C'mon Philadelphia, please put down the Michael Vick Kool-Aid...just for a second. We're talkin' baseball right now.
For years, the Phillies have relied heavily on their “Big Three” to win games; the “Big Three,” of course, being the trio of homegrown studs (Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard) the Phillies have featured in their daily lineup for the past several years .
Sure, that “Big Three” is still pretty good. But over the final two months of the 2010 campaign, the Phillies have made it to the brink of the postseason on the strength of a different kind of big three: the kind of big three that occupies their starting rotation.
Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt. Game-set-match.
That three-man rotation is pretty good. But is it the greatest 1-2-3 rotation punch in Phillies history? Let’s count down and find out.
In 2003, the final season at Veterans Stadium, the Phillies featured a terrific starting rotation—for most of the season at least. The club finished 86-76 after coughing up the Wild Card in the final week of the season.
Kevin Millwood (14-12, 4.01) was a workhorse in his first season in Philly, hurling 222 innings while pitching the Phillies' first no-hitter in a dozen years. Too bad the former Brave faded in September when his team needed him the most.
Randy Wolf (16-10, 4.00) had the best season of his career. 2003 marks his only All-Star selection and the only time in his career that he has won more than 12 games in a season.
Vicente Padilla (14-12, 3.62) won 14 games for the second straight season with the Phils. He was very effective but never enjoyable to watch pitch.
Note: A promising youngster named Brett Myers went 13-8 in his first full season in the bigs as the club’s fourth starter.
The ’93 Phillies didn’t catch lightning in a bottle. They caught it in a thimble.
How the hell did they start the season 45-17 en route to 97 regular-season wins? How the hell did their lineup stay virtually injury-free all season (except for Dave Hollins)? How the hell did they beat the vaunted Braves in the NLCS?
At least now we know what got into Lenny Dykstra that year.
Curt Schilling (16-7, 4.04) had a great first full year in the Phils rotation, and by October, began staking his claim as one of the greatest big-game pitchers in baseball history.
Terry Mulholland (12-9, 3.25), the consistent, veteran lefty would have finished with way over 200 innings had he not missed five starts with injury.
Tommy Greene (16-4, 3.42) epitomized the Phillies 1993 season. He won the clinching game of the NLCS, beating Greg Maddux at the Vet. Following ’93, Greene won just two big-league games, as injuries forced him to retire after 1997 at age 30.
Oh it seems like yesterday. 92 regular-season wins, and 11 more unforgettable victories in the postseason. Gotta love it.
Cole Hamels (14-10, 3.09) was awesome all year. Honestly, this author has grown tired of hearing people say he was only great in the playoffs during 2008. It’s just not true.
In ’08, Hamels led the NL in WHIP and finished second in innings pitched, sixth in strikeouts, and tied for fifth in ERA. As for run support, well, Hamels pitched 10 games in 2008 in which he gave up two earned runs or less and did not get a win. 10!!!
He was an ace, even if the record didn’t show it.
Brett Myers (10-13, 4.55) was horrible during the first half of the season, but after spending most of July in the minors, Brett pitched lights-out for the final two months of ’08 and was a major reason why the Phillies rallied to win the NL East again. He even showed a keen eye and clutch bat during the 2008 postseason as well.
Jamie Moyer (16-7, 3.71) led the staff in wins, as it seemed like the Phillies scored 12 runs in every game he pitched.
The ’76 Phils dominated the division, winning the NL East by nine games in a 101-61 season. Yet, they were swept in the NLCS by the Big Red Machine, who then swept the Yankees in the Fall Classic.
Steve Carlton (20-7, 3.13) enjoyed his second of five 20-win seasons with the Phils. Ho hum. He threw 13 complete games during ’76. Again, ho hum.
Jim Lonborg (18-10, 3.08) certainly wasn’t dominant, but still very effective. He walked just 50 in 222 innings in ’76.
Jim Kaat (12-14, 3.47) didn’t get much run support, even though the Phils finished second in the NL in runs scored. The 37-year-old southpaw still pitched 228 innings and walked just 32.
No, the 1980 Phils are not represented on this list, but the great Phillie teams from the '70s sure are. This Phillies juggernaut won the East with 101 wins once again, but lost in the NLCS to the Dodgers.
Steve Carlton (23-10, 2.64) won his second of four Cy Young awards with the Phillies. Yeah, having him as the ace of a staff was nice a nice luxury for the Phils to have. Every fourth day was “win day.”
Larry Christenson (19-6, 4.07) had a career year. Ironically, L.C. lowered his ERA to 3.24 in ’78, but saw his record dip to 13-14 (nice uniform?).
Jim Lonborg (11-4, 4.10) had a great record and pitched 158 innings, despite missing about 10 starts during the season due to injury.
One of the most beloved Phillies teams ever upset the powerhouse Brooklyn Dodgers and clinched the pennant on the final day of the season with a 91-63 record. Although the “Whiz Kids” were swept by the Yankees in the World Series, their starting rotation was one to remember.
Robin Roberts (RIP) (20-11, 3.02) led the league in starts with 39, threw 304 innings, and pitched a 10-inning complete game victory over Brooklyn in the season finale, leading the Phillies to the pennant.
Curt Simmons (17-8, 3.39) would have finished with even better numbers had he not been called into military service in September 1950 due to the outbreak of the Korean War. The Phils really could have used him against the Yanks.
Bob Miller (11-6, 3.57) was a tremendous surprise for the Phillies in his rookie season. He wound up pitching in over 260 games for the Phils over the course of the decade.
The Phillies reached the World Series for the first time, winning the NL with a 90-62 record. Unfortunately, they lost to the Red Sox, 4-1.
Grover Cleveland Alexander (31-10, 1.22) had the greatest season of any pitcher in Phillies history, bar none. He led the NL in wins, innings, complete games, strikeouts, shutouts, opponent’s batting average, and ERA, and even beat the Red Sox in Game 1 of the World Series, 4-1.
Erskine Mayer (21-15, 2.36) was a solid and valuable No. 2 behind Alexander, and even made 10 relief appearances during the year.
Eppa Rixey (11-12, 2.39) had a nice year despite receiving poor run support. Perhaps he and Cole Hamels will have a conversation about that subject in the afterlife some day.
Forget about 1964. The Phillies had an absolutely awesome 1-2-3 punch of a rotation in 1965. The Phils went 85-76 during the season, but still finished in sixth place in the NL standings.
Jim Bunning (19-9, 2.60) finished fifth in the NL in ERA and fourth in strikeouts. In 291 innings, the Hall of Famer struck out 260 while walking just 62.
Chris Short (18-11, 2.82) is one of the most underrated pitchers in Phillies history. He and Bunning each struck out over 200 hitters during ’65. It would be 45 long years before another pair of Phillies starters eclipsed the 200 K mark in a season (Halladay and Hamels in 2010).
Ray Culp (14-10, 3.22) was a big-time surprise in ’65, finishing with 11 complete games (Bunning and Short each had 15).
Sure, baseball has changed a lot in the last 123 years, but these guys were amazing by anyone’s standards. They each finished with over 20 wins, and over 30 complete games, in helping the Phillies to a second-place finish in the NL at 75-48, while allowing the fewest runs of any pitching staff in baseball.
You think any one of these guys gave a damn about pitch counts?
Dan Casey (28-13, 2.86) led the majors in ERA and finished with the third-most wins in the NL. The lefty completed all but two of his 45 starts during the season in pitching 390 total innings. No, his arm didn’t fall off during the offseason.
Charlie Ferguson (22-10, 3.00), pictured here, finished third in the league in ERA, but the righty only threw 31 complete games during the season.
Charlie Buffinton (21-17, 3.66) threw 332 innings and was a solid third starter for the Phillies.
No surprise here.
What makes this rotation so great is the fact that all three of these starters are more or less equally good right now. Really.
It’s not like you have one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history (e.g. Grover Cleveland Alexander or Steve Carlton) and then a few nice starters behind him. No, it’s not like that in 2010.
In Halladay-Hamels-Oswalt, you legitimately have three aces. Any one of these guys could be the best of the three at any given time, but you know the other two starters are almost just as great.
You can’t go wrong with any of them as your “ace.”
As I said in the opening slide, Philly fans have a lot to look forward to. Like, we already know that Michael Vick will lead the Eagles to a victory in Super Bowl XLV come the first week of February 2011. Book it.
But in the more immediate future, we know that the Phillies' new "Big Three" have a great chance to do something special come October.