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Take Time to Appreciate Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels During Playoff Chase

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The statistics read something like this:Roy Halladay could be the first Phillies 20-Game Winner since Steve Carlton in 1982. Photo: Wilfredo Lee/AP

Games Started: 19

Innings: 133.2

Earned Runs: 31

ERA: 2.08

K: 129

If any starting pitcher in baseball were posting numbers like this, he would be well on his way to a Cy Young Award in whichever league he called home.

That pitcher would easily be the top starter for any rotation in Major League Baseball (and undoubtedly headed to the New York Yankees the day his current contract expired).

The problem, of course, is that those numbers are not being delivered by any single pitcher in baseball.

They actually come from three starters on the same team.

It’s no surprise that the top of the Phillies rotation is performing as well as any in baseball. With Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels taking the mound for three out of every five games, the results are bound to be impressive. Between them, there are eleven all-star appearances, a Cy Young Award and a World Series MVP.

What has been amazing is the degree to which they have dominated opposing hitters as the 2010 playoffs approach. For a group of three starters to combine for an ERA of less than 2.00 over an extended period of time is impressive to watch and surely terrifying to compete against.

Loyal Phillies fans have come to appreciate the magic that has occurred with their baseball team over the past three years. But what they are witnessing with these three pitchers is something that simply doesn’t come along very often. Perhaps even more remarkable than the statistics already mentioned is the fact that the Phillies’ big three have given up one or fewer runs in 11 of their 18 starts in the past month, including seven starts in which they shutout their opponents for at least seven innings.

The only thing preventing Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels from utterly ridiculous win-loss totals have been the much-documented struggles of their team’s hitters.

Let’s examine this point with a very conservative analysis of the effect that poor run support has had on the win totals of these pitchers. A reasonable assumption is that if any starting pitcher works at least seven innings while giving up two or fewer runs, he should come away with a win.

If that analysis were applied to Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels during this season, their records would be 19-8, 15-8, and 17-2. With each pitcher likely to start five more regular season games, the Phillies would likely end the season with two 20-game winners and an 18-game winner. Halladay would also be a heavy favorite to collect his second career Cy Young Award.

The point here is that for all of the difficult moments and sometimes painful games that Phillies fans have had to endure this year, it is important to realize that the team is in the middle of an extraordinary run with some historic talent.

With only twenty five regular season games remaining, the National League East title and home field advantage are looking more and more likely for the Phillies. Then, it’s onto a postseason in which no other team can match the pitching firepower of Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels.

The Phillies have been playing baseball for 127 years. In that time, there has not been a better set of starting pitchers on a single Phillies staff. During the team’s third straight pennant chase and hopeful World Series run, we need to take a moment to appreciate that we are witnessing something from these three aces that hasn’t been seen in the first 126 years of this franchise’s existence.

Then, when the 2010 season is all over, we can begin to imagine what this trio can do in 2011 and possibly 2012.

It truly is a great time to be a Phillies fan.

Matt Babiarz was born and raised in the Philadelphia area.  He graduated from the University of Alabama, but remained a very close observer of the Philadelphia sports scene.  He recently began covering the Phillies for Philly2Philly.com.   You can also read his work at Bleacherreport.com within the Philadelphia Phillies section. 

Matt can be contacted at mattbabz@comcast.net  

Roy Halladay photo: Wilfredo Lee/AP