This weekend, the Phillies got back a much-needed arm to their starting rotation. Ranger Suarez returned in the Fightins’ weekend series against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.
Suarez allowed three runs and seven hits through four innings of work, but another added pitching piece gives the Phils more depth in the rotation.
As a team, Phillies starting pitchers rank 18 out of 30 in the earned run average category with a 4.77 ERA. They are 4 of 5 in that stat in the NL East and are only ahead of the slumping New York Mets. Around the league, the Phillies rank in the middle of the pack in innings pitched and WHIP.
Suarez, who was one of many instrumental pieces in the Phillies’ playoff run last season with a 1.23 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP in the postseason, was out for the first six weeks of the MLB season with a left elbow strain. In his place, the Phillies had to rely on Matt Strahm as a starter. Strahm, who had usually trotted out of the bullpen throughout his young career, shined in his expanded role. However, pitchers like Aaron Nola and Taijuan Walker, who the Phillies relied heavily on near the top of the rotation, struggled to find their groove.
Through his first five starts on the season, Nola’s ERA was 5.40. Since then, he has lowered it to the mid-4s but hasn’t produced consistently like an ace just yet.
Walker had a tough debut in Phillies pinstripes against the Yankees earlier in the season but leveled it out in his next three starts after. In his ensuing next two starts against the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Dodgers, Walker struggled mightily and allowed 13 hits and 13 runs through a combined 7.1 innings. His ERA ballooned up to 6.91 afterward but has been lowered to 5.75 in the last two weeks. Despite solid starts, Nola and Walker haven’t produced to the standard that fans expect from them.
Zach Wheeler has been the only real consistent Phillies pitcher with a 3.80 ERA on the season.
Currently, the Phillies starting rotation features Nola, Wheeler, Walker, Suarez, and Bailey Falter. Falter is, let’s just say, not the most reliable pitcher of that group, with a 5.75 ERA. The Phillies have lost in 6 of the 7 games Falter has started in.
The addition of Suarez bumped Strahm back into the bullpen. But it shouldn’t have. While he was advertised as a relief pitcher when he joined the Phillies, Strahm’s impressive outings as a starter should have only bumped him to the rotation’s fifth spot, with Falter receiving the shorter end of the stick.
Nevertheless, the addition of Suarez adds a much more reliable and consistent arm to the starting five. Maybe it takes some pressure off of Falter’s shoulder, but if he falters on the mound, head coach Rob Thomson should look towards the more efficient Strahm to replace him.
With the Phillies’ record at an even 20-20 in this early stretch of the season, starting pitching becomes even more critical in boosting that record over the .500 mark.
The Phils will get a chance to do that then they face off against the San Francisco Giants at the start of the week. Falter, Wheeler, and Walker are set to be the starters.