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Tonight Pedro Martinez struck out 11 batters in a minor league rehab start. He threw 82 pitches — 60 strikes — and showed that he’s ready for big league action.

The only question is, who will lose his spot in the Phillies’ rotation once Pedro comes on board?

Lots of people have lots of theories about this. My favorite belongs to the Philadelphia Daily News’ David Murphy, who seems to be a little conflicted, and must be getting paid by the inch.

Here’s my take:

There are two candidates to get bumped from the Phils’ rotation.

In one corner we have Jamie Moyer, who is old and seems like a really nice guy. Both this season and last, Moyer has won more games than any Phillies pitcher. But in 2009 his ERA has ballooned to 5.55 — the third highest in the NL among qualified pitchers. What’s more, his FIP and BABIP indicate that he hasn’t been particularly lucky or unlucky this season. He really is this bad.

In the other corner we have J.A. Happ, who has emerged as a (leading?) candidate for rookie of the year. Happ is in the top-10 in the NL in ERA, but his 4.21 FIP suggests he probably won’t stay there long, while his .254 BABIP is probably a little low to sustain.

Happ could return to the bullpen, where he has excelled. Moyer, on the other hand, probably isn’t suited to a bullpen role, as it takes him too long to warmup.

The conclusion? This is an easy decision. Even if Happ’s luck runs out, he’s still a better pitcher than Moyer, and the numbers back it up. Also, as Nick pointed out a month ago, if the Phillies cut Moyer now (or put him on the DL with an imaginary injury) they’ll save $4MM in 2010.

Not that this should matter much, but keeping Happ in the rotation will also afford him experience starting high-leverage games, which will benefit him in future seasons.

Once the playoffs start, the Phils can move either Happ or Martinez to the bullpen, depending on which one has the hotter hand. But for now, Happ has earned the right to stay in the rotation.

Jamie Moyer is a great guy, but there’s no room for a 5.55 ERA on a championship team.

UPDATE:

From David Murphy’s High Cheese blog comes word that Happ is staying in the rotation, and the Phils might use a six-man rotation. “Happ’s not going out of anywhere,” Amaro says. Good grief.

5 Responses to “Keep Happ”

  1. Moyer certainly has to have some tendonitis somewhere. Happ is the better pitcher right now and the guy that should stay in the rotation. Too many starting pitchers is a good problem to have.

    When you bring up Happ as the (leading?) candidate for ROY I would like to introduce one Randy Wells into the conversation. Wells has been extremely good since he was inserted in the Cubs rotation earlier this season.

    Wells: 8-4, 2.73 ERA, 102 IP,
    K/BB 2.83, HR/9 .79, WHIP 1.14, BABIP .275
    FIP 3.74, WPA 2.26, WAR 2.0

    Happ: 8-2, 2.74 ERA, 115 IP,
    K/BB 2.32, HR/9 .94, WHIP 1.12, BABIP .251
    FIP 4.0, WPA 1.37, WAR 1.6

    Their numbers are very similar but I have to give Wells the edge.

  2. I suspect Happ vs. Wells for ROY will be decided over the next two months. Unless, of course, the Phils move Happ to the bullpen. Then it’ll be Wells’ award to lose.

  3. @Melissa

    Remember, right or wrong, the people who decide Rookie of the Year don’t always rely on fancy stats and sabermetrics…

    Also, how many complete game shutouts does Wells have this year?

    Not trying to be a smartass… just saying that the people who vote will remember certain things more than others, and a rookie pitcher with 2 complete game shutouts in a single season is a pretty memorable stat to most people, especially ones who have no idea what FIP, WAR, WPA, etc. stand for.

  4. I agree, Mike, voters usually look at wins and ERA they don’t necessarily consider all of the in-depth stats which tend to indicate Wells has been better. I included them because people that frequent this site do. It also wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of the voters were unaware that Happ has 2 complete game shutouts. I don’t see that making much difference unless their wins and ERA remain equal.
    It will no doubt depend on how they perform from here on out. Wells should have more wins but got terrible run support in his first 4 or 5 outings.

  5. It’s not even wins and ERA. it might come down to when a particular pitcher came to their town and shut down their favorite team’s lineup.

    Unfortunately, subjectivity rules sometimes in award balloting. The BBWAA members can claim to be partial but they’re fans too.

    Each writer is different, of course. some do look at the balloting with a more cerebral (and perhaps, objective) approach.

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