has gone 2-2 (Phillies 4-2 in his starts) with just one game that really got away from him, an 8-0 loss to the Mets. If healthy in the second half Lannan could help keep the starting rotation stabilized, although his second half numbers in his career tend to go up from the first half.

Grade: C

Jonathan Pettibone
5-3, 3.89 ERA, 1.395 WHIP, 6.1 SO/9

The rookie call-up has performed well for the most part since being asked to fill in a spot in the starting rotation. The Phillies went 6-1 in Pettibone's first seven games of his young career, proving that the rookie managed to keep the Phillies in games and give them an opportunity to win. Pettibone has run in to some walls at points in his young career and he tends to throw a lot of pitches early in games, which leaves him in need of relief before the seventh inning routinely. But if he can give the Phillies five or six good innings on a regular basis, they should be able to live with that. If he can manage to get through the seventh inning occasionally, that would be a positive in the second half.

Grade: B

Roy Halladay
2-4, 8.65 ERA, 1.456 WHIP, 9.2 SO/9

Roy Halladay was a disaster this season but perhaps we know why. The Doc became the patient in May when he underwent shoulder surgery to fix a bone spur in his right shoulder. Halladay had been bashed around pretty good by opposing batters in the early going this season, as the numbers demonstrate. Halladay's best days are certainly behind him and you could easily give him a failing grade for his 2013 so far. However, I am not willing to issue a failing grade for an injured player at this point in time. Halladay seems optimistic for a return later in the season and the most optimistic of Phillies fans hope that means he comes back fixed and rested just in time for the final playoff push down the stretch. Let's not get too carried away just yet though.

Grade: Incomplete

Overall Assessment

The Phillies starters rank eighth in the majors in innings pitched, and with the state of the bullpen it seems as though every out recorded by the starters is as crucial as ever. Without a healthy Halladay in the rotation the Phillies are not known to strike out a lot of batters, currently 22nd in the majors in strikeouts per nine innings but they also are not serving up a lot of home runs either. The Phillies starters have a home run ratio of 0.96 HR/9, which is good for ninth best in baseball. When the staff has to rely on two minor league pitchers for a stretch, maintaining those kind of numbers can be difficult. This is not the best staff in the game of course, even if Halladay comes back healthy, but overall it seems as though they have done enough for the Phillies to win a bunch of games. If not for the bullpen and an empty offense at times, the Phillies would have a winning record. That said, the starters have had some rough games at times as well and some labor early on in games. Still, they have done a decent job in the first half of the season and get a decent grade for their collaborative efforts.

Grade: B-

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