Don't overlook the role of the starting pitching in Phils' losing trend
by Scott Butler 5/14/17

Pete Mackanin Pitching Change

Last night's ball game was about as bad as it gets for eight innings, as a team headed for their 21st loss in their last 26 games (that's a 5-24 record) was able to muster just a single base hit off a pitcher with an ERA north of six heading into the game. The Phillies offense is beyond awful right now. Just look at the averages on the box score from last night:

Phillies lineup

Only one player in that lineup has a batting average above .250 and only three of the eight have an average of .240 or higher.

But i t is easy to place blame on the hitters. We see them everyday, and when things are going bad, they look apathetic and lifeless, particularly when you consider this:

But let's not overlook the starting pitching's role in this. It's difficult to show energy as a batter when one starting pitcher allows 8 runs in the first four innings one night (Eflin) and then another starter gives up 7 runs in the first three innings the next night (Hellickson).

One reason why many people gave the Phils a fighting chance at 81 wins this season is their solid rotation. There is no bona fide ace on the staff, but they have a full arsenal of pitchers who gave their team a fighting chance most nights last season. The Phillies' 4.41 starters ERA last season ranked 18th in baseball and their 5.61 innings per start ranked 17th, both right in the middle of the pack.

This year has been a different story. They rank 28th in starters' ERA (5.09) and 21st in innings per start (5.48).

Here's a look at the Phillies current starting rotation this year compared to last:

Phillies starting pitching comparison

Innings per start
  2016 2017 2016 2017
Eickhoff 3.65 ERA 4.70 ERA 5.98 I/S 5.74 I/S
Hellickson 3.71 ERA 4.28 ERA 5.91 I/S 5.47 I/S
Velasquez 4.12 ERA 5.55 ERA 5.46 I/S 5.41 I/S
Nola 4.78 ERA 4.34 ERA 5.55 I/S 5.8 I/S
Eflin 5.54 ERA 5.36 ERA 5.76 I/S 6 I/S

Your two supposed stabilizing forces, Eickhoff and Hellickson, have both seen a fairly drastic increase in ERA along with a drop in the length of outings. Velasquez's difficulties lasting deep into games have not improved, while his ERA has ballooned by over a run.

Eflin is actually much the same pitcher he was last year. He has the ability to last deep into ballgames and can shut teams down at times, but he also has the propensity for some really horrific outings. Twice this season, Eflin pitched 7 innings with 2 runs or less allowed, but in his last two outings he allowed a total of 15 runs in 10 innings.

The regression of the starting pitching is developing into a disturbing trend but, like Matt Klentak said (although mainly referring to the position players), it is still too small of a sample size. The Phils also got roughed up by a really potent Colorado lineup, which really skewed the numbers.

While we still point fingers at the lineup, if the starting pitchers start to turn it around, there is a good chance the hitters will follow suit. Maybe it all starts today with the pitcher formerly known as Mr. Consistent, Jerad Eickhoff.

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