There’s been much celebration over the recent coup by Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro. Certainly, signing the top free agent pitcher this winter after trading for two of the top starters in the majors last year is reason to celebrate. But let’s not go overboard.
This isn’t the best rotation ever assembled. Not even in recent memory. The Atlanta Braves’ foursome of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery easily top the Philly Phour. At the same times of their careers, Maddux was easily superior to Halladay, Smoltz better than Oswalt, Glavine better than Lee and Avery even getting a slight edge over Hamels. Obviously, Hamels has a golden opportunity to have a better career than Avery, but at age 24 with 55-28 record, no one knew Avery’s arm was about to fall off.
However, at the time the two staffs were assembled, the Phillies can boast they were more decorated. But when the four Braves came together for the first time in 1993, their ages were 23, 26, 26 and 27. The ages of the four Phillies are a more mature 26, 32, 33 and 34. So at the time of assembly, the Phillies look pretty good, but they also have a combined 23 more years in age.
The point is that in the next few years of pitching together the Braves became a dominant staff entering its prime. The Phillies’ staff window is closing much more quickly than they would like to believe.
So let’s take a heat off this staff. The Phillies are clearly the team to beat in the National League in 2011. But the offense is what must perform. Subpar seasons by Ryan Howard and Chase Utley will have this team struggling to score as losses will mount. Shane Victorino, Placido Polanco and Jimmy Rollins cannot carry this team without the two heavy lifters in the middle. And if Rollins is done as an elite player — which many observers believe — the lineup is not as deep as it appears.
The Phillies are our favorites to win the National League in 2011. But this is an old team with potential problems. But there doesn’t seem to be another choice in the NL.