Ryne Sandberg knows that his lineup and bench are both suspect as he heads into the 2014 season. But, can his starting staff, led by new pitching coach Bob McClure, carry its own weight?
Charlie Manuel's pitching staff was as vital to that championship season as any run producer when the Philadelphia Phillies won their last World Series in 2008.
Before Jamie Moyer turned broadcaster, he led that fabled team with 16 wins. Before all sabermatricians fall over their new-school selves, they should be reminded that Moyer's WHIP (1.329) was second only to Cole Hamels (1.082) among all Phillies' starters six years ago.
A healthy Cliff Lee (35) and A.J. Burnett (37) should start 30+ games apiece, which will likely give the team a chance to win most of those matchups. Lee's the better pitcher at this stage of his career. But, Burnett has lowered his WHIP every season since 2010. So, the right-hander can still crank it up.
Kyle Kendrick (29) looks good this spring and is also capable of starting 30+ games. While 'KK' works a few notches below Hamels (30), Lee and Burnett, he's a competent fourth starter.
Hamels mid- to late-April return is obviously key. At his best, 'Hollywood' could win the Cy Young. If he moves mentally off-track, which has happened a few times in the past, this lefty can be inconsistent. Mark number 35 down as a question mark right now until he proves sound on both fronts.
Roberto Hernandez (33) generated a few good years during his eight-season career. As with many mature pitchers, he's come to rely more on his off-speed stuff to get batters out. Hernandez looks good enough to be a decent back-end of the rotation piece.
Miguel Gonzalez can't be counted on at all at this point. Jonathan Pettibone's health looks to be improved, but he hasn't been cleared for game-action yet. That's why a long shot like David Buchanan, or Jeff Manship, could start a few games for the Phillies early in the season.
That last paragraph was filled with questions, which is why the Phillies need four of their top five starting pitchers to generate a combined 120 starts this season. Considering some of their ages, that's also questionable.
Of course, depending upon how many runs the Phillies score, a few starters could become trade bait by mid-summer. So, the final part of their seasons could be pitched elsewhere.