A lot went wrong for the Phillies in 2012, so much so that it's easy to forget just how good they were in 2011, and how many essential parts of that 2011 team remain intact heading into the 2013 season. The primary reason for the Phillies' success in 2011 was, of course, their starting rotation. How good was it? That's a question I attempted to answer late that September in a piece for SI.com by comparing the collective Wins Above Replacement of the purported "four aces," Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt to that of other rotation quartets throughout history. However, the May 2012 recalculation of Baseball-References' WAR stat (hereafter bWAR) and the diminished significance of Oswalt in the intervening season has led me to revisit my conclusion in a way that has produced a noteworthy change. My conclusion from September 2011 was that the Phillies' four aces did indeed combine to form one of the best starting rotations in major league history. Based on a list I assembled of the top rotation quartets of all time, I reasoned that Halladay, Lee, Hamels, and Oswalt were in the top 10 in the modern era, the top eight in the liveball era, and the top seven since integration. That conclusion was based on a pro-rated (because the season was not over yet) combined bWAR of 21.4 wins above replacement. However, if you replace Oswalt (9-10, 3.69 ERA in 139 innings, 2.0 bWAR) with Vance Worley (11-3, 3.01 ERA in 131 2/3 innings, 3.2 bWAR) and use the revised version of bWAR for all four pitchers, that total leaps up to 26.2 bWAR. That's not just a significant increase in the estimated value of the 2011 Phillies' rotation. Best I can tell, it makes the 2011 quartet of Halladay, Lee, Hamels, and Worley the best rotation foursome by bWAR since 1891, a decade before the creation of the American League.
The Best Rotation in Baseball History is Still Here, Even if Delmon Young is Too
The Good Phight | Jan 29