Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Do the Phillies Have the Best Rotation in Baseball?

Since Cliff Lee is coming to the NL East to play for the Philadelphia Phillies... again..., I thought it might be a good time to address what everyone's talking about. Do the Phillies now have the best rotation in baseball?

It's easy to get caught up in the hype of Cliffmas (h/t Cheryl Nichols) and with good reason. In 2010, the Phillies had Roy Halladay, who won the NL Cy Young and pitched a perfect game during the regular season and a no hitter in the post-season. They also had Cole Hamels, who had a much improved year over 2009, and they picked up Roy Oswalt, making them among the strongest rotations in baseball. So what did they do in the offseason? Somehow made it better by signing Cliff Lee to a deal that was shorter than what any other team was offering and gave him less money. Yea, so that's clearly the best rotation in baseball, right?

Wrong. Absolutely wrong. Among the best? Absolutely. Top 3? Without a doubt. But not the best.

There is this team out west (see: bias, east coast). They go by the Giants; they're from this city called San Francisco. They won the World Series in commanding fashion in 2010, largely because of their stellar pitching. A World Series in which they beat Cliff Lee twice. Let's look at these names.
  • Tim Lincecum
  • Matt Cain
  • Jonathan Sanchez
  • Madison Bumgarner
A pretty impressive list, for several reasons. Not the least of which is 2-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, but the Phillies have Cy Young winner Roy Halladay. So what are the others?

The first is age. The oldest of the 4 for the Giants is Jonathan Sanchez at 28. The youngest in the Phillies' rotation is Cole Hamels, who will be 27 on Opening Day. That's right, the youngest pitcher in Philly's rotation is only one year younger than San Fran's oldest.

To add to it, all 4 of these Giants pitchers now have World Series rings. The confidence of a team with rings really can't be stressed enough, and now this entire rotation as earned them. By contrast in the Phillies rotation, only Cole Hamels has won a World Series in his career.

For all of these reasons, the Giants have the best rotation in the National League, and in baseball, as of this writing. Things can always change, and the past doesn't necessarily dictate the future, but I thought it was a prudent time to address this topic. Talking heads across the country seem to think that the Phillies new rotation is the best ever, and it was simply time to put it in perspective.

That doesn't eliminate the fact that he Phillies rotation is really, really good. So it begs the question: how do the Nats compete with one of the best pitching rotations in the league? Win against all the other NL East opponents, because not a whole lot of victories are going to come from Philly.


  1. I have to disagree here. IF you take into account age and potential, clearly the Giants have the most desirable rotation in baseball.

    In terms of pure talent RIGHT NOW, the Phillies are the best and by a fair margin. Lincecum and Cain are "aces" for sure, but Sanchez flamed out in the post season and Bumgarner only has about 20 MLB starts.

    Philadelphia clearly now has 4 #1 starters. Four clear cut aces. If you take any of those four guys and put them on any of 20 other teams in the league, they'd be the immediate #1 starter. Any of the four guys would be better than anyone on 2/3s of the league's rotations right now. You can't say that about Sanchez and Bumgarner necessarily.

  2. your rings argument really doesnt make sense to me. yeah the phillies guys are older, but that means they are running out of chances to get the ring, and especially roy hallady and roy oswalt are FIERCE competitors...i think they step up their game, especially in the playoffs, they may win the world series, 11-0, 11 cg, 0.00 era

  3. Hey brother, I'm clearly going to have to throw in and disagree with you on this one as well. The power and proven potential of this rotation perhaps is only rivaled by the Braves in the late-90s. Let's take it step by step though:

    1) Age: Can see where you're trying to go with this, but the cold hard numbers say otherwise and is really a non-issue.

    2) Series ring or not, Halladay, Oswalt, and Lee are some of the toughest competitors to ever take the mound. They don't need a ring to qualify their talent or give them confidence.

    3) As long as this rotation stays healthy and Philly keeps the bats going all of baseball should fear them, period. I never thought I'd say it, but the Phillies are starting to even make the Yankees look like a bunch of pound dogs.

    4) The Nats have been and are still terrible, but I'm glad you're keeping the faith because one day they'll have their moment too (maybe).

  4. I would also have to respectfully disagree on this one as well. The Giants had a magical postseason run and outhustled and outplayed the Phils, but I don't think you can compare (as Todd says previously) POTENTIAL and PROVEN SUCCESS at the MLB level.

    Not sure Baumgarner can even be in the discussion. Fine postseason run, but as even seen with Hamels in his bumpy 2009 season after a stellar postseason and MVP trophy-filled 2008 postseason, he'll be challenged and will have to adjust this season or the coming seasons. He still has a lot to prove.

    Cain is only two years removed from an 8-14/3.76/1.36 WHIP season. One could argue run support, but then I'd have to bring up Cole Hamels -- who has pitched through NOTORIOUSLY POOR run support for most of his Phillies career (not sure why as usually they are a high-powered offensive club.) Since '07 Hamels is sadly barely over .500 W/L record but his peripheals have been stellar. Pathetic he only went 12-11 this year in that ballpark with a 3.06 ERA and more than a K/inning (211 in 208 IP.) Then he mowed down the powerful Reds lineup in a series-clinching gem in Cincinnati.

    As for Sanchez, this was his first year with a winning record.

    I haven't even mentioned Oswalts achievements.

    So in summary if you want I could somehow give you -EVEN- on Halladay and Lincecum, but I'd take Hamels over Cain, Oswalt over Sanchez, and Lee over Baumgarner any day of the week.

    Maybe in 10 years that group out there will prove me wrong but now it's not even a question in my opinion...