How Good Are the 2016 Phillies – Starting Pitching

The answer to the big question, is of course that the 2016 Phillies are still bad.  They went 63-99 last year, they traded a good player and brought in a lot of meh players and a ton of youth.  But this team also went 34-37 over the second half of the year after a disastrous 29-62 start to the year, so there may be hope.  The biggest source of hope is probably in the rotation where meh is a giant upgrade.

In case you forgot how bad it was last year, here is a refresher on some things that happened in the rotation:

  • Aaron Harang – 29 GS 172.1 IP 4.86 ERA
  • Jerome Williams – 21 GS (31 G) 121.0 IP 5.80 ERA
  • David Buchanan – 15 GS 74.2 IP 6.99 ERA
  • Sean O’Sullivan – 13 GS 71.0 IP 6.08 ERA
  • Severino Gonzalez – 7 GS 30.2 IP 7.92 ERA
  • Chad Billingsley – 7 GS 37.0 IP 5.84 ERA
  • Alec Asher – 7 GS 29.0 IP 9.31 ERA
  • Kevin Correia – 5 GS 23.1 IP 6.56 ERA
  • Phillippe Aumont – 1 GS 4.0 IP 13.50 ERA
  • Dustin McGowan – 1 GS (14 G) 23.1 IP 6.94 ERA

That is a grand total of 106 starts, 586.2 IP, and a 6.12 ERA, which is not good.  In the second half we saw this happen:

Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff – 128.2 IP 3.21 ERA 2.2 BB/9 8.2 K/9
Everyone Else – 260.2 IP 5.83 ERA 2.5 BB/9 5.4 K/9

The good news is that Eickhoff and Nola are the only two SPs that are locks to return, with the only other possible holdover being Adam Morgan and his 4.48 ERA.  Instead this is what the Phillies are looking to be going with in their last three rotation spots.

2015 ERA2013-2015 ERA
Charlie Morton4.813.94
Brett Oberholtzer4.463.94
Jeremy Hellickson4.624.86

Those are not exactly Cy Young Award winning numbers, nor do we expect that those 3 pitchers are going to cover the 586.2 innings of dreck on their own.  The good news on that is the AAA depth looks to be Adam Morgan, Vincent Velasquez, Mark Appel, Jake Thompson, and Zach Eflin a group that might actually be better than the Phillies current back end 3 (but that is a different post).  But let’s just say that the Phillies’ new starting pitchers post a combined 4.60 ERA, which is frankly putrid, and give 100 innings each.  That is a 50 run improvement in just those 300 innings.

A full year of Nola and Eickhoff will help as well.  A 3.21 ERA is a bit optimistic, but if they can put up a combined 3.50 ERA than is a 2.3 RA/9 improvement over pitchers that aren’t them. Which if those two can just double their second half output over a full year is a 30-35 run improvement on the rest of the pitching staff.

So this is not a playoff rotation, no one is going to confuse it for that.  But the Phillies starting pitchers posted the second worst ERA in the majors last year at 5.23, and that contributed greatly to a horrible season.  It is not unreasonable that with the added depth and full years of their young pitchers that the Phillies can shave nearly a run off of that number in 2016, which should help them to carry over some of their success from the end of 2015 into 2016.

Author: Matt Winkelman

Matt Winkelman

Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has appeared on Phuture Phillies, The Good Phight, and TheDynastyGuru.


  1. Tim

    Agreed now they have to score more runs and The BP has to come through.

  2. Tim

    Agreed now they have score more runs and the bullpen has to come through.

  3. Anonymous VOR

    I have a feeling Oberholtzer will be better pick-up than many are expecting. Even if he pitches like he did last year (as opposed to his career sub-4 ERA) he’ll likely put up better numbers pitching in the National league. He’ll probably be the Phillies best major league trade chip come July.

  4. Travis

    Not to be a downer, but what if you compare this year’s starters to last year’s 2014/2012-14 stats? SOS has always been bad, but the others seemed like you could similarly squint and see decent pitchers. Or is it just a matter of the Phillies being due for some better luck, and younger pitchers are more likely to be lucky.

  5. Slim

    106 starts – wow. No wonder they were so painful to watch. Klentak is catching flak for picking up castoffs and reclamation projects “just like Amaro did,” but this this year he’ll have a layer of depth that wasn’t there last year when the castoffs and Buchanan all tanked. We knew it was gonna be bad when O’Sullivan was starting games early in April. Last year’s call-ups – O’Sullivan, Gonzales, Aumont, Asher – couldn’t crack the AAA rotation right now.

  6. joe2

    Thanks for taking my analysis on another site as a starting point and expanding on it.

  7. Kurd Kobeyn

    IMO the SPs will be better this year. Morton and Hellickson are (as shown by their career stats) appears to be better than the veteran SP rethreads from last season. And even if the Phils will call up Buchanan, SevGon and Asher – i think they will put up better stats than they did last year.

    The key for 2016 is the bullpen since the Phils no longer have Giles and Paps to anchor the late innings. While the SP improves and give the Phils more wins (vs last year) the bullpen (unless some of veteran FA bounced back or Cordero, Ramos comes up and dominate) might cause some close games — so the Phils will still be in the 65 to 70 win range.

  8. Gil

    Thanks for another excellent article.

    It will be interesting to see how much their improved outfield defense contributes to pitchers giving up fewer runs.

  9. Good article. Agree that the rotation should be better this year. Definitely like outlook of Hellickson/Morton over Harang/Williams from last year. IMO, Klentak is doing a good job with the rotation and defense of “raising the floor”. He’s also benefiting some from the rebuild in progress which now has some depth in the upper minors that wasn’t there last year.

    Didn’t see him mentioned, but if a medical miracle occurs could also have Matt Harrison in the rotation next year.