When Phillies pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater tomorrow, it will kick off a spring training with the lowest expectations for a Phillies’ season since 2006. The roster is old, injury prone, and includes the… uhhh… less-than-exciting offseason acquisitions of Young1 and Young2.
It must be acknowledged, though, that there are still areas in which the Phillies have the potential to excel this season, such as the top of the rotation. If Halladay is healthy (admittedly a big if), the 2013 Phillies could repeat their rare 2011 feat of featuring 3 elite starters — Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Cliff Lee.
When the Phillies won 102 games in 2011, Halladay, Hamels, and Lee each sported a rWAR above 6. It may be highly unlikely that they can repeat those staistics, but ZiPS does project 4.9 WAR for Lee, 4.3 for Hamels, and 3.6 for Halladay in 2013. Assuming Halladay improves on his 2012 showing and outperforms his ZiPS projection (again big assumption), let’s take a look at how three pitchers with 4+ WAR correlates to team success, historically.
Click to enlarge this chart of teams in the Wild Card era on which 3 pitchers recorded 4+ rWAR —
Since 1995, 17 teams have had seasons in which 3 or more pitchers recorded 4+ rWAR. 13 of those teams made the playoffs and 4 reached the World Series. Of the 4 teams which missed the playoffs, one team (the ’96 White Sox) would have tied for a 2nd WC under the current playoff system.
17 teams — just 3 fail to make the postseason according to today’s rules. Three elite pitchers do not guarantee success, but they certainly don’t hurt a team’s chances. The Phillies face many, many question marks heading into this season, but with the names Halladay, Hamels, and Lee at the front of the rotation there’s no reason to lose hope entirely.
Just one more reason to focus on Halladay and his health this spring…