Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Who should start Opening Night, plus rotation projections

This is a two-parter. The first part -- who should start Opening Night -- I will leave up to you guys. Loyal reader Bob has already sent me an email detailing five reasons why Jamie Moyer should in fact replace Cole Hamels as the Opening Day starter (then again, from what I understand, loyal reader Bob sent the same exact email to my new arch nemisis Andy Martino, the Joker to my Batman, the vinegar to my oil, the Pop Rocks and Coca Cola to my gastrointestinal system, the man who was sent to Philly.com to poach my precious internet traffic, although let's be honest, the guy has the kind of facial hair that I have been dreaming of since I hit puberty).

Who should start Opening Night, plus rotation projections

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This is a two-parter. The first part -- who should start Opening Night -- I will leave up to you guys. Loyal reader Bob has already sent me an email detailing five reasons why Jamie Moyer should in fact replace Cole Hamels as the Opening Day starter (then again, from what I understand, loyal reader Bob sent the same exact email to my new arch nemisis Andy Martino, the Joker to my Batman, the vinegar to my oil, the Pop Rocks and Coca Cola to my gastrointestinal system, the man who was sent to Philly.com to poach my precious internet traffic, although let's be honest, the guy has the kind of facial hair that I have been dreaming of since I hit puberty).

By the way, please for give the seemingly random deviation between Opening Night and Opening Day in my current, past and future writings. Technically, there is no Opening Day this year, because Opening Day is actually a night game, meaning to be technical it is Opening Night, and I believe Major League Baseball in its inifinite marketing wisdom has labelled the Phillies' opener against the Braves as Opening Night, because Opening Day is the following day, when the majority of the league opens up its schedule with day games, so now MLB can market two straight "Openings." Actually, last year, if I recall correctly, they got to market three "Openings" because Joe Blanton pitched Opening Day (Far Eastern edition, which was probably like Opening Early Morning back here in the states) in Japan about a week before Opening Night. Anyway, call it what you will, it's the Phillies' first game of the season.

Now, as to who will start Opening Day/Night. . .

I think the Phillies are going to end up going with whoever best sets up their rotation for further down the road. I don't think Hamels will be ready. As I wrote today in the paper -- by the way, if you get a chance and have three spare quarters, go out and pick one up, because it's really hard to read things online in the bathroom or at lunch, plus I think at this point you can find a way to write it off on your taxes -- it appears almost a certainty that Cole Hamels will not be ready by Opening Day. In fact, the only way he will be able to go is if the Phillies are convinced that he can be ready in just two more spring starts, the first of which occurs tomorrow. Tomorrow is March 24, which would make his next potential start March 29, which would mean he would not be able to squeeze in another one before Opening Night. And the early reports are that he is only going to throw 50 pitches tomorrow. Which means he would have to jump from 50 to 100 in just one more start (Dubee wants all his pitchers to be in a position to throw 100 before he deems them ready for the regular season).

This is strictly speculation, but I think the most likely scenario is as follows (Assuming there are no further set-backs): 50 pitches in a minor league game on March 24, 70 pitches in a Grapefruit League game on March 29, and between 90-100 pitches in the final exhibition game against Tampa Bay on April 4th at Citizens Bank Park. That could set him up for a potential return at Colorado on April 10.

If the Phillies decide Hamels needs a fourth appearance before the regular season, I could see them pitching him in a simulated game -- or perhaps in the IronPigs game that day -- on April 9th, which is an off day. That would then give him the start against the Washington Nationals on April 15th in the Phillies' ninth game. Death, taxes and Cole Hamesl. So essentially, Hamels could get an extra week-and-a-half to recover yet in reality miss just one start, thanks to three off days early in the season.

Again, this is all pure speculation, but what else is there to do on a Monday morning before 7 a.m. besides watch CNBC and ignore everything that they are saying? So scroll down to the bottom to see my two predictions on how the rotation will set up.

Before that, though, back to the topic of who will replace Cole Hamels. . .

As I said before, I think the Phillies are going to work backwards from wherever they project Hamels returning and make the choice that best sets up their rotation moving forward. In the end, I think it will be Brett Myers. Here are my early predictions, along with an explanation:

SCENARIO I: Hamels starts season on DL and gets "rehab" start on April 9th

April 5 vs ATL:   Myers
April 6 OFF   :   Nobody
April 7 vs ATL:   Blanton
April 8 vs ATL:   Happ
April 9  OFF   :  Nobody
April 10 at COL:  Moyer
April 11 at COL:  Myers
April 12 at COL:  Blanton
April 13 at Wash: Happ
April 14 OFF DAY: nobody
April 15 at Wash: Hamels
April 16 at Wash: Moyer

I kind of worked backwards for this projection. Obviously, I'm guessing J.A. Happ is named the fifth starter. And I'm assuming that the Phillies play things conservatively and target April 15th to get Hamels back on the mound, though it obviously could come earlier than that. April 15th would give Hamels three extra days off before the Phillies finish their second trip through the rotation.

After that, I'm guessing that they'd like to get Happ and Moyer pitching in that Washington series, since the Nationals ballpark is more hitter friendly than Citizens Bank Park, where they play the Padres the following weekend, or Coors Field, where they play the Rockies the previous weekend.

I've also pencilled in Happ for April 8th against the Braves, simply because he had success against that line-up last year, when he picked up his first major league win in the A-T-L. You could easily flip flop Happ's and Moyer's name in this projection, but again I'm guessing they go with Happ against Atlanta. Moyer hasn't had much success against the Braves in either of the last two years -- his ERA is well over 5.00 against them in both seasons -- and his splits are better on the road than at home overall. That said, Moyer also hasn't had a ton of success against the Rockies, or at Coors Field.

SCENARIO II: Hamels is ready earlier

April 5 vs ATL:   Myers
April 6 OFF   :   Nobody
April 7 vs ATL:   Blanton
April 8 vs ATL:   Moyer
April 9  OFF   :  Nobody
April 10 at COL:  Hamels
April 11 at COL:  Myers
April 12 at COL:  Blanton
April 13 at Wash: Moyer
April 14 OFF DAY: nobody
April 15 at Wash: Happ
April 16 at Wash: Hamels

In this scenario, I predict that the Phillies go with 11 pitchers until the off day on April 14th. That would enable them to let J.A. Happ start the IronPigs opener on April 9th before promoting him to the major league roster on the off day on April 14th to start the following day's game at Nationals Park.

The Phillies would then be able to carry an extra bench bat, perhaps giving them some extra time to sort out the Geoff-Jenkins-and-Matt-Stairs-Are-Both-Under-Contract-But-We-Would-Like-Another-Right-Handed-Bat situation.

 

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