Previously this year, I took a long time figuring out which rotations would be best to compare to the 2011 Phillies. As it turns out, Roy Oswalt hasn’t really joined the party this year, making all that a bit moot.
But, the other three have been tremendous, and many advanced stats rate them as the top-3 starters in the NL.
If you’ve got the 3 best starters in your league, you have to be in the discussion for the best pitching trio of all-time, no?
That was the question that spawned this post, and here is what I found.
Here is what the Phillies’ trio is on-pace for, assuming 32 starts for each (which is a bit conservative given that Halladay and Lee just started their 16th game)
So the criteria I used to determine what other trios should be used was very simple. The team had to have 3 pitchers with 200+ IP, 125+ ERA+ and a 5.0+ WAR. The results (after eliminating duplication):
2005 Houston Astros (Roger Clemens, Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte)
1996 Atlanta Braves (Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine)
1956 Cleveland Indians (Bob Lemon, Herb Score, Early Wynn)
1925 Cincinnati Reds (Pete Donohue, Dolf Luque, Eppa Rixey)
1913 Chicago White Sox (Eddie Cicotte, Reb Russell, Jim Scott)
1912 New York Giants (Rube Marquard, Christy Mathewson, Jeff Tesreau)
1909 Chicago Cubs (Mordecai Brown, Orval Overal, Ed Reulbach)
I’m going to eliminate the pre-1920 teams because pitchers were just used so differently back then. For instance, the 1913 White Sox trio had a combined 37 relief appearances during the season. The 1925 Reds had some of that, but only 7 total relief appearances. Trying to keep this to pure starters.
So here are the stats for those 4 groups:
Potentially the best ever?
Let’s take a look at the average seasons for these groups and see if we can determine anything…
Obviously one would pick and choose which stats they think are important and weigh them accordingly, but if you just take an average of all 15 metric ranks here, you get this…
1. 2011 Phillies, 2.07
2. 2005 Astros, 2.73
3. 1996 Braves, 3.07
4. 1956 Indians, 3.20
5. 1925 Reds, 3.87
Personally, I would weigh the stats that are supposed to transcend era (ERA+ and WAR) to about 50% of the total and the other more common stats to the other 50% – that gives you these rankings…
1. 2011 Phillies, 2.25
2. 2005 Astros, 2.42
3. 1956 Indians, 2.69
4. 1996 Braves, 3.25
5. 1925 Reds, 4.35
Really – the question becomes this… if the Phillies trio continues on their current pace, can you make an argument that their has been a better starting trio in MLB history? What is that argument? Did I miss a trio that should be included? Are any of these really better?
Right now, I don’t think you can. Aside from the stats that I may have under-reported (GS, IP), the Phillies trio blows these guys away. 1st in WHIP, SO/9, SO/BB, WAR, 2nd in ERA. The only red flag is ERA+, where they are 4th.
Obviously we have a full half a season to go, and I will revisit this later in the year. But I don’t think it’s a stretch to say we might be watching the best trio of pitchers ever to play together in a game that has been around since before the light bulb was invented. And they are playing on the Phillies.