Can the 2011 Phillies Match the 1971 Orioles with Four 20-Game Winners?

The Phillies brought Cliff Lee back to Philadelphia this week, thereby piecing together what on paper is one of the great four-man rotations of all time. The Associated Press has termed it “a potentially historic rotation.”

Among the potential history Philadelphia’s rotation presents is the possibility of having four 20-game winners on one team. It’s happened only twice before with the 1920 Chicago White Sox and the 1971 Baltimore Orioles. Wins don’t mean what they used to for many baseball fans, but there’s no denying the significance of having four 20-game winners in the same rotation.

So how do the top four pitchers in the Phillies’ 2011 rotation compare to the top four pitchers in the Orioles’ 1971 rotation? Can history repeat itself?

The purpose of this exercise is not to determine which rotation is better, but rather to size up both rotations and offer an educated guess as to whether the Phillies can match the Orioles’ accomplishment. I believe it’s important to remember the past greats of the game and celebrate their achievements. This represents the perfect opportunity to do so. It’s entirely possible to celebrate modern greatness without overlooking or overshadowing prior triumphs. That’s the point here.

Who’s better? I’ll leave that to the fans in bar rooms in Charm City and the City of Brotherly Love. For now, I’ll conclude that the Phillies won’t match the Orioles with four 20-game winners for two primary reasons:

1. Starters today throw fewer innings and therefore have less opportunities to pick up wins. And the 1971 Orioles utilized a four-man rotation.

Roy Halladay led all of baseball with 250.2 innings pitched in 2010. That total would be last among the Orioles’ top four starters in 1970 and is nearly 40 innings less than the combined average of Baltimore’s rotation.

Consider the remarkable difference that exists in the approach to the game by era. The 1971 Orioles rotation averaged 287.3 IP in 1970 led by Jim Palmer’s 305 IP. By comparison, the 2011 Phillies top four picthers averaged 220.3 IP in 2010 led by Halladay’s 250.2 IP. 

2. As Mike Mussina demonstrated for 17 of his 18 seasons in baseball, there’s a certain amount of luck involved in winning 20 games.

Both the 1971 Orioles and the 2011 Phillies had/have remarkable pitchers in their starting rotation. Among each team’s starting four, only one pitcher entered/enters the season having never won 20 games. However, Baltimore’s 1971 rotation had three pitchers who won 20 games the previous season while Philadelphia’s 2011 rotation has just one pitcher who won 20 games in 2010.

The likelihood of three pitchers holding form (Cuellar, McNally, Palmer) and one other catching enough breaks to win 20 (Dobson) is greater than the likelihood of one pitcher holding form (Halladay) and three other starters catching enough breaks to win 20 (Oswalt, Lee, and Hamels).

Here’s a rundown of the numbers for the Orioles’ four-man rotation  in 1971 (through the 1970 season) and the numbers for the top four members of the Phillies’ 2011 rotation (through the 2010 season). If you love great pitching, you’d have a hard time doing much better than this.

Age (1970, 2010)
Palmer – 24
Hamels -26
McNally – 27
Dobson – 28
Lee – 31
Oswalt -32
Cuellar and Halladay – 33

Average – Orioles rotation – 28, Phillies rotation – 30.5

20-Win Seasons (though 1970 and 2010 )
Halladay – 3 (22-7 in 2003, 20-11 in 2008, 21-10 in 2010) and McNally – 3 ( 22-10 in 1968, 20-7 in 1969, 24-9 in 1970)
Cuellar – 2 (23-11 in 1969, 24-8 in 1970) and Oswalt – 2 (20-10 in 2004, 20-12 in 2005)
Lee – 1 (22-3 in 2008) and Palmer – 1 (20-10 in 1970)
Dobson – 0 and Hamels – 0.

Average: Orioles rotation – 1.5, Phillies rotation – 1.5

Career Wins (through 1970 and 2010)
Halladay  (13 seasons) – 169
Oswalt (10 seasons) – 150
McNally (9 seasons) – 114
Lee (9 seasons) – 102
Cuellar (8 seasons) – 89
Hamels (5 seasons) – 60
Palmer (5 seasons)- 59
Dobson (4 seasons) – 25

Average: Orioles rotation – (6.5 seasons) 71.75, Phillies rotation – (9.25 seasons) 120.25


Career ERA (through 1970 and 2010)
Palmer – 2.94
Cuellar – 2.95
Oswalt and McNally – 3.18
Halladay – 3.32
Dobson – 3.39
Hamels – 3.53
Lee – 3.85

Average: Orioles rotation – 3.12 (1970 League Average – 3.72), Phillies rotation – 3.47 (2010 League Average – 4.03)


Career ERA+ (through 1970 and 2010)
Halladay – 136
Oswalt – 135
Hamels – 123
Palmer – 120
Cuellar – 117
McNally – 114
Lee – 112
Dobson – 108

Average: Orioles rotation – 114.75, Phillies rotation – 126.5


Career WHIP (through 1970 and 2010)
Cuellar – 1.152
Hamels – 1.176
Halladay – 1.181
Oswalt – 1.189
McNally 1.195
Palmer – 1.209
Lee – 1.256
Dobson – 1.275

Average: Orioles rotation – 1.208 (1970 League Average – 1.330), Phillies rotation – 1.201 (2010 League Average – 1.348)


Wins in most recent season (1970 and 2010)
Cuellar – 24
McNally – 24
Halladay – 21
Palmer – 20
Dobson – 14
Oswalt – 13
Lee – 12
Hamels – 12

Average: Orioles rotation –  20.5, Phillies rotation – 14.5


IP in most recent season (1970 and 2010)
Palmer – 305
Cuellar – 297.2
McNally – 296
Dobson – 251
Halladay – 250.2
Lee – 212
Oswalt – 211
Hamels – 208

Average: Orioles rotation – 287.3, Phillies rotation – 220.3

Image Source: Here (though the original appears to be from Sports Illustrated).

-30-

Advertisements

About mptaylor11

Roar from 34, a Baltimore Orioles Blog. Humor. History. Homerism. Since 2006.
This entry was posted in Orioles history and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Can the 2011 Phillies Match the 1971 Orioles with Four 20-Game Winners?

  1. I don't think we will see 4 20-game winners on the same staff ever again. The game is different. Pitchers lose wins with the bullpens and the days when the Birds went 9 innings for wins is over as well.

  2. Great stats. I can read that stuff all day. I don't believe the Phil staff will reach this achievement. Basically because of the structure of the game now. Not enough opportunities. But, I hope they approach it. That would give the O's 71 staff alot of national attention. Good for the organization and I love to hear it!!!

  3. Roar from 34 says:

    That's a good point, Paul. The Phils could bring additional attention to the '71 staff. Anything that highlights O's history is good with me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s