The Phillies free-agent signing of starting pitcher Cliff Lee sent shockwaves throughout the country. Lee was supposed to bolt to the Yankees or stay with the Rangers. In the biggest swerve of the offseason, Lee decided to return to the City of Brotherly Love.
Philadelphia already had the Big Three of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. Now it's the Big Four, or whatever moniker you desire, with the addition of Lee.
So now, the expectations are through the roof. Many questions have been proposed. Can each individual pitcher win 20-plus games? Who's better, Lee or Halladay?
Only three pitchers in baseball had over 20 wins last year: Roy Halladay (21-10), CC Sabathia (21-7) and Adam Wainright (20-11). In 1969, the "Year of the Pitcher," 15 pitchers had 20-plus wins.
It's a different era now. Roy Halladay led baseball with 250.2 innings pitched in the regular season. In 1969, Gaylord Perry led baseball with 325.1 innings pitched.
Can they be one the greatest staffs of all time? Up there with the Braves trio of Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz of the 90s. The Jim Palmer lead Orioles of the late 60's and into the 70s. Sandy Koufax and
Don Drysdale on the Dodger staffs of the 1960s. The Mets duo of Dwight Gooden and Ron Darling led the way for the Mets in the 1980s.
Another tidbit to put out there. The top three WHIP leaders from last season are in the "Big Four": Cliff Lee (1.00), Roy Oswalt (1.03) and Roy Halladay (1.04). Cole Hamels, the other entity of the "Big Four," had a 1.18 WHIP.
It'll be interesting to see how this staff gets recognized from a statistical standpoint in the all-time ranks as the season progresses.
Now it's time to see what this potentially, all-time, dominant staff can do out on the field. That's the biggest question of them all. Can they bring home another World Series crown?