If you were looking to pick your greatest ever Philadelphia Phillies lineup based on single-season offensive performances, where would you start?
Do Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, and Chase Utley deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Von Hayes, Juan Samuel, and Larry Bowa?
Is Chuck Klein the greatest outfielder ever? Is the past worth more the present? Is power more important than speed?
It all points to one all-encompassing question with hundreds of possibilities: Which Phillie had the greatest offensive season at his position?
Major League Baseball has been asking fans this same question in an effort to choose each team's best-ever collection of stars.
They are calling it MLB 9s.
Here I have separated the contenders from the pretenders in an effort to pick my dream Philadelphia lineup.
My other MLB 9s you might want to check out are:
Catcher: Stan Lopata (1956)
Lopata made the most of being the Phillies’ undisputed first-choice backstop in 1956 when he hit a career-high 32 home runs.
After playing second fiddle to Andy Seminick and Smoky Burgess for each of the previous eight seasons, Lopata finally got a chance to flash the signs for Philadelphia in ’56 despite Seminick starting the year behind the plate.
Lopata scored 96 runs and drove in 95, batting .267 over the course of 535 at-bats.
He was rewarded with a trip to the All-Star game and a scattering of MVP votes, and he ranked inside the NL top 10 in a host of offensive categories including doubles (33, second), extra-base hits (72, third), total bases (286, eighth), and walks (75, 10th).
His 32 home runs—which ranked eighth in the National League—are the most ever by a Phillies’ catcher. His 96 runs scored is also a franchise record at the position.
Highlight Game: May 13, 1956 at Pittsburgh. Lopata single-handedly beat the Pirates, going 4-for-5 with two home runs, two doubles, and four RBI.
Lopata went yard against Dick Hill in the second and fourth innings, powering the Phillies to a comfortable 7-2 victory in the nightcap of a double-header.
Lopata finished with three runs and a dozen total bases in one of four multi-home run games of the season.
Competition: Long-time Phillies’ catcher Mike Lieberthal batted .300 with 31 home runs and 96 RBI in 1999, and Darren Daulton drove in 105 runs in 1993.
Spud Davis batted .336 and hit 14 home runs in just 125 games back in 1932, and Bernito Santiago hit 30 homers and recorded 85 RBI in 1996.
First Base: Ryan Howard (2006)
MVP Howard led all of baseball with 58 home runs, 149 RBI, and 383 total bases in 2006.
No other first baseman in Phillies’ history has hit more homers or driven in more runs than Howard, who won his first Silver Slugger award and represented the National League at the All-Star game.
Just 12 months after winning the Rookie of the Year trophy, Howard batted .313 with 108 walks, 104 runs, and a 1.084 on-base plus slugging (OPS) percentage.
Highlight Game: September 3, 2006 vs. Atlanta. Howard hit three home runs in a dominant 4-for-4 outing to see the Phillies past the Braves 8-7.
Howard went deep in the second, third, and sixth inning, helping Charlie Manuel’s men run out to a 6-0 lead. Atlanta rallied to tie the game late, but Bob Wickman gave up the game in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the ninth.
It is Howard’s only three-home run showing of his young career. Also of note from the 2006 season was the two-homer, seven RBI night he posted in a losing effort against the New York Yankees on June 20.
Competition: Jim Thome’s 2003 season was Howard’s closest rival. Thome hit 47 home runs and drove in 131 runs, although he only batted .266—almost 50 points lower than the current Phillies first baseman.
Von Hayes had a well-rounded 1986 season with 19 homers, 107 runs, 98 RBI, 24 steals, and a .305 average, but it is just too hard to overlook Howard’s power. It’s scary to think he was only 26 at the time.
Don Hurst receives an honorable mention for his 1932 season when he led the NL with 143 RBI and finished seventh in the MVP race. He hit 24 home runs and batted .339—the second most by any Phillies’ first baseman in history.
Second Base: Chase Utley (2008)
You can take your pick of any of Utley’s last five seasons and make the case that it was the best ever offensive season by a second baseman.
MLB.com selected 2006 for its shortlist, and a look at his OPS+ statistics would suggest 2007 was his best year. I am ignoring them both and picking 2008.
In 2008 Utley hit 33 home runs with 104 RBI, 113 runs, 14 steals, and a .292 batting average. It marked the fourth consecutive year that he finished with triple-digit RBI totals.
While Utley did not lead the league in any offensive category other than the amount of times hit by a pitch, he ranked inside the top 10 in total bases (325, sixth), doubles (41, 10th), runs scored (113, fifth), and extra-base hits (78, fifth).
He also won his third consecutive Silver Slugger award, started the All-Star game for the National League, and, most importantly for Phillies’ fans, helped his team win the 2008 World Championship.
Highlight Game: April 20, 2008 vs. New York Mets. Utley terrorized the Mets on their first trip to the City of Brotherly Love in 2008. After hitting home runs in each of the team’s first two games in the series, Utley hit a pair of jacks in the finale—a 5-4 victory.
He finished the game 3-for-3 with four RBI, two runs, and a walk.
It was Utley’s second multi-homer game of the month and marked his fourth and fifth home runs in four days.
Competition: Juan Samuel had arguably the best season of his career with the Phillies in 1987. He hit a career-high 28 home runs, broke the 100-RBI plateau for the first and only time, and led the NL with 15 triples.
He also swiped 35 bags and scored 113 runs, but he also led the league in strikeouts (162) for the fourth straight season.
Third Base: Dick Allen (1966)
Unlike second base, there was real competition at the hot corner between Allen and Mike Schmidt.
In 1966 a 24-year-old Allen hit 40 home runs and led the National League with a .632 slugging percentage.
He batted an admirable .317, scored 112 runs, and drove in 110 batters. He also hit 10 triples and stole 10 bases, represented the NL as a reserve at the All-Star game, and finished fourth in the regular season MVP vote behind Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax, and Willie Mays.
His 40 home runs rank third all-time among Philadelphia third basemen, while his 112 runs rank third. As much as he did as a player with his 44-ounce bat, Allen will be remembered just as much for combating racism in the sport and for his controversial demeanor.
He is one of the best players never to make it to Cooperstown.
Highlight Game: August 1, 1966 vs. Houston. I have spent hours researching baseball players, games, and moments over the last few months, but I had never came across this before.
In the bottom of the 10th inning in a game at home to the Astros, Allen hit a walk-off inside-the-park home run to give the Phillies a 6-5 victory.
What makes this game even more memorable was that Jimmy Wynn, the lead-off hitter for Houston, was caught trying to steal home with two away in the top of the inning.
Competition: While Allen’s invitation to the Hall of Fame must have got lost in the mail, Mike Schmidt’s certainly did not.
Schmidt’s 1980 season was as good as you will see: 48 home runs, 121 RBI, a .624 slugging percentage, Gold Glove award, Silver Slugger trophy, All-Star selection, and the title of league’s Most Valuable Player.
Discounting his defense, this was still an outstanding season which also featured 104 runs, 12 swipes, and a .286 batting average.
Oh, and a World Series ring, in case you forgot. No? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Every other third baseman worth mentioning is really just an “also ran”. Google Scott Rolen and Don Demeter in you really want more information.
Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins (2007)
Power? Check. Speed? Check? Best offensive season by any Phillies shortstop? Check.
Rollins’ clockwork-like consistency earned him an MVP trophy in 2007, as he shone at the top of a potent Philadelphia lineup.
The shortstop never missed a beat—or a game—running rings around the National League both literally and figuratively.
Rollins batted leadoff for the Phillies in 139 games, filling in at the No. 3 hole in the other 23 games when Ryan Howard missed time, predominantly with a quadriceps injury.
As a result of his durability, Rollins racked up a league-leading 139 runs and 20 triples. He also hit 30 home runs, batted in 94 runs, and stole 41 bases.
His home run, RBI, and run totals are the most by any Phillies shortstop ever. His 41 steals ranks third behind the 47 bases he swiped one year later and the 46 he stole in 2001 as a rookie.
Highlight Game: June 6, 2007 at New York Mets. Rollins is another Phillie who knows how the torment the Mets. On June 6, he showed them just why Philadelphia is the team to beat.
He went 3-for-4 with a home run, three RBI, two steals, and a walk in a 4-2 victory. With the Mets leading 2-0 in the seventh inning, J-Roll hit a deep fly ball down the right field line off Aaron Heilman to give the Phillies a lead they would never relinquish.
Competition: Opponents are few and far between in all honesty. Larry Bowa stole 27 bases and batted .294 in 1978 and Granny Hamner hit 17 home runs and drove in 87 runs in 1952.
Rollins is not just a long way ahead of his rivals, but you can make the case that he had as good a season as any Phillies’ infielder in history.
Outfield: Chuck Klein (1933)
Hall of Fame Charles Klein looked like the real deal from the very beginning when he joined the Phillies from the farm system as a 23-year-old in 1928.
By the time 1933 had ended and Klein had finished his fifth full season in the majors, he had developed into the franchise stud everyone had expected.
After finishing second in the MVP ballot to Frankie Frish in 1931, Klein went one better in ’32.
He led the National League in home runs (38), runs (152), hits (226), and stolen bases (20), while collecting 20 doubles, 15 triples, and a .348 batting average.
This set the table for his Triple Crown year of 1933 when he batted .368 with 28 home runs and 120 RBI. He also led the league in hits and doubles and swiped 15 bases.
Highlight Game: May 26, 1933 at St. Louis. Klein hit for the cycle in a 5-4 loss to the Cardinals. After recording a single, double, and triple earlier in the game, Klein hit himself into the record books with a 13th-inning solo home run off Dizzy Dean.
Despite the rare feat, his efforts could not pick up the rest of the team, as the Phillies lost and remained in the bottom of the NL.
Ed Delahanty (1899)
Pick any one of his 11 full seasons in Philadelphia and you wont go wrong.
He led the National League in home runs in 1893 and 1896, stole a league-high 58 bases in 1898, and won a batting title with a .410 average in 1899.
MLB shortlisted his 1901 season for consideration, although I think there are at least three better years they could have selected. I went for 1899.
Delahanty’s .410 average is the 17th highest in the history of baseball, the sixth best clip ever recorded in the National League, and the second best batting average in Philadelphia franchise history behind switch-hitting Tuck Turner.
“Big Ed” also hit 55 doubles, a league high, and batted in 137 runs. His .582 slugging percentage was the best in baseball, as was his 338 total bases and gaudy 1.046 OPS.
Highlight Game: According to Wikipedia, Delahanty hit four doubles in the same game, becoming—and remaining—the only man with a four-homer game to his credit to also have a game in which he hit four doubles.
In 1899 Delahanty also collected hits in 10 consecutive at-bats.
Bobby Abreu (2004)
While Gavvy Cravath probably deserves this third outfield spot, I am sticking with my bias toward the modern era and going with Abreu.
I think anyone who hits .300 with 30 home runs, 100 RBI, and 40 steals automatically deserves, at the very least, extensive consideration.
Abreu actually posted a line of .301, 30 homers, 105 RBI, 118 runs, and 40 steals.
The right-fielder went to his first All-Star game and won his first Silver Slugger award, although he did not lead the NL in any offensive categories.
He finished 23rd in the MVP voting, although I believe you could make the case that he deserved to be much higher—at least on a par with Jeff Kent, who finished 10 places above him.
While he does not lead Phillie outfielders in franchise records, I think his all-round season is deserving of a place on this list. His 127 walks ranks third all-time among Philadelphia batters.
Highlight Game: July 8, 2004 vs. New York Mets. Abreu is another name whose highlight game as a Phillie came against the Mets
Abreu finished 4-for-5 with three RBI, two doubles, a steal, and a walk-off home run. His game-winning blast came against John Franco leading off the bottom of the ninth inning.
Competition: I will finally show some love for Cravath who had three of the best consecutive seasons with the bat of any player around the time of World War I.
Cravath led the league in home runs in 1913, 1914, and 1915, and he recorded more RBI over that three-year span than any other batter in the game.
Cy Williams and Greg Luzinski hit 41 and 39 home runs in 1923 and 1977 respectively, Pat Burrell launched 37 with 116 RBI in 2002, and Lefty O’Doul batted .398 with 32 home runs and 152 runs in 1929.
Pitcher: Rick Wise (1971)
There is not really a great deal between the best offensive seasons of the top Philadelphia pitchers.
Wise wins out because of his six home runs, the most by any Phillie hurler, and 14 runs scored, in spite of his .237 average.
Highlight Game: Aug. 28, 1971 vs. San Francisco. Wise went 2-for-3 with a solo home run in the fifth inning and a grand slam in the bottom of the seventh.
The Phillies won the second game of the double-header 7-3 and Wise notched his second multi-home run game of the season.
Competition: Ken Brett hit four home runs and recorded 16 RBI in 1973, Wayland Dean batted .265 with 19 RBI in 1926, and Steve Carlton drove in 15 men with three home runs and a .268 average in 1977.