Most teams have a hard enough time finding one ace to be atop their rotation. Get two aces on the same staff and you are set up be dominant. Three aces? Basically unheard of.
So imagine the look in the eyes of the Philadelphia Phillies opponents in 2011 when they trotted out FOUR aces in a five-man rotation.
Roy Halladay was in his second season with Philadelphia. Cole Hamels was a homegrown ace coming up through the Phillies' minor league system. Roy Oswalt had been traded to the Phillies at the trade deadline in 2010 to form a great trio.
But, the big shock came when general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. surprised the entire free agent market by landing Cliff Lee, who had just been a Philly in 2009 before being traded away.
So, with four guys that any team would take to lead their rotation, the Phillies plopped little-known Vance Worley into the No. 5 spot and watched him go 11-3 in his first full season.
The stats were superlative, as you can imagine. Seventy total wins. Halladay, Lee and Hamels all had sub-3.00 ERAs, threw over 200 innings, and had an average ERA plus of 153.
But, the real intimidation factor was when the Phillies could match or beat any other team's ace by throwing Halladay on the mound. Lee was easily better than anybody's No. 2 starter. Hamels was head and shoulders above any No. 3.
And, even though Oswalt battled through some injuries, he was going against guys like Dillon Gee (New York), Chris Volstad (Florida), Jason Marquis (Washington) and Brandon Beachy (Atlanta) before he blossomed. Not fair.
However, the Phillies fell short of expectations in 2011. With pitching like that, they were the favorites to win it all. But, they bowed out in five games in the NLDS to the St. Louis Cardinals.
It still doesn't take away from the absurd talent that was assembled in the rotation.