The Philadelphia Phillies stunned the baseball world by signing free agent pitcher Cliff Lee. Lee rejected offers from the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees to sign for less and play with the Phillies.
Lee now joins Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels in what could arguably be the greatest pitching rotation of all time. This handful of aces is already being dubbed by Phillies fans as “The Phantastic Phour.”
The Phillies now carry two Cy Young Award winners in their rotation. Halladay won the AL Cy Young in 2003 while pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays. Halladay was the unanimous NL Cy Young winner in 2010 while pitching for the Phillies. Halladay’s 21-10 record, 2.44 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 250.2 innings pitched (1st in NL), 7.30 K/BB ratio (1st in NL) and 7.9 K/9 made him an easy selection for the award.
In addition to the strong numbers, Halladay also outdueled Florida Marlins ace Josh Johnson by pitching a perfect game in a thrilling 1-0 victory (May 29, 2010). He would later toss the second no-hitter in MLB postseason history as the Phillies defeated the Cincinnati Reds by a score of 3-0 in game one of the 2010 NLDS. His 2010 numbers are all the more impressive when one considers he lacked run support at times. Halladay had 11 starts in which he received less than three runs of support. In eight of those 11 starts, Halladay had less than two runs of support.
Cliff Lee won the AL Cy Young Award in 2008 with the Cleveland Indians. Lee had a 22-3 record and a 2.54 ERA. When the Phillies acquired Halladay last season and traded Lee to the Mariners for prospects, there were debates among Philadelphia fans as to who was the superior pitcher. Many wondered why the Phillies did not keep both Halladay and Lee. Both Halladay and Lee put up elite numbers over the past three seasons.
Roy Halladay (2008-2010)
- 27 complete games
- 10 shutouts
- 2.67 ERA
- 1.07 WHIP
- 6.09 K/BB ratio
Cliff Lee (2008-2010)
- 17 complete games
- five shutouts
- 2.98 ERA
- 1.12 WHIP
- 7.2 K/9
- 5.64 K/BB
Halladay and Lee clearly are the cream of the crop in the Phillies rotation. Together, they form perhaps the best 1-2 punch since Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson won a World Series with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Although Halladay and Lee will receive all the attention, the Phillies’ number three and four pitchers are not to be overlooked.
With Halladay likely to be the opening day starter and Lee likely to start in the second slot, the Phillies may pencil in Oswalt for the third slot (to avoid having left-handers Lee and Hamels pitching in back-to-back games).
After 10 MLB seasons, Roy Oswalt is 150-83 with a 3.18 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in his career. Oswalt’s 13-13 record in 2010 is terribly misleading, as he had a fantastic 2.76 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. The Phillies traded young left-handed pitcher J.A. Happ to acquire Oswalt’s services shortly before the trade deadline. In 13 games (12 starts) with the Phillies, Oswalt was 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA and 0.90 WHIP.
Although Oswalt has yet to win a Cy Young Award, he finished in the top five for NL Cy Young voting five times in his 10 seasons of MLB service.
Cole Hamels (2008 NLCS MVP and World Series MVP) had a rough 2009 season. In 2010, Hamels showed a newfound confidence and a more aggressive demeanor. In the past, Hamels would often try to nibble on the outside corner with his offspeed pitches. In 2010, Hamels developed a cutter and attacked the inner half of the plate. This aggressiveness resulted in new career-bests in ERA (3.06), and strikeouts (211).
Despite the 3.06 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 9.1 K/9 rate, Hamels had only a 12-11 record to show for it. The truth of the matter is that Hamels had very rough starts at the beginning of the season. Do not let his 12-11 record fool you, for Hamels was also the unfortunate victim of a dire lack of run support at times. On August 7 and August 13 of the 2010 season, Hamels suffered consecutive 1-0 losses to the New York Mets.
Despite the slow start and later lack of run support from the Phillies, Hamels finished with strong numbers. In 18 starts from July to October, Hamels had a 6-5 record with a 2.28 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 9.4 K/9 rate in that span of time. During this stretch, Hamels was on par with Halladay’s numbers (12-3 record, 2.46 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 8.23 K/9 rate).
In his 12 wins, Hamels had a 1.67 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. In his 11 losses, Hamels suffered a 4.92 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. In his 10 no-decisions, Hamels had a fantastic 2.95 ERA and 1.17 WHIP.
What are the fantasy ramifications of this fearsome foursome? You can probably pencil in Halladay and Lee for 20 wins apiece and strong numbers across the board. Provided that they remain consistent and receive run support, Oswalt and Hamels should be capable of approaching 20 wins.
Having these pitchers on your fantasy team will not only affect your team’s pitching performance, but also your team’s hitting performance. When facing the Phillies, there is an 80 percent chance of facing one of these four pitchers on a particular day or night. NL East rivals have 72 scheduled games against the Phillies in 2011. This handful of aces could conceivably have at least 14 starts apiece against NL East rivals. Halladay made a mockery of the NL East in 2010. In 15 starts, Halladay was 14-1 with a 1.61 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, five complete games and four shutouts.
This handful of aces combined for a 58-43 record, 3.14 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 19 complete games and seven shutouts in 2010. Their combined numbers may be even greater this season, as Oswalt will – barring any trades – be a Phillie for an entire season.
This “Phantastic Phour” has the potential to be the greatest collection of pitching talent any team ever fielded at one time. Draft any of these four with extreme confidence in your 2011 draft leagues; however, be somewhat wary of Hamels. You can expect Hamels to have another strong season, but do not be surprised if he hits a slump at some point. He has yet to demonstrate the consistency that his veteran peers have demonstrated in their brilliant careers.
This impressive collection of pitching talent may also make you question how many NL East hitters – outside of Philadelphia -you want on your fantasy teams in 2011.
Christopher Wenrich is a fantasy baseball contributor to BaseballDigest.com.