Media, fans and most of the baseball world have been talking about the Phillies pitching staff since right around December 16, 2010 – which was the day that Cliff Lee opted to return to Philadelphia. Fans will remember where they were when they got this early holiday surprise (see December 14, 2010 http://prosportsblogging.com/mlb-baseball/cliff-lee-once-and-future-phillie) when the Gift of the Magi occurred. Cliff Lee’s return to the Phillies would assemble the most formidable starting rotation of the Modern Era – augmenting a team that has won four straight division titles, two NLCS and one World Championship between 2007-2010 (averaging 93 wins). Despite the syllogism of the “Five Aces” theory, this could compete with the greatest pitching staffs in baseball history no matter who the fifth starter may be (Blanton, Kendrick, Worley). Comparisons began immediately with the Atlanta Braves of the 1990s (Madduz, Glavine, Smoltz, Avery, Millwood/Lieberandt) or the Threepeat Oakland A’s of the 1970s, the 1960s Dodgers (Koufax, Drysdale, Sutton, Osteen ) or early-1950s Indians (Feller, Lemon, Wynn, Garcia), 1986 New York Mets (Gooden, Darling, Ojeda, Fernandez, Cone) or most notably the Baltimore Orioles of the 1970s (culminating with the last time one starting staff sported four 20-game winners of Palmer-McNally-Dobson-Cuellar in 1971). Naturally, most of those occurred during the era of four starters rather than the modern five (1986-1988 Mets, 1990s Braves notwithstanding), but we are essentially comparing four to four anyway.
Monikers would begin immediately… should they be called “Fantastic Four” or “Fearsome Foursome” or “Four Horsemen of the Phil-pocalypse” or simply “Four Aces”? “R2C2″ was suggested as were a litany of other nicknames but the bottom line was that a staff which sported Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay, veteran Roy Oswalt and the former World Series MVP Cole Hamels would not be exponentially better with the return of Lee, who’s been virtually unhittable in half a season plus the 2009 postseason. Four of these starting pitchers could be considered #1 starters on many other MLB teams but for 2011 there four aces would belong to the Phillies. Fantastic… Amazing… Sensational… but speculative at best. Until they took the field and actually performed, this was metaphorical.
Baseball is one of the more quantifiable sports. There is no way to measure Ray Lewis’ true leadership on a football field or the presence of Michael Jordan on the basketball court and the true value of a hot goalie in the NHL playoffs is not able to be gauged. Thanks to the evolution of
Sabremetrics, the grandson of grizzled “old tyme” statisticians (with their stopwatches and radar guns and their game leg that acts up when a pitcher tops 100 MPH or when a thunderstorm is approaching) quantifiable comparisons can be made between eras (Hank Aaron vs. Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson vs. Randy Johnson), among players of a generation (Barry Bonds vs. Albert Pujols) or across continents (Ichiro Suzuki vs. Ty Cobb). Despite the game’s nuances from stadium to stadium, era to era and influence of science, society and spectators, baseball remains both constant and evolving in a fluid world.
Much as we can see that Babe Ruth’s home run totals rivaled those of most major league franchises in his day, we can witness the relative obsolescence of 300 game pitchers heading into the 21st century. Evolutionarily speaking, we can witness the decline of the stolen base but that makes us appreciate the efforts of Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock and Maury Wills in the same way that we look to baseball’s “Golden Age” when three teams thrived in New York City. Willie Mays, Duke Snider and Mickey Mantle once dominated “The Great Debate” but due to societal and
economic forces, the baseball landscape would change drastically. Between 1950 and 1960 there was transcontinental franchise movement, a population shift to the Sun Belt of America and the complete racial integration of major league baseball – not to mention expansion past the original 16 teams, frequent jet travel and unparalleled social forces that swept the country and the game alike. Baseball was affected but remained familiar. Bases still stood 90 feet apart, three outs still comprised half an inning and the Yankees always seemed to be in the World Series – usually featuring Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra. They “Say Hey Kid” moved from New York to San Francisco with his Giants while the Dodgers devastated the once-idyllic fable of Brooklyn being the consummate baseball neighborhood. Even in Hollywood the game still lasted 9 innings and three strikes meant an out. The game remained the same as progress moved it forward.
Today we look at past performance to indicate future success. We simulate games or entire seasons by shoving algorithms into a computer, which is what I’ve done to prove that the 2011 Phillies rotation is the best of its generation. Best all-time will be argued forever once we have some results!!! Below you will find rankings for all 30 MLB rotations as well as an individualized listing for 150 starting pitchers (5 per team x 30 teams). These offer two measurable realities (based on wins, ERA, IP, WHIP, ER and WAR). First where team collective rotations rank in relation to one another. Second, where each pitcher ranks in relation to their peers. For example if a team has 4 of 5 starters in the Top 20 but then their fifth is ranked 150, their average rank would be approximately 35. I’ve assigned point values to each of these stats listed above (wins, ERA, IP, WHIP, ER and WAR) and ranked staffs accordingly.
|Player||Team/Rank||Comp ERA||COMP IP||Score||Overall Rank|
|De La Rosa||COL2||4.17||138||92.46||98||2|
This listing also tells us for example whether or not Joe Blanton is the best fifth starter in baseball (which seems to be the mantra of a lot of misguided Phillies fans). Based on ERA and IP, Blanton would rank 11 and arguably that at best since Kyle Lohse or the occasional Jason Hammel or Brandon McCarthy or even Tom Gorzelanny could overtake Blanton. This of course is precluding the potential for someone not on the list to make a splash and take a rotation spot that might not be expected. That is where sabremetrics ends and the game of baseball begins. A player has to make the team and perform well and that cannot be predicted. Nostradamus never had opportunity to observe baseball but that is why they play the games!
Make sure you also see :
AL Preview http://prosportsblogging.com/mlb-baseball/mlb-2011-preview-al-east/
NL Preview http://prosportsblogging.com/mlb-baseball/mlb-2011-national-league-preview/
MLB Standings Preview : http://prosportsblogging.com/mlb-baseball/mlb-predictions-standings-2011/
Cy Young Predictions: http://prosportsblogging.com/mlb-baseball/2011-cy-young-predictions/
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org