The Philadelphia Phillies' pitching staff didn't live up to expectations this season. In addition to injuries, the performance of many of the team's mound men just wasn't consistently good enough to help Charlie Manuel's squad overcome the challenges of the 2012 season.
There's no mystery as to why the Washington Nationals won the division. Compare the Phillies' response to injury with that of the 'Nats' and all nonpartisan questions are answered.
With the mound on my mind, I want to focus on this area of the Phillies' roster in this feature.
Starting on the mound
Roy Halladay's arm issues should serve to keep the main members of this staff intact. Anyone who believed that Cliff Lee might be moved in the offseason, for reasons that were related to payroll flexibility, should drop that stance.
Cole Hamels is freshly re-signed, Kyle Kendrick has taken over Joe Blanton's spot and Vance Worley should be ready to start next season on time. I'm not sure if Tyler Cloyd has the type of repertoire that will get enough big league hitters out, but we'll see.
Changes to the rotation are always possible, but the area of the staff that needs the greatest focus is the bullpen. However, I wouldn't mind adding a modest veteran starter to the staff purely as an insurance policy.
Strengthening an improving bullpen
While the Phillies' young relief corps pitched very well at times during the second half, many of those arms are inexperienced.
Bullpen efforts improved as the Phillies' season moved forward. The team's relief efforts were actually among the best in the National League in the second half of 2012. So, it's reasonable to be optimistic about this portion of the roster moving forward.
Jonathan Papelbon wasn't perfect, but he saved 38 games (which tied his second-highest career mark) and had a 1.057 WHIP mark. Fans can argue about him being paid too much and wish that his resources had been allocated elsewhere. But, number 58 wasn't the cause of this Phillies' down year.
Antonio Bastardo seemed to perform better as the season went along. This young man has plenty of potential and a good arm. So, I'm not overly worried about him.
Jeremy Horst proved to be a nice return for Wilson ('Babe') Valdez from the Cincinnati Reds. Veteran Raul Valdes also did a nice job when he was healthy, but he also wasn't a main middle-innings force.
Each of the other relievers, including last season's standout Michael Stutes, are question marks. One, or two of them might pitch effectively next season. But, Amaro won't count on that collective guess.
Right-handed free agents like the Reds' Ryan Madson and the Texas Rangers' Mike Adams are intriguing options. So, we'll see what veterans are tapped to join new bullpen coach Rod Nichols and his mostly kiddie corps.
After winning the National League East for five straight years and securing that 2008 World Series title along the way, I'm okay with one down year. No team wins every season.
In order to create an opportunity to make the postseason again next year, the Phillies will need to make a number of smart moves during this offseason. The process won't be easy, but following it should be fun.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies' farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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