The Phillies Are Handling Their Pitching Staff Perfectly

From the front office to the field, the Phillies are doing everything right with their pitching staff. The Cristopher Sánchez extension is just the latest example.

Cristopher Sánchez of the Philadelphia Phillies speaks with teammates at the pitcher's mound during the third inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.
CINCINNATI, OHIO - APRIL 23: Cristopher Sánchez #61 of the Philadelphia Phillies speaks with teammates at the pitcher's mound during the third inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on April 23, 2024 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Jeff Dean/Getty Images)

The Miami Marlins lost two more arms last week, as Jesús Luzardo and Braxton Garrett hit the injured list. This is the second IL stint of the season for both pitchers.

Luzardo and Garrett are the third and fourth starting pitchers the Marlins have placed on the IL in June alone, joining Sixto Sánchez and Ryan Weathers. Meanwhile, Edward Cabrera has been on the IL since May, and A.J. Puk returned to the bullpen after his IL stint in mid-April. Sandy Alcantara and Eury Pérez have been out (and will remain out) all season.

Miami is left with a rotation of Trevor Rogers – who, himself, spent time on the IL each season from 2021-23 – and a whole bunch of question marks.

The Marlins have suffered a tragic number of starting pitching injuries this season, perhaps more than anyone else, but they aren’t the only team suffering. The Rangers and Brewers have each had six starters spend time on the IL this year; the Astros and Dodgers both seven.

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Pitching injuries have become an ever more prevalent aspect of the Major League Baseball landscape. And that’s why it’s no surprise that the very best team in baseball, with the very best pitching staff in baseball, is one of the only clubs that isn’t drowning in injured arms: the Philadelphia Phillies.

Stats, records, and rankings updated prior to first pitch on June 25.

The Phillies Have Built the Best Rotation in Baseball

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – APRIL 20: Zack Wheeler #45 of the Philadelphia Phillies looks on against the Chicago White Sox at Citizens Bank Park on April 20, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies defeated the White Sox 9-5. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

The Phillies have the best record (52-26) and run differential (+121) in baseball. While their offense has been excellent – they rank second in runs per game (5.1) and fourth in wRC+ (114) – the pitchers, particularly the starting pitchers, have been the stars of the show.

Phillies pitchers rank first in MLB with a 3.08 ERA. They also lead the sport in FIP, xFIP, SIERA, xERA, etc. You get the point. By FanGraphs pitching WAR, Philadelphia has a three-win lead over the next best team.

The bullpen has been phenomenal, with a 3.38 ERA (5th in MLB), 3.13 FIP (2nd), and 4.4 fWAR (2nd). Jeff Hoffman, Matt Strahm, Orion Kerkering, and José Alvarado have become four of the best relievers in the National League.

Yet, the Phillies bullpen has only thrown 242 innings, second-fewest in MLB.

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That’s because the starting rotation has been so dominant.

Their starters are averaging just a hair under 6.0 IP per start: 5.92, to be exact. That’s the highest average for any team’s starters since the 2018 Guardians, a team that included one former and two future Cy Young winners.

Phillies starters are going an extra two-thirds of an inning every game compared to those of the average team. That works out to an additional 108 innings, or 12 complete games, over a full season.

And while Philadelphia’s starters easily lead MLB with 10.0 fWAR, they’re not just racking up value with volume. With a collective 2.92 ERA, they are the only rotation with an ERA below 3.00. The Yankees rank second at 3.16.

The average rotation in MLB has a 4.05 ERA this season. That’s 1.13 runs higher than the Phillies’ 2.92 mark. Over a full season, that works out to 183 fewer runs allowed in 108 additional innings. That’s ridiculous. The Phillies rotation is ridiculous.

They also lead the league in xFIP and rank second in FIP, xERA, and SIERA. Pick your favorite metric, and it will tell you the Phillies have one of the best rotations in the game.

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The Phillies’ Four Aces 2.0

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – APRIL 16: Ranger Suarez #55 of the Philadelphia Phillies reacts after pitching a complete game shutout against the Colorado Rockies at Citizens Bank Park on April 16, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies defeated the Rockies 5-0. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

The top three names on the NL ERA leaderboard right now are all Phillies: Ranger Suárez (1.75), Cristopher Sánchez (2.67), and Zack Wheeler (2.73).

Aaron Nola, first among qualified NL arms in innings per start (6.31), has somehow only been the fourth most valuable pitcher on the staff. He has a 3.39 ERA in 16 games.

The Phillies rotation is full of remarkable stories. Nola, the homegrown veteran, will rank amongst the greatest pitchers in Phillies history by the time his seven-year contract wraps up. Wheeler has quietly become the best pitcher in baseball since joining the Phillies in 2020.

Southpaws Suárez and Sánchez both blossomed into capable mid-rotation arms before taking another huge step forward this season. All of a sudden, the Phillies have four aces. Again.

Another great story on the 2024 Phillies is Spencer Turnbull. Dave Dombrowski picked him up from the bargain bin this offseason, and he has pitched to a 2.63 ERA in 51.1 IP. That includes a 1.67 ERA over six starts in April.

After six weeks in the bullpen, he will make his seventh start of the season on Wednesday, replacing an injured Taijuan Walker in the rotation.

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Turnbull’s performance is reminiscent of what Matt Strahm did in 2023. Strahm opened the year in the rotation as a temporary injury replacement, making six starts with a 3.51 ERA. He has since become one of Philadelphia’s best relievers.

Health Has Been Key to the Phillies’ Success

Aaron Nola
NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 25: Pitcher Aaron Nola #27 of the Philadelphia Phillies delivers a pitch against the New York Mets during game one of a doubleheader at Citi Field on June 25, 2021 in New York City. Nola struck out 10 consecutive batters tying Tom Seaver for the National League record. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Phillies pitching coach Caleb Cotham has received plenty of well-deserved commendation for his work over the past four seasons. So, too, has Dave Dombrowski, president of baseball operations and architect of the Phillies roster.

However, there is one area in which they have not received enough praise.

Dombrowski has done tremendous work identifying, acquiring, and holding on to the right talent. Cotham has shown a genius-level ability to bring out the best performances from his pitchers.

Yet, the triumphs of Philadelphia’s rotation are not just rooted in talent and performance. Durability and health have been equally important. The Phillies have had one of the healthiest rotations in baseball, and that has been just as critical to their success.

Nola leads MLB in innings pitched over the past five years. He has averaged over 6.0 IP per start throughout his career, and he has not been injured since 2017. Wheeler ranks second, despite a couple of brief stints on the injured list.

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Only one Phillies starter has hit the IL this season: Taijuan Walker. The 31-year-old has actually taken two trips to the IL in 2024, though neither has been particularly serious.

Walker suffered a shoulder impingement in spring training that kept him on the shelf for the first month of the year. He returned to the IL this past weekend with a “hot spot” (a.k.a. some inflammation) on his right index finger.

Thanks to the emergence of Turnbull, the Phillies have not and will not skip a beat in Walker’s absence. Heck, you could argue they’re better off.

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – APRIL 2: Spencer Turnbull #22 of the Philadelphia Phillies looks on against the Cincinnati Reds at Citizens Bank Park on April 2, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies defeated the Reds 9-4. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

The Phillies rotation was remarkably healthy last season, too. In fact, the last time a key Phillies starter suffered a serious injury was when Zach Eflin’s chronic knee problems flared up in 2022. Even then, the team got him back in time for the right-hander to play a critical role out of the bullpen down the stretch and into the playoffs.

The closest the Phillies have come to losing a key starting pitcher to a serious arm injury during Dombrowski’s and Cotham’s tenures was when top prospect Andrew Painter tore his UCL in 2023.

Even then, the Phillies handled his injury with patience and the utmost care, waiting four months before sending him to surgery, rather than rushing him toward Tommy John in hopes of getting him back on the mound as soon as possible.

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Sometimes injuries are unavoidable. Smart teams know how to handle them to avoid worst-case scenarios and maximize good outcomes.

Wheeler, Suárez, and Sánchez have all had arm injury scares over the past couple of years, but none developed into anything serious.

Perhaps the Phillies have simply had good fortune. Or perhaps they know exactly what they’re doing. Without a portal to an alternative timeline, it’s impossible to know for sure.

For what it’s worth, however, the Phillies certainly have faith in their plan.

If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have signed Nola to the largest pitching contract in team history, one that runs through his age-37 season. They wouldn’t have signed Wheeler through his age-37 season on the most lucrative extension (by AAV) in MLB history. They wouldn’t have guaranteed Sánchez $22.5 million over the next four seasons. Plenty of people around the game surely still see Sánchez as a fluke. The Phillies see it differently.

Cristopher Sanchez of the Philadelphia Phillies looks on during the third inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – JULY 11: Cristopher Sanchez #61 of the Philadelphia Phillies looks on during the third inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on July 11, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

From front office decisions to on-field management, the Phillies are handling their pitching staff perfectly. They have identified proven stars to invest in and future stars to believe in. They have brought out the best in their pitchers and kept their rotation healthy in an age when that seems like an impossible task.

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The Phillies have been the best team in baseball for a multitude of reasons. Still, their dominant pitching staff is their strongest asset, and their healthy rotation is what stands out most of all.