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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Does The Phillies Season Rest On Cole's Left Arm?

When news came down that Cole Hamels felt some discomfort in the throwing arm, people were getting themselves ready to jump off of the Ben Franklin Bridge in total and utter despair. Well, yesterday he threw in a minor league assignment and all went well so far, but that led to a question. Does the Philadelphia Phillies season rest in Cole’s left arm? He is possibly the most important individual to the team, but does his health determine how far the Phillies can go? I don’t know. Last year we saw the team struggle without Jimmy Rollins, yet succeed to a modest degree when Ryan Howard struggled. The team also seemed to go get by with Chase Utley’s bad hip, but through it all, the pitching staff remained intact.

Cole Hamels is easily the ace of the staff, but he pitches once in every four or five games. That can be vital in the role of the stopper, but the more important player for winning may be the closer. Brad Lidge nailed down every game he played. He took the possibility of winning a game and made it a certainty. Look at the Mets last year. The reason they didn’t win was not how Pedro or Johann pitched, but through the implosion of the bullpen and their inability to keep a lead. That was what got the Phillies into first place. Well, that and the fact the Howard went on an unbelievable September tear.

While Cole would be a great loss, it is easier to fill the void of an injured starting pitcher than a closer. One could juggle the rotation, throw J.A. Happ in the back end of the starting staff and although the potential for winning would be decreased a bit, it wouldn’t evaporate. Take away Brad Lidge, particularly early in the season, and who’s going to be the closer? Ryan Madsen? Perhaps, but regardless of who comes out of the bullpen in the ninth inning, it wouldn’t be the same. Madsen did become a pretty good setup guy down the stretch, however I doubt many would say that he wouldn’t have blown a save all year.

This isn’t an argument for the ages, so I won’t beat it into the dirt. I will say however, that if the Phillies lose a starting pitcher, even the already immortalized Cole Hamels, I think the team will manage. Now, if Lidge is lost…well, that’s a different story. I won’t go diving off of Big Ben, but I’ll certainly think about it when I drive over Betsey Ross.

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