25 Most Intimidating Strikeout Pitchers in Philadelphia Phillies History
We can debate the things that make a pitcher great until we're all blue in the face, but one fact that cannot be denied is that pitchers capable of striking out hitters in bunches are off to a good start on the road to greatness.
Do strikeout pitchers always pan out? No, of course not. The chances of making it to the Major League is slim, let alone each and every pitcher who can strike a batter out with relative ease becoming a big league player.
But great pitchers tend to be strikeout pitchers. It's really not as complex as it seems. The better the pitches, the tougher they are to hit. The tougher they are to hit, the more likely it is for a hitter to strike out.
Certain pitchers, however, do it with style. Some strikeout pitchers are intimidating.
So what makes a pitcher intimidating? Well, the Philadelphia Phillies have plenty of examples in their history. Some pitchers, like Roy Halladay, are so good they're intimidating. Some guys have reputations for being intimidating. Steve Carlton comes to mind.
Some pitchers have the look, like Mitch Williams' mullet, and some guys do a whole routine, like Jonathan Papelbon.
But they're fun to watch.
The Phillies don't have a ton of great, intimidating strikeout pitchers, but they have a few, and some of the names are kind of surprising. But that's what keeps it interesting.
Remember! There is a balance between being both "intimidating" and a "strikeout pitcher" involved in these rankings, so make sure to keep that in mind as you move forward!
For the Record...
I didn't consider a player to be a "strikeout pitcher" just because they were among the Phillies' all-time leaders in strikeouts.
The perfect example is Robin Roberts. The big right-handed starter is second all-time in strikeouts for the Phillies with 1,871.
But was Roberts a "strikeout pitcher"? I don't think so. He also spent 14 years with the Phillies, faced more than 15,000 batters, and never posted a K/9 mark of better than 5.2.
All of the players on this list have shown a proficiency for the strikeout in some way, shape, or form. That's why you'll see some interesting names listed in the lower half of this list while players like Roberts and Pete Alexander were excluded.
So please keep that in mind moving forward.
25. Mac Scarce
Mac Scarce has that dubious baseball distinction of being better remembered as part of a trade than for what he did on the field.
While he would spend three pretty good seasons in Philadelphia, the Phillies would eventually trade him to the New York Mets as part of the package for Tug McGraw.
But for three seasons, Scarce was a pretty reliable reliever. He appeared in 62 games, winning five and posting an ERA of 3.65.
24. Jose Mesa
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Jose Mesa doesn't exactly have the greatest reputation here in Philadelphia, but then again, he wasn't exactly the greatest closer in the world either, despite being the Phillies' all-time leader in saves.
Of course, not many of those were "quality saves" anyway.
But Joe Table did have his moments. He posted sub-three ERAs in each of his first two seasons with the Phillies before tanking in 2003. He'd make a brief return in 2007 but wasn't any better.
23. Mat Beech
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If the name Matt Beech rings a bell but you can't place him as a member of the Phillies, that's not very surprising.
The left-handed pitcher is probably most well known for an incident that occurred in the independent Atlantic League back in 2007 when he was pitching as a member of the Bridgeport Bluefish.
Beech hit 12 batters MLB batters as a member of the Phillies, but none of them ever attacked him with a baseball bat like Jose Offerman did after being plunked during a game in '07. Beech broke his finger and Offerman was suspended indefinitely. (Of course, he'd later be banned for life in a different league, for a different reason).
Back to Beech.
The left-handed pitcher was a seventh round draft choice by the Phillies in 1994 and played with the club for three seasons from 1996-98. The numbers weren't very good, but the hard throwing lefty had a funky delivery that made him tough against left-handed batters, thus, the good strikeout numbers.
22. Jeff Parrett
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Jeff Parrett was one of those pitchers that was "largely average."
He wasn't really known for any one thing in particular and never became much of a household name, but Parrett was a solid relief option for the Phillies over parts of three seasons.
With a name like "Parrett" though, I just can't help comparing him to a pirate. You can't tell me with a straight face that he doesn't look the part, and that makes him intimidating in and of itself.
Parrett quietly won 17 games and posted an ERA of 3.71 for the Phillies.
21. Jack Baldschun
Believe it or not, Jack Baldschun was once traded for Frank Robinson. Of course, the Phillies were long out of the picture by then.
The Phillies drafted Baldschun out of the Minnesota Twins' organization in the 1960 Rule 5 Draft. He'd go on to spend five seasons in Philadelphia and they were good ones.
Baldschun won 39 games and posted a 3.18 ERA before the Phillies traded him to the Baltimore Orioles.
20. Jack Meyer
Jack Meyer isn't a household name, but he was one heck of a reliever for the Phillies in the latter portion of the 1950s.
Signed as an amateur free agent in 1951, Meyer would go on to make his MLB debut in 1955, finishing second in the league's Rookie of the Year voting to St. Louis' Bill Virdon.
In total, Meyer spent seven seasons with the Phillies. He won 24 games and posted an ERA of 3.92.
Meyer, who had a history of heart problems, was forced to retire prematurely and would pass away of a heart related issue at the age of 34.
19. Wayne Twitchell
Wayne Twitchell was a former first round pick by the Houston Astros, so the potential was always there.
But teams were giving up on him fairly easily and the Phillies scooped him up for next to nothing in 1971 when they sent minor league pitcher Pat Skrable to the Milwaukee Brewers for his services.
It turned out to be a pretty good investment for the Phillies as Twitchell would go on to spend parts of seven seasons with the organization. He won 33 games and posted an ERA of 3.57 before he was traded to the Montreal Expos in 1977.
18. Vance Worley
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The back end of this list is kind of thin for the simple fact that despite being around since 1883, the Phillies haven't had a whole lot of pitchers that qualify as both "dominant" and "intimidating."
Sounds kind of funny given the current state of their starting rotation and in that mindset, I'm going to go with a bit of an underrated pitcher on a list like this in Vance Worley.
Of course, this is just Worley's second full season as a starting pitcher, which certainly doesn't work in his favor, but I like the "intimidation factor" that he brings to the table.
He's also been a solid strikeout pitcher. After posting marks above eight in both of his first seasons in the MLB, Worley's K/9 has dipped to 7.1 in 2012—still a respectable mark.
17. Robert Person
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Don't laugh. This is a serious selection.
Robert Person kind of has a bad reputation in the city of Philadelphia, but upon closer inspection, his Phillies tenure wasn't nearly half as bad as some people make it out to be.
The Phillies acquired Person from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for left-handed pitcher Paul Spoljaric in May of 1999 and eventually worked his way into the starting rotation.
Believe it or not, he would develop into one of the club's most consistent starting pitchers, at least as far as strikeouts goes, after his arrival. (But that probably speaks more for the state of the Phillies' starting rotation at the time.)
Person was a solid option. Over just under four seasons, he'd win 38 games and post an ERA of 4.23.
He was also intimidating at the plate, where he hit four home runs—two of which came in one game.
16. Roy Oswalt
Now a member of the Texas Rangers, it's pretty clear that Roy Oswalt is on his last leg. But this was one of the game's better strikeout pitchers as the ace of the Houston Astros and the Phillies saw some of that after acquiring him in 2010.
Acquired for the playoff push during that '10 season, Oswalt helped spark the Phillies' rotation down the stretch going 7-1 while striking out just under eight batters per nine innings.
He faded quite a bit in an injury plagued 2011 season and that brought his total K/9 as a Phillie down quite a bit.
What made Oswalt intimidating was a combination of his repertoire and delivery. Believe it or not, Oswalt had an excellent fastball in the not so distant past and his delivery makes him appear as though he's "leaping" at hitters.
He also has a ridiculous, knee-buckling curveball.
He's probably an underrated suggestion on a list like this, but a guy that came to mind right away for me.
15. Brett Myers
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Nowadays, Brett Myers looks like a raging lunatic with that facial hair that he has probably been growing since he left the Phillies, but the right-handed pitcher was a better strikeout threat in his days in Philadelphia.
So that's the trade-off.
Myers' story was an interesting one with the Phillies. He was a top prospect that arrived in the MLB as a starter, eventually became the club's closer, and then became a starter again.
One thing that he did regardless of when he was on the mound was rack up the strikeouts.
People probably don't give Myers enough credit for his body of work with the Phillies. In eight seasons, he won 73 games, saved 21 more, and posted an ERA of 4.40.
14. Steve Bedrosian
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The numbers didn't always say so, but Steve Bedrosian was a good arm to have available at the back end of any bullpen.
One of just handful of relievers to ever win a Cy Young Award, Bedrosian had the tough, rugged look that made relievers intimidating in the 1980s. He also had the potential to dominate an inning.
Though he spent just under four seasons in Philadelphia, Bedrosian 103 games and posted an ERA of 3.29 for the Phillies.
13. Al Holland
Al Holland had some big shoes to fill.
The Phillies had recently won the World Series with Tug McGraw and Ron Reed in the back of their bullpen, but now that their careers were winding down, the Phillies needed to hand the reigns off to a new pitcher and Holland was the guy.
The Phillies had acquired him from the San Francisco Giants in the deal that also brought Joe Morgan to town prior to the 1983 season and it paid off big time.
Holland would spend three seasons with the Phillies winning 13 games, saving 55 more, and posting an ERA of 2.88.
More importantly, with all of that crazy facial hair, he just looked like a closer.
12. Dick Selma
Dick Selma is a name that slips through the Phillies history books.
As the return for the deal that sent Johnny Callison to the Chicago Cubs in 1969, Selma had some big shoes to fill in replacing Callison, who was arguably the face of the Phillies franchise throughout the 1960s.
But he stormed right onto the scene in 1970 as the club's closer, saving 22 games and posting an ERA of 2.75.
Selma would go on to spend a total of four seasons in Philadelphia, including a brief conversion to starting pitching that didn't work out so well. He saved just four more games following his debut season with the club in 1970 and posted an ERA of 3.93.
11. Jim Bunning
Getting Jim Bunning from the Detroit Tigers before the 1964 season would go on to become one of the best trades in the history of the Phillies franchise.
Acquired before the '64 season along with catcher Gus Triandos, the pair would go on to make their presence known almost immediately when they teamed up on Fathers Day and Bunning threw a perfect game.
But Bunning made striking hitters out look easy in his six seasons as a Phillie. He also won 89 games and posted 2.93 ERA over that stretch.
As far as the intimidation factor is concerned, I think it's always in a hitter's mind when he knows that he is facing a pitcher who has tossed a perfect game.
10. Mitch Williams
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Mitch Williams was what you would call "effectively wild" for the Phillies.
Acquired from the Chicago Cubs in April of 1991, Williams would go on to become the Phillies' closer, and a good one at that.
I'm still not sure how he did it.
Williams punched out 218 batters—an impressive number for a guy who's tenure in Philadelphia was relegated to three years and 231 innings. He also managed to walk 170 batters during his time with the Phillies, something that I find impressive in the opposite way.
With that being said, Williams certainly played the closer's part. He had the wild hair, the crazy windup, and left everything he had between the lines.
I recently had an opportunity to speak with Mitch Williams on a variety of Phillies related issues. You can check that out here.
9. Ryan Madson
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Who would have thought that Ryan Madson would have gone on to become one of the game's best relievers after the way his career started?
A solid prospect in the Phillies' system as a starting pitcher, Madson got knocked around a bit upon his arriving in MLB.
His problem was pretty clear. He had a good fastball, but he wasn't going to be able to fool hitters with his big, looping curveball. So he scrapped it.
The Phillies moved him to the bullpen and Madson developed one of the game's better changeups which helped him to become a dominant force in the back end of the bullpen.
After saving 52 games and posting a 3.59 ERA as a Phillie, Madson hit the free agent market as one of the game's top closers following the 2011 season, but was forced to settle on a one-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds.
He has missed the entire 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in spring training and, more likely than not, will re-enter the free agent market prior to the 2013 campaign.
I'm giving Madson a lot of credit for his last few seasons as a late-innings reliever because he was very good. From 2009-11, Madson posted a K/9 of 9.7.
8. Cliff Lee
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Pitchers normally begin to decline as they age, but the Phillies have a pair of pitchers largely going in the opposite direction (assuming that you're willing to give Roy Halladay the benefit of the doubt in 2012).
The other man is Cliff Lee and I know that a lot of you are laughing at the thought of Lee "getting better" with a record of 3-7.
Well I hate the win statistic. It's arbitrary and I won't be satisfied until it is used as nothing more than a reference to how successful a pitcher's team has helped him become in any given season.
Now, with that out of the way, we can address Lee—who really has become an elite strikeout pitcher as a member of the Phillies.
The man is fearless. He goes out and pounds the strike zone with quality pitches—and considering that he does so without an overpowering fastball—that's pretty impressive.
In his first three seasons with the Phillies, Lee has posted a K/9 mark of 8.4, 9.2, and 8.7, respectively. This coming from a pitcher who would rather have hitters put the ball in play.
I think it's safe to say that the transformation to strikeout pitcher is complete.
7. Jonathan Papelbon
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After debating for a while about whether or not it was too soon to add Jonathan Papelbon to this list, I decided that there was one factor that gave him the edge and pushed me to one side of the fence—the level of intimidation.
The more I think about it, the clearer it becomes that no one in the history of this franchise did / does the whole intimidation shtick better than the Phillies' current closer.
Sure, it hasn't even been a full season yet, but the strikeouts are there for Papelbon, who's K/9 mark of 11.1 is second only to Antonio Bastardo on the Phillies' roster this season.
If I was a betting man, I would think it's safe to say that he'll be padding those numbers over the next three to four seasons.
6. Roy Halladay
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Roy Halladay is intimidating because he does what he wants, when he wants to do it, when he's out on the mound.
The Phillies acquired him from the Toronto Blue Jays prior to the 2010 season and the outstanding repertoire has been on display ever since. Of course, he has the famous cutter. But he's also developed a number of other pitches, including the sinker, curveball, and changeup, that have helped to make hitters look silly.
But even then, in a lot of ways, Halladay is kind of a surprise on a list like this. He's the kind of pitcher that would rather pitch to contact and get outs that way. If a strikeout happens, it happens.
It's happened often for Halladay, who already has well over 500 strikeouts in less than three full seasons with the Phillies.
5. Brad Lidge
Calling Brad Lidge's tenure with the Phillies a "roller coaster ride" would be a drastic understatement.
I'm not sure that the turnaround has ever been worse for a Phillies pitcher in a pair of seasons than it was for Lidge from '08-'09. After pitching a "perfect season" as a closer and helping the Phillies win the World Series in '08, Lidge was abysmal in '09.
The rest of his contract didn't play out much better.
But the one thing that remained consistent for Lidge throughout the duration of his contract was his strikeout rate. Sure, the fastball velocity dipped and he couldn't stay healthy, but one of the game's better sliders kept him in the mind of the opposition.
He used that (once lethal) fastball combination to record 228 strikeouts as a Phillie before they let him walk in free agency following the 2011 season.
Lidge saved an even 100 games and posted an ERA of 3.73 with the Phillies.
4. Cole Hamels
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Cole Hamels' evolution as a pitcher in the Phillies' organization has been a fun one to watch.
Drafted out of high school in 2002, Hamels went from being a teenage draft pick, to a top prospect, to greenhorn starter in 2006, to World Series MVP in 2008, and finally, to one of the game's elite starting pitchers here in 2012.
Without a doubt, it has been the fastball / changeup combination that has made him so lethal out on the mound.
If Hamels doesn't have the best changeup in baseball right now, he's certainly close to the top of the list. Paired with a fastball that natural has natural, arm-side run and a cutter that moves in the opposite direction, it isn't hard to see why Hamels has been so dominant.
Now signed through at least the 2018 season, the only pitcher on the all-time strikeout board that seems to be out of Hamels' reach is Steve Carlton, who holds the all-time mark for the Phillies at 3,031.
But then again, even that could be possible for Hamels.
3. Billy Wagner
Billy Wagner's Phillies career lasted all of two seasons, but they were two of the most dominating seasons of any reliever in the history of this franchise.
Acquired from the Houston Astros prior to the 2004 season, Wagner wasn't fond of his time in Philly and split via free agency for the New York Mets following the 2005 season.
He's not going to win any fan appreciation awards in Philly, but it's hard to forget just how good he was with the Phils.
Wagner saved 59 games and posted an ERA of 1.86 over a two-year span thanks to that fastball that sat around 100mph with ease and a wicked slider.
2. Curt Schilling
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Curt Schilling was one of the most prolific strikeout pitchers in the history of the Phillies.
He never brought them the World Series that the fans so desperately desired (despite coming as close as anyone could in 1993), but that didn't stop Schilling from going on to become one of greatest pitchers in the history of this organization.
A three-time All-Star, Schilling led the league in strikeouts twice as a Phillie, posting marks north of 300 each time.
Schilling is one of just four pitchers in the history of this franchise to record more than 1,500 strikeouts and currently sits fourth on the Phillies' all-time strikeouts list.
He won 101 games and posted a 3.35 ERA before he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks during the 2000 season.
1. Steve Carlton
Like most great pitchers throughout the game's history, Steve Carlton probably would have preferred to be more of a contact pitcher than he actually was. When guys are putting the ball in play and making outs, it helps keep a pitcher fresh and allows him to pitch longer into ball games.
But Carlton's "stuff" was just too good. There were times where he was so un-hittable that he couldn't pay a hitter to make contact with his offerings. He could just become a strikeout pitcher whenever he wanted.
Carlton had one of the best fastballs in the game and just kept adding new breaking balls to his arsenal as he progressed, most famously the slider and eventually, the curveball.
Longevity helped Carlton reach 4,136 strikeouts for his career—fourth all-time.