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Phillies' starting rotation breakdown for NLDS

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"KEEP ON PHIGHTIN' WITH JOE VALLEE"

In the final part of our three-part series, we saved the best for last and break down the Phillies strongest asset- their starting pitching.

Ever since the Phillies brought back Cliff Lee last December, the expectations for this pitching staff have been sky high. And although the road to get there was a little different than what we all expected, the staff still met everyone’s expectations- and then some. Starters Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton all missed significant time with injuries. However, rookie Vance Worley literally came out of nowhere to go 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA. At one point, the Phillies had won 14 consecutive games in which he started. Honorable mention goes to Kyle Kendrick, who filled in admirably for 15 starts this season.Four aces photo: Levon Biss- New York Times.

Leading the majors in ERA, complete games and shutouts, this staff is already considered one of the best in major league history. If the Phillies are going to win the World Series, all eyes will be on these guys (and no, I didn’t mean that to rhyme!). Let’s break it down:

The starters

Roy Halladay- Doc had another great season for the Phightins. Although he won two less games in 2011, some Halladay’s all around numbers this year are better than last year’s. His winning percentage (.760 from .677 in 2010), ERA (2.35 from 2.44 in 2010) and strikeouts (220 from 219 in 2010).

Although numbers don’t lie, it seems that Halladay was more dominant last year. He only had one shutout in 2011 compared to his 4 in 2010. Don’t get me wrong, Halladay on his A minus game is pretty much better than anyone in baseball, but to be honest, it seemed that Doc looked like he was laboring at some points during this summer. His innings (although not by much) are down from last year, which is a good thing, because Halladay’s injury in last year’s NLDS may have been the result of the innings he had pitched finally taking its toll on him.

Halladay doesn’t need to throw another no-hitter like he did against the Reds last year, but nine innings and a Phillies win anytime he takes the mound will be just fine.

Cliff Lee-  Although Halladay is more consistent, Lee was clearly more dominant in 2011. His six shutouts (and he was one out away from two more) and his career high 238 strikeouts are only a small part of his spectacular year. Cliff Lee is back to Philly. Photo: Andrea Kohalmi.

In August, Lee joined Hall of Famers Walter Johnson and Bob Gibson as the only pitchers to go at least 5-0 in two separate months in one season with no losses and an ERA under 1.00. And oh yeah, Lee also went 5-0 in June with a 0.21 ERA.

With an ERA just over 1 and a 3-0 career record in division series play, Lee is as reliable as they come in a big game. If the Phillies could take Game 1 against the Cardinals Saturday, they could put themselves in an excellent position if Lee were to pitch one of his typical outings in Game 2.

Cole Hamels-  Out of all the four Phillies starters, Hamels is the one still prone to meltdowns if things go a little awry.  Hamels could be in complete command of a game, then give up a game-tying home run to someone like Val Pascucci.  If Hamels can keep it together, and his stuff is good (which is more often than not), the Phillies will be very tough to beat in any series whether it's five or seven games.

Roy Oswalt-  After barely avoiding a family tragedy to a back injury that was once believed to put his season and career in jeopardy, Oswalt has returned from the disabled list and for the most part has been consistent. The most encouraging factor has been the increase in the velocity of his high rising fastball, which was clocked at 95 mph on Tuesday against Atlanta. Oswalt said he plans to pitch in 2012, and if the Phillies don’t pick up his option, this might be a showcase for other teams to see what he has. Although there was once debate as to whether Oswalt or Worley would be the team’s fourth starter in the playoffs, Oswalt’s 5-1 post season record coupled with some solid starts down the stretch secured his spot.

If Oswalt and the other big three are at the top of their game, there won’t be much for Phillies fans to worry about starting Saturday.

Read Part 1 of the series: The starting eight

Read Part 2 of the series: The bullpen and bench

We want to hear from YOU during the playoffs. Send your videos of the playoffs to videos@philly2philly.com  and ALL your playoffs pics to info@philly2philly.com!! It doesn’t matter where they’re from, we just want them!!

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Lee photo: Andrea Kohalmi

In the meantime, Keep On Phightin'