The Pyramid Rating System’s All-Time Philadelphia Phillies

As if anyone but Chase Utley would earn the spot as the second baseman on this team. (via Steve Jacot)

Paul Moehringer’s Pyramid Rating System & All-Time Teams

Aug. 27, 2015: The Pyramid Rating System: JAWS on a Career Scale

March 15, 2016: The Pyramid Rating System: The Results

Aug. 12, 2016: All-Time League and Baltimore Orioles

Sept. 2, 2016: Boston Red Sox

Sept. 28, 2016: Texas Rangers

Oct. 19, 2016: Brooklyn Dodgers

Nov. 30, 2016: Cincinnati Reds

Dec. 15, 2016: 2016 Season Update

Dec. 20, 2016: Seattle Mariners

Jan. 25, 2017: Milwaukee Brewers/Braves

Feb. 2, 2017: Cleveland Indians

Mar. 15, 2017: Los Angeles Dodgers

May 15, 2017: Houston Astros

In our latest installment of the Pyramid Rating System’s all-time team series, we take our second look at the National League East and one of the most dominating teams to be featured in this series, the Philadelphia Phillies.

In their early history, the Phillies were one of the worst major league teams, with just one winning season between 1918 and 1948. Ever since then though, they have enjoyed pockets of success. Philadelphia’s stretches of solid success include the Whiz Kids of the 1950s, the Danny Ozark and Dallas Green teams of the late ’70s and early ’80s, and the teams of the late 2000s that dethroned Atlanta’s stranglehold on the division.

These will be the primary teams featured on the roster of this all-time squad, but the Phillies will also get the benefit of their 1890s teams, which were regularly either first or second in the league in OPS. Poor pitching prevented those teams from ever being serious contenders, but as anyone familiar with Phillies history knows, pitching will not be an issue for this team.

Franchises included: Philadelphia Blue Jays (1944-1945); Philadelphia Phillies (1890-1943; 1946-present)

Hall of Famers on 25-man roster: 8

Manager: Charlie Manuel

Some may argue for Danny Ozark in this spot, but Charlie Manuel, as the team’s all-time team leader in games managed and  wins in both the regular season and the playoffs, is a fairly easy call for the job.

His nine-year tenure in Philadelphia consisted of almost nothing but success. In his first year, 2005, Manuel’s Phillies won 88 games, their highest win total since their pennant-winning season of ’93. It would be a sign of things to come.

After back-to-back 80-plus win seasons, the Phils would finally break through in ’08, winning 92 games en route to the franchise’s second World Series title. The Phillies would follow that up with three straight trips to the postseason, including another NL pennant, while establishing themselves as the best team in the National League over that time period.

I think Manuel’s firing in 2013 was one of the more unjustified ones in recent memory. In my view, Manuel was scapegoated for the failings of upper management. He remains the last Phillies manager to put up a winning season.

At 73, it’s doubtful that Manuel will ever take another on-field job in the majors, but to their credit the Phillies have been quick to mend broken fences, inducting him into the Wall of Fame in 2014 and hiring him back as a special assistant to the general manager.

A career baseball man and a world traveler, Manuel has not only been a great manager but also one of the game’s finest ambassadors and a great model of success to look up to for anyone associated with baseball.

Best Overall Player, Position Player and Hitter: Mike Schmidt

For some teams, there can be a legitimate debate over the greatest player in team history. There is no such debate in Philadelphia. Michael Jack Schmidt, as announcer Harry Kalas used call him, is without question the greatest and most important player in team history.  A three-time MVP, a 10-time Gold Glove winner, and an eight-time home run champion — that just touches on the extensive resume of the player I consider the greatest third baseman ever.

With every one of his 18 Hall of Fame seasons coming in Philadelphia, it elevates Schmidt even more in relation to players who split seasons across several different franchises. Not only would I look at Schmidt as a lock to be the NL’s starting third baseman in this league’s all-star game, but I would also consider him the  favorite to win the Silver Slugger and the Gold Glove awards. Schmidt would also be on the short list of legitimate MVP candidates in this all-time league.

Few players in this series have been as good as Schmidt and that will continue to be the case right to the end. Just as he was throughout much of his career. Schmidt represents the backbone for one of the most dominating teams in National League.

Best Pitcher: Robin Roberts (Honorable Mentions: Steve Carlton and Pete Alexander)

While there isn’t much argument over best position player, an endless debate could be had on the greatest pitcher in Phillies history, with three starters dominating their eras. Robin Roberts as the best pitcher in Phillies history is probably not a popular choice, but I consider him one of the most underrated starting pitchers of the modern era.

Roberts’ biggest asset was his durability. During the 1950s , he pitched more than 3,000 innings, which means he was averaging roughly 300 innings pitched a season for 10 years. No other pitcher has even approached that workload over that amount of time. In fact, Roberts had more 300-plus inning seasons in the 1950s than all other pitchers combined.

It’s not just durability that makes Roberts so great. He also won 20-plus games six years in a row for the Phillies, leading the NL in wins every year from 1952 through 1955.  He also led the league in strikeout-to-walk ratio five times, and in strikeouts twice.

His career ERA+ of 114 may be somewhat off-putting, but during his peak years of ’51-’55. Roberts’ ERA+ was a solid 135. Even more impressive is that he led the NL in innings pitched every year during that stretch. In this league Roberts would be one of the favorites to led the NL in innings pitched and would prove to be one of the top-tier starters.

The two honorable mentions, Pete Alexander and Steve Carlton, have had more attention. They too enjoyed  Hall of Fame careers with the majority of their success coming in Philadelphia. Carlton was famously a 27-game winner for a team that won just 59 games in the regular season, and at his peak was the most dominating left-handed pitcher in baseball. In the 1910s, Alexander established himself as the best pitcher not named Walter Johnson before the effects of World War I diminished what could have been an even greater career. As with Schmidt, these accomplishments barely scratch the surface of what all three of these pitchers meant to the Phillies.

For three quarters of the teams in this series, any of these three pitchers would qualify as a number one starter. Any of them would be capable of shutting down even the best offenses in this league.

Best Player Not on the Roster Due to the One-Team-Only Rule: Curt Schilling

For most teams this would represent a devastating loss, but for a team with as much pitching depth as the Phillies have, the loss of Curt Schilling simply represents a little less depth on their 40-man roster.

Although Schilling pitched as many innings with the Phillies as he did with every other team combined, the Phillies have become only the third most notable team associated with him.  But his reputation as arguably the greatest postseason pitcher in baseball history began in ’93 with maybe the most unlikely team to ever make the World Series. Schilling proved to be Philadelphia’s only reliable starter in both the NLCS and the World Series, posting a 2.59 ERA over 31.1 innings pitched, including a Game Five shutout in the World Series.

Had Schilling remained in Philadelphia for a few more years, there’s no doubt he would have made the 25-man team and probably would have put himself in the discussion along with Alexander, Carlton and Roberts for the best pitcher in team history.

Philadelphia Phillies Coaching Staff
Position Person
Manager Charlie Manuel
Bench Coach Danny Ozark
First Base Coach Juan Samuel
Third Base Coach Dode Paskert
Hitting Coach Lefty O’Doul
Pitching Coach John Denny
Bullpen Coach Rheal Cormier
Philadelphia Phillies Starting Lineups
vs RHP vs LHP
Pos B T Name Pos B T Name
CF L R Richie Ashburn CF L R Billy Hamilton
3B R R Mike Schmidt 3B R R Mike Schmidt
 C L R Darren Daulton 2B L R Chase Utley
RF L R Bobby Abreu 1B R R Dick Allen
1B R R Ed Delahanty LF R R Ed Delahanty
SS S R Jimmy Rollins  C L R Darren Daulton
LF L R Billy Hamilton RF L R Richie Ashburn
2B L R Chase Utley SS R R Granny Hamner
 P S R Robin Roberts  P S R Robin Roberts
DH vs RHP DH vs LHP
Pos B T Name Pos B T Name
CF L R Richie Ashburn DH L R Billy Hamilton
3B R R Mike Schmidt 3B R R Mike Schmidt
 C L R Darren Daulton 2B L R Chase Utley
RF L R Bobby Abreu 1B R R Dick Allen
1B R R Ed Delahanty CF R R Ed Delahanty
SS S R Jimmy Rollins  C L R Darren Daulton
LF R R Sherry Magee LF R R Sherry Magee
2B L R Chase Utley SS R R Granny Hamner
DH L R Billy Hamilton RF L R Richie Ashburn
Philadelphia Phillies Expanded Roster
Pos B T Name
    C R R Carlos Ruiz
   2B R R Dave Cash
   3B R R Willie Jones
   SS S R Larry Bowa
OF/1B L R Von Hayes
   OF L R Johnny Callison
   OF L R Chuck Klein
   OF L L Roy Thomas
   SP R R Curt Davis
   SP R R Earl Moore
   SP R L Chris Short
   SP L L Curt Simmons
   RP L R Ricky Bottalico
   RP R R Bob Miller
   RP R R Dick Selma

Strengths

As alluded to earlier, the starting rotation of this team is arguably the deepest and the most dominating that will be featured in this series. Starters  one through four are all in the Hall of Fame and depending on how Cole Hamels fares in Texas, it may one day even feature five. With an equal balance of lefty and righty starters, it will be impossible for any team to take advantage of a platoon mismatch for more than a game or two.

Offensively, the Phillies are nearly as dominating. Anchoring the lineup and the infield are Hall of Famers at the corners. Much is made about Mike Schmidt and his success, less about his long-ago counterpart on the other side of the diamond, Ed Delahanty. Although he was primarily a left fielder, with Hall of Fame members Richie Ashburn and Billy Hamilton also on the team, Delahanty will primarily be at first base.

While I would have questions about his defensive ability playing slightly out of position, I would have no such concerns about his bat. One of the finest power hitters of his era, Delahanty led the NL in slugging percentage four times and in OPS three times. Nearly every player featured from this era would likely be no more than a doubles hitter, but Delahanty might be the exception. With a livelier ball, it would not surprise me to see Delahanty ending up as .300 hitter with a home run total in the low 20s.

When Delahanty is not at first, the duties will fall to Dick Allen. If offense were the only thing that mattered, Allen would be a first ballot Hall of Famer; after Barry Bonds I view Allen as the best overall eligible hitter not currently in the Hall. His defensive deficiencies combined with the inclusion of Schmidt and Delahanty at his two primary positions limit Allen’s playing time from what it otherwise should be, but against lefties it’s hard to justify keeping Allen and his career OPS of 1.025 on the bench.

With Delahanty’s ability to play both on the infield and the outfield, Allen is effectively platooned with Bobby Abreu. While not terrible against left-handed pitchers, Abreu was never the power hitter that he was against righties, even going through the entire 1999 season without hitting a home run against lefties. Against right-handers, though, Abreu was about as feared as any left-handed bater in the game not named Barry Bonds. That, combined with some solid defense in right field, help round out one of the better outfields in the National League.

The only other platoon on this team comes in the form of Granny Hamner at shortstop. While most would rank Larry Bowa as the second greatest shortstop in Phillies history after Jimmy Rollins, Bowa qualifies only for shortstop, while Hamner can player both short and second. This is the primary reason for Hamner’s inclusion of the 25-man roster over Bowa.

One other advantage Hamner has over Bowa is the ability to crush left-handed pitching. Although just a .264 hitter for his career, against lefties Hamner was a career .294 hitter with a fair amount of power. This, along with Allen’s platoon, puts the Phillies’ offense on par with their their pitching in that it’s nearly impossible to take advantage of any type of lefty/righty matchup.

Defensively, the Phillies are average but feature three all-time great gloves in Schmidt, Ashburn and Chase Utley.
Most look at Willie Mays as the greatest defensive center fielder of the 1950s, but you can argue that this title should go to  Ashburn. From 1949 through 1958, Ashburn led the all NL outfielders in putouts every season and is second only to Mays on the all-time leader board.

A weak arm combined with having to see some time in right field probably takes Ashburn out of Gold Glove contention, but given his incredible range I would still look at Ashburn as a solid outfielder regardless of position.

In Utley, we have what I think is the greatest second defensive second baseman never to win the Gold Glove. Four times Utley has led all NL second baseman in putouts and from 2007 through 2011 finished first or second in the league in total zone runs.

People may point to his injury issues as an argument to keep him out of the Hall of Fame, but I think Utley was the primary reason for the Phillies’ run of success during the late 2000s and early 2010s, To me, he is the greatest NL second baseman  since Ryne Sandberg, Those factors alone should warrant his eventual induction into Cooperstown.

Weaknesses

While the Phillies’ starting rotation is one of the best, the same cannot be said for their bullpen.

The Phillies have not been at a loss for dominant relievers over the years, but they haven’t been able to develop them. Tug McGraw, Kent Tekulve, Jonathan Papelbon, Billy Wagner and even Mitch Williams were all established relief pitchers before they arrived in Philadelphia. This kind of patchwork has served the Phillies well over the years, but it doesn’t do them many favors in a league where a player can be associated with only one team.

I wouldn’t classify the Phillies bullpen as a disaster, but it certainly leaves a little to be desired. The Phillies will have to be more reliant on their starting rotation than any other team in the National League, but with an innings eater like Roberts headlining the rotation, along with three other Hall of Famers, if any rotation would be up to the challenge, it’s this one.

Defensively, the Phillies are decent overall, but I have concerns about the abilities of Hamilton, Delahanty and Allen. All three are in the lineup against lefties and this, combined with Ashburn moving out of position to right field, will put the Phillies in situations where they will need to bank on the strikeout ability of their starting rotation. Once again, it’s a task I think the rotation would be up to more often than not.

The only other issue with the team I see is the lack of right-handed hitting in the outfield, especially in center. An injury to Ashburn could be a problem. The next best center fielder, Garry Maddox, doesn’t have the bat to be much more than a pedestrian hitter in this league, while other potential big bats such as Del Ennis and Gavvy Cravath come with defensive issues of their own.

Aside from the bullpen issues, I will admit that these “weaknesses” are largely nitpicky and shouldn’t be of much concern, at least in the regular season.

Conclusions

I have a hard time envisioning anyone  but the Phillies taking the NL East, something I think they would do quite easily if this were  played out over a full season.

Of the 36 teams in this series, I think the Phillies have the easiest road to the playoffs. No other National League team comes close to their combination of offense and pitching. Even an injury to Schmidt would mean only more playing time for Scott Rolen and Dick Allen, hardly scruffs even in this league.

How far they could go in the playoffs would depend largely on their starting pitching. Of any prospective playoff team in the NL, I think the Phillies have the worst bullpen, and they will have to bank on multiple starters being able to go six-plus  innings.

But if any team can get away with it, it’s this one. This isn’t a one-dimensional team with only handful of players who can beat you. This is a loaded team capable of both outhitting and outpitching nearly anyone.

Aside from the bullpen, there isn’t a lot of room for improvement on this team — and given the state of their bullpen this year I don’t expect the roster to change in any significant way in the near future.

Overall this team ranks as one of the five best in the National League. I’d put them ahead of both the Reds and the LA Dodgers for the best team  featured thus far in the National League and I would consider them a legitimate NL pennant contender capable of knocking out any team from either league in a five- or seven-game series. Their postseason success would largely depend on their starting rotation and offense, and it’s difficult to pick out many holes in either.


Paul Moehringer is a data analyst, a SABR member and inventor of the Pyramid Rating System; originally from Mount Olive, NJ, now living in Westwood, MA. Follow him on Twitter @PMoehringer.
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Dennis Bedard
4 years ago

No Ryan Howard?

Guest
4 years ago

How close was Rolen to being a Cardinal instead?

Paul Moehringer
4 years ago
Reply to  Guest

In terms of where I had the Phillies Scott Rolen rated and where I had the Cardinals Scott Rolen rated, less than 100 spots separated the two, so there isn’t much of a difference between the two in that regard.

His role on the Cardinals would e pretty much the same as it is in Philly, which is a shame because Rolen would be a starter for 1/2 of the teams in the league.

Matthew Perthes
4 years ago

I would 100% leave Von Hayes off the roster, need a LH bat off the bench? Ryan Howard for sure…

Paul Moehringer
4 years ago

The main reason why Howard isn’t on the roster is because the Phillies already have a Ryan Howard type player and a much better one at that in the form of Dick Allen.

The primary issue with Howard is the same that a lot of DH type players face now who are hoping to break into the National League. The only role I can offer him is that of a pinch hitter and when you’re only working with four bench spots not counting the backup catcher, that becomes a very tough player to justify carrying on the squad.

If I put Howard on the team that leaves me with three bench spots to cover six positions.

One of the reasons I chose to do these all-time teams with modern rosters is show people just how hamstrung teams are becoming with the types of players they can use off the bench, especially in the National League.

Versatility may not always give you the best players, but if you hope to get through an entire 162-game regular season that’s the trait you need coming from your backups or you’re going to have a tough time plugging in holes come June.

Paul Moehringer
4 years ago

Unfortunately I’m at the SABR convention so I will not be answering any comments until Sunday.

However if you also happen to be at the convention I’m willing to take any questions about this or any other article if you can find me in person.

As eluded to earlier though I will be going through the comments Sunday and will reply to as many as I can.

someguy
4 years ago

Why Hamels in the 5th starter spot over Lee? Is it a longevity issue (10 years in Philly vs. 5) or because Hamels has the World Series MVP? Because Lee’s numbers in Philly are at least slightly better and they’re both lefties, so no obvious handedness reason to favor one over the other.

Paul Moehringer
4 years ago
Reply to  someguy

I think you answered you’re own question, because that 5 year difference can also be described as over 1,000 more innings pitched as well.

Was Cliff Lee a better pitcher than Cole Hamels at his peak with Philadelphia? You can argue yes, but its not a slam dunk and Lee would need it to be in order to make up that difference.

I don’t think you could ever make the argument that Cole Hamels was the best pitcher in the baseball, but there’s more than one year where you could put him in the top ten.

A more realistic team would probably see Cliff Lee in the closer’s role, but I have nothing to go on in terms of how well I think he may do which is why I don’t allow for it.

Paul G.
4 years ago

I suspect that if you were doing this exercise twenty years ago this would not be nearly as good a team, losing it’s starting middle infield and the fifth starter who was a significant upgrade on any alternatives. It just goes to show that to have a good all-time team does not require that the team be consistently good but merely to find one or two really good players for each of the key roster spots. In this context, twenty Hall of Fame first basemen and a score of so-so second baseman are not nearly as valuable as one Hall of Fame first baseman and one Hall of Fame second baseman.

Joe Pancake
4 years ago

Old Pete Alexander is pretty clearly the ace, in my opinion, but Robin Roberts was indeed underrated. Here’s my favorite stat about Roberts:

From 1950 to 1955, Roberts accumulated 46.7 WAR (according to Baseball-Reference).
From 1961 to 1966, Sandy Koufax, during what is sometimes considered the most dominant stretch of pitching in baseball history, accumulate 46.6 WAR.

Robin Roberts is also the greatest player in baseball history with the same name as a female TV personality. Brett Butler is a distant second.

Joe Pancake
4 years ago

A fun Chase Utley tidbit:

During the decade of the twenty-aughts, Utley accumulated more total WAR than any other regular second baseman despite the fact that he didn’t become a full-time starter until 2005. Half of Chase Utley was better than almost all of everybody else.

It’s a shame he faded, as he was first-ballot Cooperstown bound. He actually might still *deserve* to get in, but I doubt he does.

The Final Word
4 years ago

Gene Garber?

ajnrules
4 years ago

I’m surprised at how strong the Phillies team is considering their long history of losing. I suppose that while they have solid teams when they’re good, but when they’re bad they’re horrid.

Stephen Andrew Graham
4 years ago

Please tell me Von Hayes over Ryan Howard was a mistake???

Ctwink
4 years ago

Love all your articles in this series, but geez – why in the world do you have Mike Schmidt batting 2nd????

Scott
4 years ago

I was surprised to see Schilling not on the team, which means that the Diamondbacks will have a very strong rotation given that they only played 20 seasons.

But I’m equally surprised that Bunning is on the Phillies rather than the Tigers. He pitched a little longer in Detroit but without the sharp decline at the end. Can you elaborate on this decision?

Joe Pancake
4 years ago
Reply to  Scott

I’d put him on the Phillies also. He accumulated a bit more WAR on the Phillies by bWAR and it’s almost exactly equal by fWAR. Both bWAR and fWAR agree that his best four seasons were 1960 and 1965-67. Three of those came on the Phillies.

So it’s almost a tie, but I think the Phillies win by a nose.

Joe Pancake
4 years ago
Reply to  Joe Pancake

Oh should also mention he had better ERA, WHIP, FIP, K/9, BB/9, K/BB, H/9, and HR/9 with the Phillies.

Scott
4 years ago
Reply to  Joe Pancake

There was also a shift towards pitchers, which happened at pretty much the same time as Bunning switched teams. This contributed towards improved numbers across the board, counting (including WAR) and rate stats. He also went from a hitter’s park in Detroit to a relatively neutral one in Philadelphia. I am curious about the major drop in home runs after leaving Tiger Stadium.

Paul Moehringer
4 years ago
Reply to  Joe Pancake

This system is big on peak dominance and as Joe mentioned three of Bunning’s four best years came with Philly. 99 times out of 100, that’s the team that’s going to get the edge in that scenario.

Bunning also wouldn’t qualify to make the Tigers rotation, who like the Phillies are not going to be at a loss for dominating starting pitching.

Philip
4 years ago

Another enjoyable installment in your series, Paul.

You’re spot on about Charlie Manuel. That was pretty shabby treatment of a solid manager with a long string of success.

Re: The NL East.

Yes, the Phillies sure luck out here. They get the benefit of well over a century’s worth of players, whereas Boston, Brooklyn, Montreal and the New York Giants franchises got truncated with location shifts and the New York Mets have only been around since 1962. The NL East is the only division where one team (the Phillies) has such a big advantage in the available talent pool.

In a nine-team per division, two divisions per league set up, the Pirates would certainly have a sizable advantage over the Phillies.

Frank
4 years ago

Chuck Klein doesn’t even make the 25 man roster? Silliness!

Dennis Bedard
4 years ago

Chuck Klein is listed on the expanded roster.

lexomatic
4 years ago

Is there an updated public spreadsheet available, and can we have the link? i noticed the 2015 list was in the trash

Paul Moehringer
4 years ago
Reply to  lexomatic

I am looking into starting up a website in the near future with all of the info I have.

If you or anyone is interested in seeing the full rankings you can send me a message on Twitter with your email and I will send you the file I have.

trump twitter
4 years ago

Wow – what an informative blog site – i need to spend more time here and intend to do so

wdr1946
4 years ago

The Phillies’ all-star team is surprisingly good for a team which-
let’ face it- most of the time since the 1890s has stunk.

MG77
4 years ago

Juan Samuel as the 1st base coach? Why? He was a so-so base-stealer/poor fundamentals player and is a suspect 3rd base coach now.

John Vukovich should be the 3rd base coach instead too.

Cliff Blau
4 years ago

The Philadelphia NL club was never called the Blue Jays. They merely adopted a Blue Jay logo for a couple of years, while retaining the team name of Phillies.