The Philadelphia Phillies have accumulated the greatest group of starting pitching in nearly a generation. As a result, Philadelphia baseball fans have set a standard for the team in 2011– it’s World Series or bust. The starters have to produce collectively to be considered great. Although they have the talent, it is unlikely that the team will boast four 20 game winners. The 1971 Orioles were the last team to accomplish this feat. However, the fighting Phillies are most assuredly up for the challenge of defying history.
Roy Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball. Halladay has won 20 games or more three times in his career. In 13 seasons, he has won 169 games and two Cy Young Awards. Last season, “Doc” Halladay dominated the National League with a 21-10 record. Philadelphia’s offensive woes probably cost him several wins. According to ESPN.com, he was 40th in run support in the National League.
Cliff Lee rejoined the Phillies in the off season. Lee went 12-9 for Texas and Seattle last season and led the American League with seven complete games. Lee won 20 games once– in 2008 when he went 22-3 and won the Cy Young while pitching for Cleveland. His other claim to fame is the magnificent playoff run in 2009.
Roy Oswalt has never won a Cy Young Award. During Houston’s playoff runs in 2004 and 2005, Oswalt developed into an ace. He won 20 games each time and was the 2005 NLCS MVP. He pitched well last year before being traded to Philadelphia. He went 7-1 for the Phillies, which put him on pace for 20 wins. Unfortunately, he was with a terrible Astros team for 20 starts and he finished 13-13.
Cole Hamels has never won twenty games averaging 14 wins a season for his career and showing flashes of greatness. In 2008, he led the league in WHIP and was the World Series and NLCS MVP. He is just entering his prime and is due for a breakout year.
Steady Joe Blanton won 16 games for the Oakland A’s in 2006. His high with Philadelphia is 12. Last season, he went 9-6 in 28 starts. Philadelphia’s injury problems might make Blanton available for trade. However, stranger things have happened in baseball. Maybe the Phillies might not have a single 20 game winner.
It has been nine years since a single club boasted two 20-game winners. In 2002, Curt Schilling won 23 games and Randy Johnson 24 for the Diamondbacks. That same season, Boston’s Pedro Martinez won 20 and Derek Lowe chipped in 21. Although it has been awhile, two 20-game winners on the same staff is not inconceivable.
While two 20-game winners on a staff is a possibility, three is highly improbable. The 1973 Oakland Athletics are the last team to have three pitchers reach the 20 win plateau. Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter won 21 games. Vida Blue won 20 games, and Ken Holtzman also achieved 21 victories. The 1973 Athletics won their second of three straight championships.
While the A’s won championships, the 1971 Orioles lost the World Series. This represents the last time a major league team fielded four 20-game winners. Mike Cuellar, Pat Dobson, and Hall of Famer Jim Palmer won 20 exactly. Dave McNally went 21-5. The four aces did not guarantee postseason success. The Orioles faced the Pittsburgh Pirates in the fall classic, but could not stop Roberto Clemente.
The 2011 Phillies do not have to worry about Clemente. However, they do need to worry about offense. If one thing is going to stop the Philadelphia starters from racking up amazing win totals, it is the offense. Jimmy Rollins looked old last year. Ryan Howard appeared to be slowing down. Chase Utley has an injury, which could shelve him for awhile. The Giants exposed Philadelphia’s weaknesses in last year’s NLCS. The Philadelphia staff will be impressive in 2011, but it might not show in their individual win column.