NLCS 2010: Why Phillies Are Among Best Teams of All-Time
The MLB playoffs are in full swing, and we have already seen our fair share of memorable moments in the respective Division Series games. However, the Phillies have been the talk of October thus far, thanks to Roy Halladay's no-hitter, and their dominant sweep of the Cincinnati Reds.
The Phillies are coming off of their fourth straight NL East title, and have been to the World Series in each of the past two seasons. In this day and age of free agency, a three peat in the World Series is a legitimate dynasty, and the Phillies seem to have all the components to do just that.
So here is a look at what makes the Phillies great, and the reason that this group could very well go down as one of the best teams in the history of the National League when all is said and done, and if they take home the championship as many feel they will.
Ace Starting Pitcher Roy Halladay
In his first season in the NL, Halladay didn't miss a beat, and in fact put together what may be the best statistical season of his entire career.
His numbers speak for themselves, as he went 21-10, 2.44 ERA, 219 Ks while leading the NL in wins, complete games (9), shutouts (4), and innings pitched (250.2) as he more than lived up to his reputation as an old school workhorse pitcher.
Then came his postseason debut. After pitching 12 seasons for the Blue Jays and never seeing October baseball, Halladay was the talk of the baseball world, as he pitched a no-hitter in Game One of the NLDS, allowing just one walk and striking out eight in just the second post season no-hitter ever.
Halladay is the very definition of an ace, someone who gives his team a fantastic chance to win every time he takes the ball, and is capable of going the distance every game. With one game to win, I think he would be the guy many managers would choose to give the ball to, and the Phillies have the luxury of being able to do just that.
2008 Postseason Hero Cole Hamels
When the Diamondbacks won the World Series back in 2001, they did it on the backs of two of the game's best starters in Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, and little else.
Having two dominant starters is a proven necessity to postseasons success, and the key to the Phillies as they entered the 2010 season was whether or not Cole Hamels would bounce back from a tough 2009 season.
After a fantastic 2008 season in which Hamels went 14-10, 3.09 ERA, 196 Ks during the regular season, and 4-0 in five postseason starts en route to NLCS and World Series MVP honors, Hamels seemed ready to join the games elite.
However, his ERA spiked to 4.32 in 2009 and he went just 10-11, leading many to believe that having so much success so early had hindered the 25-year old's development. He proved the doubters wrong with another stellar season in 2010, and while his 12-11 record doesn't necessarily reflect it, he was dominant, posting a 3.06 ERA and striking out 211 in 208.2 innings.
Still the Phillies rotation was full of questions beyond Hamels, leading them to make one of the bigger moves of the season.
The Big Mid-Season Acquisition Of Roy Oswalt Completes H2O
As good of a 1-2 punch as Halladay and Hamels gave the team, the options beyond those two were less than impressive, as no one from the mix of J.A. Happ, Joe Blanton, Kyle Kendrick, or Jamie Moyer seemed capable of stepping into ever important third starter role.
So with the trade deadline approaching, the Phillies pulled the trigger on a big deal, acquiring Roy Oswalt from the Astros for the promising, young Happ and a pair of other prospects.
Oswalt, scuffling through a 6-12 season with the abysmal Astros, despite a 3.42 ERA, immediately gave the Phillies a third ace, as he went 7-1, 1.74 ERA, 73 Ks in 12 starts. That cemented the Phillies as the most dangerous starting pitching team in the NL and perhaps all of baseball come October.
The Phillies hit 166 home runs in 2010, good for the fifth highest total in the National League. However, they are capable of hitting a good deal more as they showed in 2009 when they launched a league-best 224 long balls with virtually the same starting lineup, with the only difference being Pedro Feliz at third as opposed to Placido Polanco.
Injuries to Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins during the season are part of the reason for the long ball drop-off, along with Raul Ibanez coming back down to Earth and hitting just 16 as opposed to his career best 34 last season.
Still, the Phillies boast one of the most powerful lineups in National League history, and it all starts with first baseman Ryan Howard, who became the fastest player to 250 career home runs.
Everyone in the lineup is capable of going deep, as even eighth hitter Carlos Ruiz has come into his own this season, providing punch at the bottom of the lineup.
While the power hitting gets the attention, the Phillies are more than capable of playing small ball with the best of them as well.
Despite the fact that they have so many power hitters, they had the third fewest strikeouts in the NL as a team, and that was despite the fact that both Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth were among the NL leaders in strikeouts.
That is thanks to players like Placido Polanco, who is the very definition of a number two hitter, constantly putting the ball in play, moving runners over, and making productive outs for the good of the team.
They can also steal bases, finishing with 108 total on the season, which was fourth best in the NL. That is despite the fact that notorious base stealer Jimmy Rollins missed significant time and managed just 17 steals. Joining him in double digits was Chase Utley, Werth, and Shane Victorino with a team best 34 thefts.
So while they are certainly capable of hitting home runs, they do not have to rely on the long ball like many teams with similarly stacked lineups have in the past.
As much heat as Brad Lidge has taken through the years, he has bounced back from his struggles more than once, and he did so again this year after returning from an early season injury, as he converted on 27-of-32 save opportunities and posted a solid 2.96 ERA.
Beyond Lidge, the Phillies have a handful of reliable arms that have been on the team for several years now in Chad Durbin, J.C. Romero, and Ryan Madson. Joining them was new addition Jose Contreras, who excelled in his first season as a reliever. Those four guys each made at least 55 appearances, and none had an ERA higher than 3.80.
While it may not receive the attention that some of the other aspects of the team do, the Phillies bullpen is certainly a strength of the team. The fact that their big three starters will pitch deep into their starts will leave the bullpen that much more rested and ready to go when needed.
Going back to the 2008 Phillies who won the World Series, six of the team's current everyday starters were starters on that team, and have played in six postseason series in the last two seasons.
The two who were not on the 2008 team were Raul Ibanez and Placido Polanco, both of whom have previous playoff experience and are what you would refer to as "seasoned veterans".
As for the pitching staff, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels both have significant postseason experience and have had success with a combined playoff record of 9-3 in 17 starts entering this season. The same goes for much of the Phillies bullpen with Brad Lidge, Chad Durbin, J.C. Romero, Ryan Madson, and Jose Contreras all having been to multiple playoffs.
The biggest question mark as far as experience was Roy Halladay, and he immediately put to rest any question of whether or not he would step up under the bright lights of October.
The Makings Of A Dynasty
The Phillies took home their fourth straight NL East title this season, and the core players from their lineup have been in place for the majority of the time, with minor additions made each season that have only made the team better.
With the three big starting pitchers, the majority of the bullpen, and all of the starters aside from Jayson Werth, who seems ready to hit it big with a free agent contract elsewhere, there is no reason the Phillies should not be right in the thick of things again next season.
They looked as good as a team can look in the first round, and seem well on their way to their third straight World Series trip. They are the favorite to win it right now in my mind, and I see no reason why they will not be baseball's next dynasty.