2014 Phillies Pitching: Youth versus experience

Cole Hamels delivers against the Cardinals, Saturday. - Dilip Vishwanat

The 2014 Phillies are the oldest team in the majors, but that hasn't been slowing them down so far. While the bullpen has been solid for the most part, it's the younger starters condemning the team to the NL East cellar.

As my audition piece for BtBS, I wrote this FanPost pointing out that the Phillies' hitting problems don't stem from their advanced age, but rather the unimpressive crop of youngsters Ruben Amaro has put around the aging core of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Carlos Ruiz. To a lesser extent, this relationship holds with their pitching as well.

Let's take a look at their pitchers below 30 with at least 10 innings pitched:

Name Age W L SV G GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 HR/FB BABIP ERA FIP xFIP WAR
1 Mario Hollands 25 1 1 0 28 0 25.1 7.46 3.55 0.71 8.0 % 0.235 2.49 3.64 3.89 0.1
2 David Buchanan 25 3 3 0 6 6 36.1 6.19 1.49 1.73 20.0 % 0.274 4.95 4.88 3.61

0.0

3 Justin De Fratus 26 1 0 0 16 0 17.1 8.31 1.56 1.04 11.1 % 0.261 2.08 3.43 3.27 0.1
4 Jake Diekman 27 2 2 0 35 0 34.2 11.94 3.38 1.04 13.8 % 0.321 4.41 3.14 2.72 0.4
5 Antonio Bastardo 28 4 3 0 32 0 34.2 10.64 5.19 0.52 4.8 % 0.195 2.86 3.38 4.19 0.3
6 Kyle Kendrick 29 3 7 0 15 15 94.1 5.44 2.67 0.95 9.3 % 0.285 4.2 4.24 4.34 0.7
7 Jeff Manship 29 1 1 0 16 0 18.1 6.87 5.4 0.49 5.6 % 0.281 5.89 4.07 4.63 -0.1

The younger bullpen arms have actually been quite good, aided by the emergence of Jake Diekman as a reliable left-handed setup man and Justin De Fratus as his right-handed complement. While Diekman's been rather unlucky (.321 BABIP, 13.8% HR/FB), and De Fratus has outpitched his peripherals (-1.19 ERA-xFIP difference), it seems as though their true skill levels are more than adequate for a major league bullpen. Throw in the flamethrowing Ken Giles, recently called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and the Phillies have the makings of a promising relief corps. Antonio Bastardo still hasn't gotten his walk rate under control, and Jeff Manship was a bit of a disappointment before getting hurt, but neither of them has been as poor as the two young starters Ryne Sandberg has been forced to trot out, Kyle Kendrick and David Buchanan. Kendrick's never been able to recapture the magic of his rookie season in 2007, when he parlayed a June call-up into a 10-4 record and a playoff start (albeit a disastrous one). Filling in for the injured Cliff Lee, Buchanan has been a bit unlucky, but hasn't shown nearly enough to warrant a spot on the big-league roster when Lee's elbow is healthy again.

Okay, so the young relievers have been picking up the starters' slack for the most part. How about the veterans?

Name Age W L SV G GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 HR/FB BABIP ERA FIP xFIP WAR
1 Cole Hamels 30 2 4 0 12 12 81.2 9.26 3.2 0.44 5.9 % 0.306 2.76 2.81 3.24 2.0
2 Jonathan Papelbon 33 2 1 17 30 0 29.1 7.67 2.76 0.00 0.0 % 0.250 1.53 2.61 4.32 0.7
3 Roberto Hernandez 33 3 5 0 16 13 73.2 6.84 4.76 1.22 15.9 % 0.286 4.52 5.16 4.5 -0.4
4 Mike Adams 35 2 1 0 19 0 17 10.59 3.71 0.53 7.7 % 0.279 2.12 2.73 2.96 0.4
5 Cliff Lee 35 4 4 0 10 10 68 8.07 1.19 0.66 7.9 % 0.341 3.18 2.65 2.88 1.7
6 A.J. Burnett 37 5 6 0 16 16 104 6.66 3.81 0.78 9.9 % 0.284 3.89 4.23 4.23 0.5

Hamels and Lee have performed like the aces they are -- the only question with their play is what uniform they'll be wearing come August. Burnett, somewhat surprisingly, is proving that he hasn't lost a step at 37, outpacing his career ERA despite posting subpar K/BB numbers. The real stinker is Roberto Hernandez, the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona, nearly living up to his 4.66 career ERA. He's a relative bargain compared to Burnett, though; the $4.5 million the Phillies are shelling out (compared to $15 million for Burnett) typifies the axiom "you get what you pay for."

Meanwhile, the bullpen veterans aren't letting their younger peers get all the credit. Jonathan Papelbon is 17 of 19 in save opportunities and hasn't allowed a home run all year. Mike Adams was outstanding between trips to the DL, striking out over a batter per inning.

Injuries have been a problem for Adams and Lee, which could certainly be a sign of their advanced age showing itself, but as with the Phillies' hitters, it's the veterans who have been holding down the fort. As the trade deadline looms just over a month away, Ruben Amaro must be cognizant of the lack of young depth in the organization when deciding whether to buy or sell. Yes, the team is a mere 5 games out in a terribly mediocre NL East, but their recent 5-2 road trip doesn't make them contenders.

. . .

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.

Steven Silverman is a contributor at Beyond the Box Score and a student at Carnegie Mellon University. You can follow him on Twitter at @Silver_Stats.

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