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OK, It's Not So ScaryŚCount Floyd AND Madson in the Rotation
2006-04-02 12:47
by Mike Carminati
Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. —Morgan "Starvin' Marvin" Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption

In a shocking display of common sense, something that has been in short supply in the Phils' front office for lo these many years, I assure you, the Phils have decided to go with two inexperienced starters in the rotation, Ryan Madson and Gavin Floyd.

Ryan Franklin, a sub-par veteran whom the Phils signed in the offseason in one those many instances in which common sense was defeated in Philly, moves into long relief, the job vacated by the other Ryan, and perhaps eventually will move to lovely Scranton. At least yesterday, he filled his role well, relieving Floyd, who won though succumbing to the long ball three times, and bridging the way to the short relievers, Rhodes and Gordon. Would that it will play out as well in the regular season.

It's encouraging to see the team finally give youngsters a shot. The may fall flat, but we all know what Franklin can do in the rotation. The Phils have never been easy on young players. Chase Utley started the season in some sort of rotation at second and ended the season as arguably the best in baseball. Ryan Howard was not given a shot at first until the ineffectual incumbent JimThome went down. Floyd himself was given an aborted shot at the rotation last year only to have it taken away when he fell flat. Madson was given one start in the majors, two years ago when he was pounded by the White Sox.

If Madson and Floyd develop quickly into effective starters, the Phils might finally escape eighty-win purgatory. If they falter the Phils will no longer have Robinson Tejeda to fall back on. He was traded to Texas, Elba for Phils pitchers, for David Dellucci. Dellucci hit 29 homers last year and had a career year. He now becomes the fourth outfielder and a left-handed bat off the bench. It seems like a great deal on paper—the Rangers were desperate for pitching—but the Phils add depth were they don't need it and lose depth where they do. I was never that high on Tejeda. He was good in a brief callup and had great strikeout numbers. However, I was never convinced that he would make a decent major-league starter. That said, I don't know if I would trade him for a 32-year-old coming off a career year without a position to play.

Anyway, back to Floyd and Madson (who just won 5-0 with the aid of Ryan Howard's 11th spring dinger), I was wondering when the last time the Phils inserted two youngsters into the rotation at the same time. Even back in the Seventies when they were more welcome to young talent (Christenson, Ruthven, Lerch, Underwood, Bystrom, Walk, etc.), they were staggered over a few years.

I looked up all the Phils starters who made the rotation (i.e., were given at least 20 starts in a season), who had never started consistently before (i.e., fewer than ten previous starts). For a franchise that is over one hundred and twenty years old, the Phils have tried a scant few newcomers as starters, only 66 in total. They also have given two youngsters a shot at the same time just 14 times, and only twice since 1948. The last time was the infamous Pat Combs and Jose DeJesus in 1990. Here are all fourteen previous instances of a Madson-Floyd pairing in the rotation:

Jose DeJesus1990222783.74130.0
Pat Combs199031610104.07183.3
Dennis Bennett1962240993.81174.7
Jack Hamilton19622609125.09182.0
Curt Simmons19482317134.87170.0
Robin Roberts1948200793.19146.7
Al Gerheauser194331010193.6215.0
Jack Kraus19432509153.16199.7
Johnny Podgajny19412449124.62181.3
Tommy Hughes19412409144.45170.0
Hugh Mulcahy19372578185.13215.7
Wayne LaMaster193730015195.31220.3
Bucky Walters1935221994.17151.0
Orville Jorgens193524010154.83188.3
Ed Holley193230111143.95228.0
Snipe Hansen193223910103.72191.0
Eppa Rixey191220010102.5162.0
Tom Seaton191227016123.28255.0
George Chalmers191122313103.11208.7
Pete Alexander191137028132.57367.0
Johnny Lush190635818152.37281.0
Lew Richie19062209112.41205.7
Bill Duggleby190129520122.88284.3
Doc White190127014133.19236.7
Ben Sanders188829019101.9275.3
Kid Gleason18882307162.84199.7
Bill Vinton188421010102.23182.0
Charlie Ferguson188447021253.54416.7

Simmons and Roberts in 1948 is encouraging, but any list comparing the current scenario to Combs is—let's say—not. I have to hand it to Gillick for at least making this season interesting. Most GMs, or at least Ed Wade, would have let the Thome-Howard situation bleed into at least spring training, if not the regular season. He is addressing the number one problem—starting pitching—with youth and apparent talent (then again, he did sign Franklin).

The season starts tomorrow. The Phils were 19-11 this spring and ended on a 5-0 shutout of the Red Sox. Their young players look pretty good. There's a lot of reason for optimism. I need the guy whispering in my ear, "Thou art mortal—it's just April 2 for crissake!"

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