One of the feel-good stories of the early 2016 season has been the performance of Phillies starting pitcher Vincent Velasquez, who has come on to pitch two great games here in the early going for a Philadelphia team that is a few years away from competing for the playoffs. After two starts, Velasquez’ line reads: 15 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 3 BB and 25 Ks. If this keeps up, we might have a repeat of another pitcher having an historic season for a rotten team – Steve Carlton and the 1972 Phillies.
That year, Carlton won the pitching Triple Crown, as he notched 27 Wins, had a 1.97 ERA and fanned 310 batters in 346.1 IP. Not surprisingly, he won the Cy Young Award that season and finished fifth in the MVP voting. That alone was amazing but what pushes that season to remarkable heights is that Carlton was pitching for a team that won just 59 games. The team’s offense was poor and the non-Carlton pitchers were abysmal.
It’s doubtful that the 2016 Phillies will be as bad as their 1972 counterpart and no pitcher should be viewed as even remotely likely to match Carlton’s magical season. Still, in nine starts in the majors so far, Velasquez has a 1.094 WHIP, a 3.71 K/BB ratio and a 2.89 ERA.
Velasquez takes the mound for the Phillies tonight and will square off against Logan Verrett. The Mets left Verrett exposed to the Rule 5 Draft following the 2014 season, when he was selected by the Orioles. But he didn’t stick in Baltimore and eventually made his way back to the Mets. He won a spot in the bullpen here in 2016 and made a spot start earlier due to Jacob deGrom and the baby/lat issues. With deGrom’s status up in the air, Verrett makes a second start.
It seems like a mismatch, yet if we look at Verrett’s stats as a starter in the majors, it’s not nearly as bad as you might think. Yes, Verrett only has five starts in the majors. But let’s not pretend that Vasquez’ nine is an unassailable number. Here are Verrett’s numbers in the rotation: 0.988 WHIP, a 2.78 K/BB ratio and a 2.86 ERA. Velasquez has the strikeout edge but Verrett matches him in ERA and has a very slight edge in WHIP.
The Phillies rank last in the National League in both AVG (.207) and OBP (.267) and rank 13th in SLG (.349) – meaning Verrett should have the opportunity to keep his starting numbers strong. On Monday, the Mets feasted on Philadelphia’s bullpen once they got Jerad Eickhoff out of the game. Hopefully, Verrett can hold the Phillies down and the Mets can follow the same path to victory in the middle game of the three-game set.