Phillies end of season report card: Starting Pitching

If your kid has to receive a report card at the end of their year, then why shouldn’t the Phillies? I’m going to break down grades by overall starting pitching, relief pitching, and batters. I’ll also present grades to individual players and coaches.

The report card will be broken into 3 separate pieces, for your own sake.

These are all my “informed” opinion, so feel free to disagree and discuss your grades in the comments!

Starting Pitching

Overall score: D+

There were few reasons to even give the rotation a passing grade. It was the position that let the team down the most. Aaron Nola did the best he could but regressed from his 2018 3rd place Cy Young finish.

Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin, and Vince Velasquez were all supposed to take a step forward in 2019. Zach Eflin was the only one to improve and that was minimal at best.

Jake Arrieta keeps proving he’s a waste of money. Jason Vargas confirmed Met fan’s warnings to us. Eickhoff liked giving up homers.

One of the biggest reasons the Phillies didn’t have a winning streak over 4 games was because there was no steady pitching.

According to Fangraphs, the Phillies pitchers had the second-worst HR/9 rate in the NL with 1.60 and the 3rd worst WHIP at 1.37.

Let’s break it down.

Aaron Nola: B

I wanted to give Nola a B+, but a slow start destroyed that possibility. He did, however, start the most games in all of Major League Baseball. If he wouldn’t have been scratched from his final start, he would have had that distinction all to himself. Instead, he shares it with 6 other pitchers.

Nola finishes with a 12-7 record, a 3.87 ERA, 202.1 IP, and 229 K. His 10.2 K/9 was the highest of his career.

The hangover from his near Cy Young 2018 season kept him from being in the voting again. In his first 15 starts of the season, Nola held a 4.89 ERA. He almost looked like a bust. His 3.19 ERA in his last 19 starts saved his season from being disastrous.

Zach Eflin: C+

As I wrote previously, Zach Eflin had a sneaky positive season. He led the National League in complete games!

An 11-game stretch with an ERA of 8.75 is was brought the young pitcher down to reality. On the bright side, that was bookended by a 2.83 ERA in 14 and 7 starts.

He finishes with a 4.13 ERA and a chance to truly break out in 2020.

Drew Smyly: C

If this were a report card for the Texas Rangers, Smyly would get an F-. But it isn’t, so, please disregard that 8.42 ERA in his first 13 games.

Let’s zoom in on that 4.45 ERA with the Phillies instead. He was one of the trash heap salvages that actually worked to some extent.

He allowed 1 ER in his first 13 innings with the Phillies, earning wins over the Pirates and Giants. Did he continue that way? Absolutely not!

His ERA in his next 10 starts would be 5.44. He still had some solid starts during that stretch. He pitched 7 scoreless innings against the Mets. The final start of the season for Smyly produced the most impressive results. Even though he allowed 2 runs, Smyly struck out 10 Nationals in 6.1 IP.

Smyly is no Cliff Lee, but he did his job.

Jake Arrieta: D+

Now we get into the ugly part of the Phillies rotation.

Jake Arrieta made $25 million in 2019. The most on the Phillies and the 10th most of any pitcher in the majors. Somehow 2 of those 10 were worse than Arrieta. Jordan Zimmerman made $25 million as well with a 1-13 record with a 6.91 ERA. “King” Felix Hernandez made $27.8 million in 2019. To be fair he’s retiring, but his 6.41 ERA in 15 games made him look like a shell of himself.

Arrieta, on the other hand, had an 8-8 record with a 4.64 ERA.

Now you might say, “Alec, Smyly had a similar ERA so why does he get a C?”. Well, let me tell you.

Arrieta didn’t have a single start where he put up a zero. He had 2 starts where he went 8 innings, but he allowed 2 runs in each of them.

Right now, Arrieta is feeling like dead weight. Hopefully, his spot in the 2020 rotation won’t be a total waste. There’s a good chance he’ll be the 5-starter.

Jason Vargas: D-

Vargas was essentially acquired from the Mets for nothing.

Should we really be surprised that he produced nothing? A 5.37 ERA in 11 starts with the Phillies will, hopefully, mean the team will not pick up his $8 million option.

Bye, Vargas. The Mets fans that warned us were right.

Vince Velasquez: D-

Same narrative, different year.

Vince Velasquez has failed to take that next step foreward. In his first 5 appearances, Velasquez had a 1.99 ERA in 22.2 IP. In his 28 games from then on, he recorded a 5.61 ERA.

He pitched himself out of the rotation ealry in the season and he’s pitched himself out of the rotation for 2020.

I can’t believe I thought he’d be the 5-starter in 2020.

Jerad Eickhoff: F

For 30 innings in 2019, Jerad Eickhoff had a 1.50 ERA without a single HR surrendered. IF that’s how it would have stayed, he would have gotten an A.

Things deteriorated fast.

In the following 28.1 IP, Eickhoff gave up 18 home runs and had an ERA of 10.16. Life comes at you fast.

Nick Pivetta: F-

Nick Pivetta took failing to a new level, hence the F-. Pivetta was easily the biggest disappointment of the 2019 season. Everyone had such high hopes for the young starter.

He somehow had a worse year than in 2018. His ERA went from 4.77 to 5.38 and his K/9 went down from 10.3 to 8.6.

At one point he was demoted to AAA.

At least he had a complete game against the Reds.

Go figure.

Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

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