Cory Matthews is surely jumping for joy. The Phillies have won 11 of 12 games and sit 8.5 games in front of the second place Atlanta Braves, who have the second best record in the National League. During the 12-game stretch, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay have both recorded three wins.
Lee, Halladay and Cole Hamels are all in Cy Young consideration. Lee is 12-7 with a 2.83era with five complete game shutouts. Halladay is 15-4 with a 2.51era and six complete games. Hamels is 13-6 with a 2.53era and two complete games. Combined the three have struck out 480 and walked just 87. That is a 5.5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Astounding.
Then you have Vance Worley, the rookie, who is 8-1 with a 2.35era is 13 starts. Kyle Kendrick has not been bad in his 11 starts, compiling a 6-5 record and a 3.19era. And finally, Roy Oswalt has returned from the DL and is looking to provide them with another quality arm.
If the Phillies don’t win the World Series, is there season a complete disappointment?
Is the 2011 Phillies starting rotation the best of all-time even if they don’t win it all?
We take a look at the eight best pitching rotations in a segment we like to call, “Strait Eight – The Greatest Pitching Rotations Ever”.
8. 2003 Chicago Cubs: Mark Prior (18-6, 2.43), Carlos Zambrano (13-11, 3.11), Kerry Wood (14-11, 3.20), Matt Clement (14-12, 4.11)
Unfortunately for Cubs fans, the 2003 team is mainly known for Steve Bartman and Alex S. Gonzalez’s inability to handle a routine ground ball. But, their rotation was ridiculous. They won the NL Central with a 88-74 record and manager Dusty Baker was far from shy from overusing his stud aces. After the 2003 season that saw Prior win 18 games, he would win just 18 more in his career.
7. 2003 Florida Marlins: Josh Beckett (9-8, 3.04), Dontrelle Willis (14-6, 3.30), Mark Redman (14-9, 3.59), Brad Penny (14-10, 4.13), Carl Pavano (12-13, 4.30)
The Marlins won the Wild Card with a 91-71 record. They then came back from a 3-1 deficit in the NLCS to down the Chicago Cubs. Game six was the infamous “Bartman” game. The Fish then downed the favored Yankees in six games to claim their second World Series Crown. Their staff remained in tact in 2004 and they even added A.J. Burnett, who was injured in 2003, but the Marlins managed to finish just four games over .500. They would then witness a mass-exodus, much like they did in 1997 after winning their first World Series, Beckett to the Red Sox, Pavano to the Yankees, Penny to the Dodgers and Willis began to struggle prior to being dealt to the Tigers.
6. 2003 Oakland Athletics: Tim Hudson (16-7, 2.70), Mark Mulder (15-9, 3.13), Barry Zito (14-12, 3.30), Ted Lilly (12-10, 4.34)
The A’s went 96-66 en route to an AL West crown in 2003. They were up 2-0 on the Boston Red Sox in the 2003 ALDS and didn’t win another game. They would maintain the nucleus of Hudson, Zito and Mulder for one more season but finished second in the division. Mulder then bolted for St. Louis and Hudson was traded to Atlanta prior to the 2005 season. Zito then left in 2007 to take an umpteen million dollar deal with the Giants.
5. 1966 Los Angeles Dodgers: Sandy Koufax (27-9, 1.73), Claude Osteen (17-14, 2.85), Don Sutton (12-12, 2.99), Don Drysdale (13-16, 3.42)
How good was Sandy Koufax? Seriously, 27-9 with an 1.73 era. That’s ridiculous. The rest of the rotation was pretty good, as well. They combined for a 2.68 era and struck out 840 batters. Koufax, Drysdale and Sutton are all in the Hall of Fame. They went 95-67 in ’66, but were swept by the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. They lost 5-2 in game one and wouldn’t score again. Game three and game four were both 1-0 defeats.
4. 1993 Atlanta Braves: Greg Maddux (20-10, 2.36), Steve Avery (18-6, 2.94), Tom Glavine (22-6, 3.20), John Smoltz (15-11, 3.62)
Steve Avery, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz were all named to the NL All-Star team. Somehow Greg Maddux wasn’t, but at the end of the season he won his second Cy Young. He would win four strait from 1992 to 1995. The Braves won 104 games in 1993 and barely edged the San Francisco Giants on the last day to win the NL West, in what could be considered the greatest division race in baseball history. Think about it, the Giants did not advance to the postseason with 103 wins. The Braves would lose to the Phillies in the NLCS, but the nucleus of Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz would remain in tact throughout the 90’s and become an integral part of the Braves’ 14 consecutive division titles.
3. 1986 New York Mets: Ron Darling (15-6, 2.81), Dwight Gooden (17-6, 2.84), Bob Ojeda (18-5, 2.57), Sid Fernandez (16-6, 3.52)
When most people think of the 1986 New York Mets, they automatically think Bill Buckner and the Mookie Wilson groundball that went through his legs in game six and allowed New York to win it all in game seven. Well, they wouldn’t have been in that situation if not for their unreal starting rotation. All four starters pitched over 200 innings. Gooden and Fernandez struck out 200+ batters and Ojeda, Darling and Gooden’s ERA’s all ranked in the top five in the National League.
2. 1998 Atlanta Braves: Greg Maddux (18-9, 2.22), Tom Glavine (20-6, 2.47), John Smoltz (17-3, 2.90), Denny Neagle (16-11, 3.55), Kevin Millwood (17-8, 4.08)
Subract Steve Avery from the 1993 rotation and add Denny Neagle and Kevin Millwood. In all serious, you could probably place any of the Braves’ rotations from the 90’s on this list. It truly is amazing that they were only able to win one World Series Championship. In 1998, the Braves’ starters ERA was 2.97, which was 1.30 lower than the league average. All five starters placed in the top five in the National League in wins. Glavine claimed his second Cy Young at the end of the year, while Maddux and Smoltz tied for fourth in voting. The Braves finished a ridiculous 106-56, but choked once again the playoffs, losing to the Padres in six games in the NLCS.
1. 1971 Baltimore Orioles: Jim Palmer (20-9, 2.68), Dave McNally (21-5, 2.68), Pat Dobson (20-8, 2.90), Mike Cueller (20-9, 3.08)
Four 20-game winners? That is absolutely ridiculous. Only one other team since 1920 has had four 20-game winners and that was the 1920 Chicago White Sox. Obviously, all four starters ranked in the top ten in the AL in wins, while Palmer, McNally and Dobson ranked in the top eight in ERA. The O’s would finish the season 101-57 and advanced to their third strait World Series. They lost to Roberto Clemente and the Pittsburgh Pirates in seven games.
Amazingly, only two teams on this list won World Series titles and both needed help from other forces to get it done. The Marlins with Bartman’s interference in 2003 and the Mets with Buckner’s infamous groundball through his legs in 1986.