Philadelphia Phillies: Rebuilding the Rotation

Is Nola Reaching Back for Something Extra? Photo by Bill Streicher – USA TODAY Sports.

Beyond the obvious questions, the Opening Day assignment is between three hurlers, and management for the Philadelphia Phillies will decide if it’s Jerad Eickhoff , Vince Velasquez or Aaron Nola.

Five Slots:

When multiple opportunities are available, individuals either conquer the challenge or realize the limits of their ability.

While the Philadelphia Phillies are currently pruning their 40-man roster in anticipation of the Rule 5 Draft, playoff-competing franchises live and die with every pitch. Locally, the rotation has three locks: Eickhoff, Velasquez and Nola. And if nothing changes, two spots are available for in-house candidates. For instance, six possible hurlers are at the top two organizational levels. However, the front office could acquire a veteran to head the five-man staff and fill one slot even if Jeremy Hellickson has a new employer.

From another site, a familiar poster inquired about next year’s rotation due to a wealth of young pitching. Well, Double D, after right-hander Mark Appel had an impressive April, he struggled through four May outings before landing on the disabled list: The final straw was his two-out performance on May 22. Injuries colored his numbers. He had a strained shoulder and bone chips in his elbow. In other words, he must prove he’s healthy and will probably spend next season with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

Appel’s stats:

  • April: 3-0 in 4 outings with a 1.64 ERA for 22 innings.
  • May: 0-3 in 4 starts with an 8.27 ERA for 16 1/3 frames.

Knocking on the front-office door, righty Ben Lively dominated the Eastern League for the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils to earn a promotion to Lehigh Valley. This noteworthiness continued for his first five appearances in the International League, but then he had five consecutive debacles before a strong eight-game finish and a 1.98 ERA. That stated, he’s near the back of a long line.


“Pitching in the big leagues is a dream. Preparing to pitch in the big leagues is a nightmare!” –Nolan Ryan

Lively’s Triple-A stats:

  • 3-0 in his first five appearances with a 2.45 ERA for 40 1/3 innings.
  • 1-4 in his next five outings with a 5.93 ERA for 27 1/3 frames.
  • 7-1 in his final eight starts with a 1.98 ERA for 50 innings.
Will Thompson Beat Asher for the Fifth Slot in the Rotation? Photo by Bill Streicher - USA TODAY Sports.

Will Thompson Beat Asher for the Fifth Slot in the Rotation? Photo by Bill Streicher – USA TODAY Sports.

After a summer of adjusting his telltale cap, manager Pete Mackanin won’t slightly lift it again until something unpleasant occurs in March. At season’s end, he spoke with Klentak regarding each player’s performance. A meeting and coffee. After comparing Adam Morgan‘s two stints with the big club, the GM and the skipper were somewhat happy with the southpaw’s progress, but the only lefty starter will probably be an IronPig next April. A lunch break. Another powwow.

Morgan’s stats:

  • First stint: 1-7 with a 6.65 ERA for 66 1/3 frames.
  • Second stint: 1-4 with a 5.17 ERA for 47 innings (1-3 with a 3.86 ERA for 42 frames before his last outing).

According to Mackanin during a late September interview, Jake Thompson and Alec Asher are inconsistent. Pitching coach Bob McClure will work with both of them in Clearwater. However, because Asher and Thompson may be competing for the fifth starter’s role, they will probably take a new wrinkle from bullpen sessions with McClure into some March outings. Watch for it.

Thompson’s stats for his first four games and his final six contests:

  • 1-3 with a 9.78 ERA for 19 1/3 frames.
  • 2-3 with a 3.41 ERA for 34 1/3 innings.

Asher’s stats for his five appearances (all against stronger competition):

  • 2-1 with a 2.28 ERA for 27 2/3 innings versus Washington, Pittsburgh, Miami and New York (NL).

Velazquez Fires Up His Heater. Photo by Eric Hartline – USA TODAY Sports.

Reviewing Zach Eflin‘s success before the stress of MLB competition–literally–took the legs out from under him, Mackanin discussed the right-hander’s potential with Klentak. The skipper expects Eflin to be better in ’17 without creaky knees affecting him. What’s better? Six healthy months and enhanced results.

Eflin’s stats:

  • 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA for 26 2/3 frames versus the Diamondbacks, Braves and Rockies.
  • 1-2 with a 4.18 ERA for 23 2/3 innings against the Blue Jays, Giants, Mets and Pirates.
  • 0-3 with a 13.85 ERA for his last 13 frames before his campaign ended (not included in above bulleted statistics).

When Opening Day approaches for the Philadelphia Phillies, the attention locally will be on the rotation’s order regarding Eickhoff, Velasquez and Nola. Currently, Eickhoff is the durable and reliable starter of the group: He will be the top candidate if no veteran acquisition comes to fruition. On the other hand, questions swirl around Nola’s command: Was it injury or a mechanical problem? And, lastly, Velasquez has a 95-mph heater and his curve and changeup are above-average. So, what does management expect from the flamethrower? A breakout year.

Klentak Is a Numbers-Oriented GM. Photo by Bill Streicher – USA TODAY Sports.

The Numerical Bible:

This review is not a sabermetrics article, which means no heavy statistical analysis. But because some readers rely on stats, this is only a reference: no reason to articulate the importance of these numbers.

These numbers do not include any postseason activity. * These 23 games include two relief appearances.


  • Eickhoff, 26: 33 Gms., 197 1/3 Inn., 11-14, a 3.65 ERA, a 4.19 FIP, a 4.15 xFIP, a 4.05 SIERA, a 1.2 WAR and a 1.16 WHIP.
  • Velasquez, 24.5: 24 Gms., 131 Inn., 8-6, a 4.12 ERA, a 3.96 FIP, a 3.67 xFIP, a 3.62 SIERA, a 2.2 WAR and a 1.33 WHIP.
  • Nola, 23.5: 20 Gms., 111 Inn., 6-9, a 4.78 ERA, a 3.08 FIP, a 3.08 xFIP, a 3.29 SIERA, a 2.8 WAR and a 1.31 WHIP.
  • Eflin, 22.5: 11 Gms., 63 1/3 Inn., 3-5, a 5.54 ERA, a 5.48 FIP, a 5.36 xFIP, a 5.41 SIERA, a 0.1 WAR and a 1.33 WHIP.
  • Thompson, 22.5: 10 Gms., 53 2/3 Inn., 3-6, a 5.70 ERA, a 6.17 FIP, a 5.64 xFIP, a 5.68 SIERA, a -0.4 WAR and a 1.51 WHIP.
  • Asher, 25: 5 Gms., 27 2/3 Inn., 2-1, a 2.28 ERA, a 3.33 FIP, a 5.08 xFIP, a 5.12 SIERA, a 0.6 WAR and a 0.94 WHIP.
  • Morgan, 26.5: *23 Gms., 113 1/3 Inn., 2-11, a 6.04 ERA, a 4.98 FIP, a 4.42 xFIP, a 4.33 SIERA, a 0.6 WAR and a 1.50 WHIP.

Triple-A Pitching:

  • Lively, 24.5: 19 Gms., 117 2/3 Inn., 11-5, a 3.06 ERA, a 3.51 FIP and a 0.93 WHIP.
  • Appel, 25: 8 Gms., 38 1/3 Inn., 3-3, a 4.46 ERA, a 4.06 FIP and a 1.57 WHIP.

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