If the Philadelphia Phillies' first game of the 2011 was a microcosm of how we expect the 2011 season to play out—shut-down starting pitching, clumsy bullpen and just enough offense to win the day—then the second game of the season was a true demonstration of this team's potential.
Cliff Lee, making his second first start for the Phillies, made only one mistake all night, a two-run home run to fellow former AL Central rival Carlos Lee. Otherwise, he was impeccable, striking out 11 and walking none in seven innings.
In case Phillies' fans have not heard, this year's pitching staff is going to be something special, and through two games the Phillies' staff has already done something pretty special in its own right
And it leads to today's Philadelphia Phillies Daily Fun Fact
After Lee shut down the Astros to the tune of 11 strikeouts and no walks, the Phillies' bullpen kept the party going, striking out two more and walking none.
Add this to their performance on Friday, during which Roy Halladay struck out six and walked none before giving way to the bullpen, which struck out two more and walked one, and the Phillies have now struck out a preposterous 21 batters while walking only one, for a strikeout-to-walk ratio of (grabbing calculator, doing math) 21-to-1.
For the record, since 1901 only the rarest major league baseball team has finished a season with a strikeout-to-walk ratio over 3-to-1.
The Arizona Diamondbacks did it in 2002, when they rode Curt Schilling (9.58-to-1) and Randy Johnson (4.70-to-1) to a 3.10-to-1 ratio.
The Los Angeles Dodgers did it in 1966, featuring outstanding performances from Sandy Koufax (4.12-to-1), Don Sutton (4.02-to-1) and Don Drysdale (3.93-to-1). Those guys, of course, are all in the Hall of Fame.
And there was the 2006 Minnesota Twins with their team ratio of 3.27-to-1.
Of the many measures we will be using to place the 2011 Phillies' rotation in historical context, this will certainly be one.
The Phillies chances of catching the '06 Twins, the '02 Diamondbacks or the '66 Dodgers are pretty good, though. Our rudimentary search reveals only a handful of other teams since 1901 with team strikeout-to-walk ratios over 2.80-to-1: the 1994 Montreal Expos, the 2001 Diamondbacks, the 2002 New York Yankees (2.82), the 2003 New York Yankees (2.98) and your 2010 Philadelphia Phillies (2.84).
But wait, there is more.
Since 1901, only 15 major league teams have featured three or more starting pitchers who qualified for the ERA title and finished with a strikeout-to-walk ratio better than 3-to-1. The two most recent teams to pull this off were the 2010 Minnesota Twins and... wait for it...the 2010 Philadelphia Phillies.
Now for some history: Of these 15 teams, only one featured four such pitchers. It was the aforementioned 2003 New York Yankees, with Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, David Wells and Mike Mussina.
(The key to historic strikeout-to-walk ratio is clearly Jose Contreras, who made his major league debut with the 2003 Yankees, pitched for the Phillies in 2010 and is now a member of the 2011 Phillies' staff.)
As for the Phillies' chances of joining the '03 Yankees, you have got to like them. To a team that already had three pitchers qualify for the ERA title and have strikeout-to-walk ratios over 3-to-1, the Phillies have added Cliff Lee, one of the greatest strikeout-to-walk ratio guys of all time.
Is this season really only two games old?