Philadelphia seemed to be the center of a lot of hype during football and baseball’s respective offseason. When pitcher Cliff Lee turned down the Yankees and Rangers to join the Philadelphia Phillies, the baseball world felt two emotions: shock and awe. Shocked, because the Phillies came seemingly out of nowhere to sign Lee, and awe at the rotation the Phillies had now built. The rotation was led off by Roy Halladay, arguably the best pitcher in baseball, then Cliff Lee, who has been dominant the past few years (Cleveland and Philly in 2009, Seattle and Texas in 2010). Philly now had two dominant aces as their one and two.
Fans became even more impressed when they realized that after this dominant one-two punch, was Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. Hamels and Oswalt would be a strong number two pitcher on many teams, and even an ace on some of the weaker MLB teams. The Phillies were suddenly a lock to make the World Series, and a favorite to win it all. Philadelphia might as well begun writing the World Series headlines and selling World Series tickets. Why play the season?
What is being lost here is that having a great rotation does not always win the World Series. Many love to speak about Lincecum and Cain last year, Johnson and Schilling, or the 2005 White Sox rotation. The truth is, sometimes the impact of starting pitching is overstated in October.
The Braves led the big leagues in shutouts four times in the ‘90s. They won the World Series in none of those four seasons. The Phillies led the league in shutouts this year, but also accomplished that feat last year and did not win the World Series.
Sticking with history, Cliff Lee has been one of the best post season pitchers in history. He had a 17-9 record with a 2.40 ERA and major league best six shutouts this season. Lee was 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA in his first playoff starts before losing Games 1 and 5 of the World Series to the San Francisco Giants as a member of the Rangers last year. He is now 0-3 with a 7.13 ERA in his last three playoff outings.
While the Phillies may be a force in a 5-game series, it only gets tougher should they pass by the Cardinals and advance to the NLCS. A struggling Cliff Lee leaves questions for the Phillies, and can give up an important game 2.
Should the Phillies and the Rangers meet in the World Series, the Rangers have many of the same pieces that the Giants used last year to beat the Phillies. Rangers have the left-handed starters to shut down the lineup, and the offensive firepower to expose their bullpen flaws. Together, this could help the Rangers defeat the Phillies, putting the Phillies in that dreaded category of “Great Rotations to not win the World Series”.
Top MLB Rotations in recent history to not win the World Series: www.faniq.com/blog.php