All year long we’ve talked about how bad the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen has been.
And boy has it been bad, with an MLB worst 7.11 ERA.

Their bullpen acquisitions of Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree, and to a lesser extent David Hale, have been an unmitigated disaster.

Workman blew yet another save in game two of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Washington Nationals.

But it’s not the bullpen that could derail the Phillies in the postseason, it’s the starting rotation.

Well, that’s if they even make the playoffs at this point. After getting swept in Tuesday’s doubleheader, their postseason hopes are in serious jeopardy.

But if they manage to make it – which seems like a miracle – the rotation scares me. On the surface that seems silly when they have the 10th best ERA in baseball at 4.00.

However, their year-end tailspin has all but ensured that Aaron Nola needs to start the final game of the season. That means he can’t start game one of the best of three Wild Card series, and you might not see him at all. At the very least he wouldn’t start till the final game of the series, and that’s not even guaranteed if they lose the first two games.

So, a first-round playoff series where your ace isn’t guaranteed to start? That’s not good. Yes, Zack Wheeler is a good option to replace him in game one. But you lose your one-two punch, and starting pitching is so huge in the playoffs.

And who pitches after Wheeler? The most obvious choice is Zach Eflin. He’s been serviceable. That doesn’t exactly create a lot of confidence.

Jake Arrieta and Spencer Howard are options to fill in the remaining spots, but they’re both on the injured list currently. Will they be ready to start a playoff game? Vince Velasquez could start, but we all know how his start would most likely go. A few home runs and 80 plus pitches through four innings. Not what you need in the playoffs.

The point is, we’re so focused on the struggles of the pen that we’re overlooking what could be a bigger problem with the lack of starting pitching depth. A good rotation can carry you in the playoffs. A good rotation can keep you in the game and can keep a garbage bullpen out of the game. But if the rotation struggles, the bullpen has to come in earlier. And if the bullpen comes in earlier, we might as well just call it quits then.

And before you say it, yes, I’m aware the Phillies, who had an amazing rotation, lost to the Cardinals in the 2011 NLDS. But more likely than not, a good rotation that’s lined up properly can be a major boost a team’s chances in the postseason.

Now, this could all be moot. With the way they’ve played during the month of September, they don’t even deserve to make the playoffs.
With four games to go, the Phillies have their work cut out for them. But if they’re lucky enough to make it, the back end of the rotation is going to have to pull their weight if they want to make it out of the Wild Card round.

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