5 Reasons the Phillies' Big Four Cannot Compare To The 90's Braves Staff

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5 Reasons the Phillies' Big Four Cannot Compare To The 90's Braves Staff
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

The Phillies staff this year—if they play the way sports commentators and analysts predict they will—will be great. I am not knocking on their 2011 pitching rotation. They have Roy Halladay (two Cy Young Awards), Cliff Lee (one Cy Young Award), Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels as their projected 1-2-3-4 starters.

If one of them does not win they Cy Young Award this year, then I will be shocked. They should be able to win many games and help the Phillies make the playoffs. 

However, when people say that this staff will be better than the Atlanta Braves' legendary rotations in the 90's and early 00's, I disagree. Here are the reasons the Fab Four is not as good as the Braves' rotation was from 1993-2003:

5. The Division

In my opinion, the NL East is the most underrated division in baseball. The division has produced four World Series champions in the past fifteen years, which is second only to the AL East, the best division in baseball.

This year the division will be interesting with three potential playoff teams: the Braves, the Marlins and of course the Phillies. This competition is rare for the NL East, which usually has only one good team.

The Braves won the division 10 straight times, and the Phillies have won it recently four times in a row. The Mets won it once, sandwiched between the Braves and the Phillies' reign.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Last year, though, the division was very interesting because three different teams held the top spot. Eventually the Phillies held the lead and won the division and the Braves became the Wild Card winners.

This year should be just as close due to the new players added to the contending teams and the returning players. This should make life a little harder for the Phillies pitchers.

Glavine, Maddux, Smoltz, Avery, Neagle and Millwood did not have to face the same competition that the Phillies will, which helped them to achieve more. The division will not be friendly to the Phillies' rotation.

4. Longevity

What is very impressive about the Braves' rotation was the length it stayed together. Their fourth starter changed from time to time, but the core three starters stayed together for ten years, something that is unheard of today.

The Braves' front office was able to keep these amazing pitchers together on the same team for such a long time, and I do not believe the Phillies can replicate that. They signed Lee to a five-year contract, Halladay has two years left on his, and Oswalt and Hamels have only one year left.

Even if the Phillies somehow are able to keep all four or just three I still cannot see them staying for too long. That is another thing that separates the Braves' rotation from the Phillies'. 

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

3. Age

One factor that played a part in the longevity of the Braves pitchers was age. Greg Maddux was 27 when he joined the club, John Smoltz was 26 at that time, and Tom Glavine was 27.

They all were able to play for the Braves during their prime. On the other hand, three of the four Phillies pitchers are over 31 years old. Now this does not mean they won't pitch as well, but it does mean that they will have a lower chance to perform consistently over a long period of time like the Braves pitchers were able to do.

The Braves pitcher were able to stay together for ten years because they were young when they united. The Phillies pitchers are in the middle of their prime right now, which generally means that in five or six years they will begin to decline.

While this sometimes is not true,  it is very likely that it will happen to at least one of them. Just one of them declining would almost erase the need for this entire article. Age is significant in this comparison, and the Braves have the Phillies beat in that aspect. 

2. Skill

Individually, the Braves' pitchers generally beat the Phillies' pitchers stat-wise. I will go more in depth in this by doing side by side comparisons for the four starting pitchers of both rotations:

Roy Halladay vs. Greg Maddux

 

Roy Halladay

Greg Maddux 1993-2002

Season Pitched

13

10

Games Started/Season

25

33

Career ERA

3.32

2.51

Career WHIP

1.18

1.04

Winnings %

66%

70%

Avg. Wins/Season

13

18

CG/Season

5

6

Innings/Season

177

231

SO/Season

132

170

SO/9

6.7

6.5

BB/9

1.9

1.4

SO/BB

3.53

4.87

SHO/Season

1

2

 Cliff Lee vs. Tom Glavine

 

Cliff Lee

Tom Glavine 1993-2002

Season Pitched

9

10

Games Started/Season

24

33

Career ERA

3.85

3.25

Career WHIP

1.27

1.30

Winnings %

63%

67%

Avg. Wins/Season

11

17

CG/Season

2

3

Innings/Season

157

223

SO/Season

121

141

SO/9

6.9

5.7

BB/9

2.2

3.2

SO/BB

3.1

1.79

SHO/Season

1

1

Roy Oswalt vs. John Smoltz

 

Roy Oswalt

John Smoltz 1993-1999*

Season Pitched

10

7

Games Started/Season

30

30

Career ERA

3.18

3.24

Career WHIP

1.18

1.16

Winnings %

64%

63%

Avg. Wins/Season

15

14

CG/Season

2

3

Innings/Season

202

205

SO/Season

167

194

SO/9

7.4

8.5

BB/9

2.1

2.6

SO/BB

3.6

3.2

SHO/Season

1

1

*After 1999 he became a relief pitcher

Cole Hamels vs. Fourth Starters

 

Cole Hamels

Steve Avery1

Denny Neagle2

Kevin Millwood3

Season Pitched

5

4

2

6

GS/Season

30

28

32

27

Career ERA

3.53

3.92

3.25

3.73

Career WHIP

1.18

1.24

1.15

1.22

Winnings %

57%

56%

69%

62%

Avg. Wins/Season

12

10

18

12

CG/Season

1

2

4

1

Innings/Season

189

170

222

167

SO/Season

179

118

168

140

SO/9

8.5

6.3

6.8

7.5

BB/9

2.4

2.5

2.2

2.7

SO/BB

3.62

2.49

3.09

2.77

SHO/Season

1

0

3

0

1 1993-1996  1997-1998  1997-2002

Although the stats for the Phillies' pitchers are from their entire career, I wanted to compare their career stats to the numbers made by the Braves' rotation during their time in Atlanta. As you can see, most of the time the Braves's pitchers beat out the Phillies' in most categories.

Oswalt and Smoltz are pretty even, but Maddux is better than Halladay and Glavine is better than Lee. The Braves' fourth starters were slightly better than Hamels, but only slightly. The Phillies' pitchers are great, but the Braves' nineties pitchers are even better.

One of the three Atlanta pitchers took home the NL Cy Young Award five out of the first six years they were together. The three pitchers combined in their careers won seven Cy Young Awards, which beats the three that Halladay and Lee have won combined.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Obviously the pitchers on the Phillies have not finished their career and can still win that prestigious award, but it will be very hard to match what the Braves did. Overall, it will be hard for them to replicate the numbers that Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz made in their career together. 

1. Playing Games

The most obvious reason the Big Four cannot compare with the Braves' legendary rotations in the 1990's is they have not even played a single game together in the same uniform. 

It is ridiculous to make comparisons between a team on paper and a team that actually played. Even if the team on paper performed exactly as they are supposed to then the Braves' staff still is better. But they haven't yet, so do not make such judgements until the facts are in. The Braves' rotation played ten seasons together, and the Phillies' acclaimed rotation has played zero games on the same team.

The Phillies have a great bunch of starters that should help get them deep in the playoffs, but they have not become legendary yet. Comparisons cannot be made between them and any good rotations in history until they have actually played together for a reasonable amount of time. When that day comes, I will reassess, but until then the Braves' rotations in the nineties are better than the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies' Big Four. 


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