David Buchanan's performance has been better than most that the Phillies have gotten out of the No. 5 spot in the rotation in recent years. Yes, Buchanan has a 4.25 ERA in 13 starts, and he is averaging six innings per outing. Most encouraging, though, are the 53 strikeouts and 19 walks he’s allowed. That’s a solid 6.1 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9. For comparison’s sake, Roberto Hernandez averaged 5.6 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9, while Kyle Kendrick has averaged 5.3 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9. Buchanan has combined those rates with a solid ground ball rate (1.03 per fly ball, compared with the MLB average of 0.84). In short, nothing about Buchanan’s performance suggests that he is doing it with smoke and mirrors. Frankly, he has been better than most of the Phillies’ back-of-the-rotation types over the past few years. That’s not going to have a huge impact on the long rebuilding process they have in front of them, but it certainly gives them a cheap option for a rotation where Cole Hamels is the only healthy starter under contract, and where the free agent market typically values production like Buchanan’s at more than $7 million per season.
If the season ended today, the Phillies would have the No. 6 overall pick in the 2015 MLB draft, but they are a half game out of the No. 5 spot, a game out of the No. 4 spot, and 2.5 games out of the No. 3 spot. While it is silly to expect the Phillies to throw the rest of the season, they clearly have a lot more to gain by losing than they do by winning. In addition to draft order, waiver priority is dictated by reverse order of record. For instance, the Cubs are 53-70, while the Phillies are 54-70, which means the Cubs get a chance to claim anybody who hits waivers before the Phillies do. Recently, Chicago claimed former top pitching prospect Jacob Turner, who was designated for assignment by the Marlins. Turner posted a 3.74 ERA, 5.9 BB/9, 4/1 K/9 and 0.8 HR/9 last season in 20 starts for the Marlins. Essentially, he was Roberto Hernandez. This year, his ERA swelled, but his rate stats improved: 6.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 0.9 HR/9. He is only 23 years old, and he won’t be arbitration eligible until after next season. So for a couple of fringe prospects, the Cubs landed a young pitcher who, at worst, could provide them with a front-of-the-bullpen option, and who still has some hopes as a reclamation project. And having a worse record than other bad teams helped them accomplish that.