June 7, 2023

Midseason Report Cards: Does the Phillies’ starting rotation have the potential to be one of the best in baseball?


Edited by PhillySportsReports.com

Phillies fans like us know that good teams can be carried into greatness by their starting pitching. Just ask Charlie Manuel about his 2011 squad, and he will harp on how valuable starting pitching can be.

We have graded the infield. We have graded the outfield. Now, it is time to evaluate the six starting pitchers that have trotted out to the bump in red pinstripes at any point in the 2022 season. Injuries have skewed the plans that the Phillies had coming into the season, but they have found ways to push through.

Studying metrics, game logs, box scores, and highlights allowed me to come up with rubrics and letter grades for each player—a complete evaluation of their performance in the first 92 games.

Zach Eflin: B-

Efficiency/Innings Per Outing8/10
Hard Hit Rate7.8/8
Chase Percentage4/5
How they have played compared to their expectations and the role they have on the team38/45

When the 28-year-old right-hander is healthy, he is one of the best pitchers on the team and shows signs of being an ace-caliber starter. Unfortunately, persistent knee pain has gotten in Eflin’s way in 2022. It has been a long time since he has pitched when fully healthy, and he may never do it again.

Eflin has a 4.37 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP in 13 games, and he has not pitched in a game since June 25. He was expected to return after the All-Star break, but the setback he suffered after the simulated he threw in Miami is making a return for Eflin seem more unlikely than ever.

And his lingering injury is not the only strange factor in his season. According to Statcast, Eflin has an xERA of just 3.46, which is almost an entire run per nine less than his actual ERA. His chase rate and the average exit velocity allowed on balls in play are some of the best numbers in baseball, telling us that a healthy Eflin with a little more luck on his side could shape him into a top-of-the-rotation starter.

Bailey Falter: C-

Efficiency/Innings Per Outing6.5/10
Hard Hit Rate5.5/8
Chase Percentage4/5
How they have played compared to their expectations and the role they have on the team37/45

The number of remaining opportunities for Bailey Falter is getting low. The 25-year-old has a 4.82 ERA for the Phillies through nine games (five starts) in 2022. Falter, who has never been permanently part of a five-man rotation, has not had much success in his career at the big-league level.

He bounces back and forth between the Phillies and the Ironpigs and cannot translate his excellence from triple-A to the bigs. His fastball is in the first percentile in spin rate, and he does not have a breaking ball that consistently puts hitters away. Opponents are hitting .571 and .429 off his curveball and changeup, respectively.

Falter, who is currently in triple-A with the Ironpigs, only has one option left for the 2022 season. So while it is possible we might not see him again, we might also see him stick around with the Phillies until they get enough depth to send him back for the last time in 2022.

Kyle Gibson: B-

Efficiency/Innings Per Outing8.25/10
Hard Hit Rate6.5/8
Chase Percentage4.5/5
How they have played compared to their expectations and the role they have on the team39/45

It has not been Kyle Gibson’s best season, but he had some very solid starts in crucial spots for the Phillies in the first half of 2022. But his inconsistency is what hurts him. He allowed just one run in thirteen innings before the break, but this came after allowing four consecutive home runs in the first inning of his last start prior to the start of the streak.

His 4.35 ERA does not blow anybody away, but Gibson could be trending upward. Recently, he has been pitching to his strengths and trusting his pitches to fool the batter. He has seen much more success since implementing this mindset, and he has been much more consistent in locating and executing his slider.

Aaron Nola: A

Efficiency/Innings Per Outing9.5/10
Hard Hit Rate8/8
Chase Percentage4.8/5
How they have played compared to their expectations and the role they have on the team44/45

Aaron Nola has been a pleasant surprise for the 2022 Phillies, and he has finally returned to being the ace that we saw in his dominant 2018 season. Nola has been locating his fastball well on all parts of the plate, allowing him to expand the zone with his curveball more frequently. His sinker and changeup have improved and constantly mixing his pitches after getting ahead of batters has helped him punch more tickets.

Nola has a 3.13 ERA in 19 starts, and he has thrown more than five innings in 18 of those 19 starts. Nola’s 137 strikeouts rank him second in the league among strikeout leaders.

While his stats are fun to read, his efficiency has been his biggest strength. Even with all the batters Nola’s striking out, he has found ways to keep his pitch count low and pitch deep into games; and this is not just when he is throwing the ball well. There have been multiple instances this season where Nola has allowed four or more runs and still throws six or more innings, showing that he can make midgame adjustments and work around jams.

Ranger Suarez: B

Efficiency/Innings Per Outing8/10
Hard Hit Rate7.75/8
Chase Percentage3.25/5
How they have played compared to their expectations and the role they have on the team39.75/45

Suarez came into the 2022 season with the highest of expectations after having a remarkable 2021 season. He dominated as a long reliever, a setup man, and as a closer, and he even found success when moved to the starting rotation.

But in 2022, it has not been as easy. He has been less aggressive early and is finding himself behind in the count more often, something he is not used to.

He has always been a low-velocity pitcher focused on hitting spots and fooling hitters with his wide arsenal, and this has given him success throughout his entire career. After a rough start, he went to the injured list with back spasms at the beginning of July. When he came back, he showed some glimpses of his 2021 approach. And to no one’s surprise, he threw five scoreless innings in his return to the Phils.

Zack Wheeler: A

Efficiency/Innings Per Outing9.5/10
Hard Hit Rate7.5/8
Chase Percentage5/5
How they have played compared to their expectations and the role they have on the team43.75/45

Once again, Zack Wheeler is pitching like an all-star, and it is so fun to watch.

For some odd reason, he was not selected to join Kyle Schwarber in Los Angeles. But that is a conversation for another day.

Wheeler has been lights-out in 2022—he has a 2.89 ERA in 17 starts. And his ERA could be a lot lower if he did not pitch in a game for the first time in six months in game five of the regular season.

Wheeler still features a fastball in the upper nineties and a wipeout slider that makes the opponents’ bats look like swords. He is in the ninety-second percentile in average exit velocity allowed and chase percentage, and he is in the eighty-second percentile in hard-hit percentage.

His curveball has become much stronger, and he has started to use that as a swing-and-miss pitch in longer at-bats.

There have definitely been a lot of inconsistencies in the first half, but all of the Phillies’ starters have progressed, made adjustments, and improved after self-correcting the mistakes they have made. Kyle Gibson and Ranger Suarez are prime examples of adjustments leading to results, and this has not always worked in previous years. The Phillies have always had a guy jumping in and out of the Phils’ rotation, and they have limited that this year.

Team Starting Rotation Grade: B+

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