As soon as Cliff Lee decided he would join the Phillies on that great December night, people started to talk about how good this rotation will be. All of the talk about the rotation's great nicknames soon followed. Last year with the addition of Oswalt, we had h2o. Now it seems we have a choice of our favorite nicknames for the four. The most popular one seems to be r2c2; my personal favorites are the Phantastic Phour and the Phour Ace’s.
The nickname talk is only relevant if you are trying to sell t-shirts or making a “cool” sign you will take to the game. We should be spending our time talking about how many wins R2C2 will produce. There have been conversations about each of the four becoming 20 game winners. Is that type of production even realistic to expect from 4 teammates?
Before I get into the Phillies pitchers, let’s take a look at the recent 20 games winners. Last year there were only 3 pitchers in all of baseball who had 20 wins (Roy Halladay, Adam Wainwright, and CC Sabathia). In 2009 no pitcher in baseball got to the 20 win mark and in 2008 4 pitchers had 20 wins. Since 2000, the highest amount of pitchers to win 20 games is 7 in 2001. The 2010 Cy Young winner in the American League was Felix Hernandez, he had MLB best 2.27 ERA. But at the end of the season he finished with just 13 wins.There was one team who were able to accomplish the incredible feat of having 4 twenty game winners on the same team.
Way back in 1971, it was done by the Baltimore Orioles. In that season Dave McNally had 21 wins, Mike Cuellar, Jim Palmer and Pat Dobson each had 20 wins. But back in 1971, it was a much different game than it is today. The evolution of middle relievers and the pitch counts have left a lot of starting pitchers receiving no decisions on a lot of their starts. In 1971, Mickey Lolich led the majors in innings pitched with 376 and Fergie Jenkins led in complete games with 30! This season Doc led the majors with 250.2 innings pitched and 9 complete games. They pitched deeper into games giving them an opportunity to get the win and allow themselves to finish the games and not have to rely on a closer to shut the door.
Now that brings me to the 2011 Phillies, can they realistically get 4 twenty game winners? They have 3 pitchers who have previously won 20 games at least once, and 2 of them have atleast one Cy Young. The other 2 pitchers have each been an NLCS MVP at one point in their respective careers. The Ace of the Ace’s has to be reining NL Cy Young winner Roy Halladay. Doc has had 3 twenty wins seasons in his career, including 2 of the last 3 season. He has the best chance of getting to the 20 win plateau of any of the four; he is as old fashion of a pitcher you are going to find in the majors. Halladay goes into each game expecting to finish it. In 2008 Cliff Lee won the AL Cy Young and finished the season with an astounding 22-3 record. Last year Lee only had 12 wins but that number was smaller due to an early injury and having to pitch for one of the worst offensives teams to start the season in the Seattle Mariners. Lee is arguably the second best pitcher in baseball and is very capable of reaching the 20 game mark. Before I mention the rest of the staff I want to say, Cliff Lee WELCOME BACK!
In my opinion, Cole Hamels is the Phillies third best pitcher. Last year he was able to regain his form from his amazing 2008 playoff run and become an even better pitcher than he was that year. The addition of a cutter with his added velocity to his fastball to go along with his devastating change up, made him one of the best pitchers in the league in the second half of the season. After the all-star break Hamels had a 2.23 ERA. But he struggled to get a lot of wins due to low run support. He only finished the season with 12 wins despite his 3.06 ERA.
The “fourth” Phillies pitcher would be Roy Oswalt who was acquired in a mid season trade from the Houston Astros. Country Roy was even better than expected; he went 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA in 12 starts as a Phillie. He made himself an instant phan phavorite when he was forced to play LF due to an ejection by Ryan Howard. The smirk on his face after catching the ball off the bat of the first hitter was priceless. He has won 20 games twice in his career but has won more than 15 games only once since 2005.
I believe that each member of the Phantastic Phour has the capability and talent to win twenty games, but the chances of all four doing that in the same year is very slim. Halladay and Lee both expect to pitch a complete game in every start they make. Hamels and Oswalt won’t pitch as many CG but they will both pitch deep into many of their starts. If there is any rotation that could get 4 twenty games winners, it is this staff. But the game has changed to much and it is to rare of a feat to accomplish. I believe it is possible but that chance is very low. It would be a great accomplishment for the team and the rotation. But if on Opening Day 2012, Charlie is raising a RED 2011 banner, does it really matter?!?
My 2011 Projections
Halladay: 23-6 2.34 ERA
Lee: 20-5 2.65 ERA
Hamels 18-7 2.74 ERA
Oswalt: 15-8- 2.94 ERA