The 2011 Philadelphia Phillies are one of the most dominant baseball teams I can remember. Statistically, this isn’t true—they were a good team, winning 102 games and carrying home-field advantage into the playoffs, but in retrospect they weren’t quite enough of a run-scoring juggernaut to be reasonably considered “dominant” on a grand scale—but they felt like inevitable 2011 World Series champions.
The Phillies were led first and foremost by an unimpeachable trio of starting pitchers: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels. This group of pitchers without context for their 2011 performance sounds unfair anyway; with the knowledge that by Baseball Reference Wins Above Replacement, Lee and Halladay were the two most valuable players in baseball and Hamels “merely” finished 6th in the National League in WAR, this Phillies team appeared invincible.
Outside of the three-headed monster heading the rotation, the Phillies had the benefit of its rotation being filled out by a slightly past-his-prime but still effective Roy Oswalt and Rookie of the Year finalist Vance Worley. The infield included three men who will garner Hall of Fame consideration (to varying degrees of merit) in Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins, while the fourth, ex-Birdo Placido Polanco, had an above-average season of his own, combining decent offense with excellent defense.
In the outfield, Shane Victorino was the team’s best position player while trade-deadline acquisition Hunter Pence made the roster frightening when the St. Louis Cardinals faced them in the NLDS.
It’s a short series. Anything can happen. And the Cardinals won the series, and eventually, the World Series.
But the Phillies appeared to be a juggernaut. On the old side? Sure. But certainly with another run or three in them. And then, in 2012, the walls came crumbling down.
The 2012 Phillies weren’t horrible, but they weren’t good enough to make the postseason, finishing 81-81. In 2013, with another year of attrition, the Phillies fell to 73-89. They matched this record in 2014, and in 2015, the Phillies finished 63-99.
The 2016 edition is faring better. They have some exciting young players, and if they are contending for division titles in a few years, it would not surprise me at all. But the Phillies went into an awful three-year stretch just two years after winning 102 games and being hailed as one of the great baseball teams in recent years.
Take this moment to appreciate this run of success of the Cardinals. Wanting it to continue is fair but appreciate what is happening right now because things can go south very, very quickly. Speaking of living in the moment, here is what happened yesterday on Viva El Birdos.
Seung Hwan Oh...starter?
I made a modest proposal: that noted non-starter Seung Hwan Oh should start the Wild Card Game for the Cardinals. As it turns out, this was a pretty controversial stance to take, and while I certainly understand those who consider the suggestion to be a bit extreme, I do stand by the logic that a winner-take-all playoff game should be treated more similarly to a bullpen game than to a regular-season game in which the starting pitcher is stretched out over many innings.
Brandon Moss, dinger machine
You know, it wasn’t that long ago that the Cardinals had a reputation as a contact-heavy team that did not hit home runs at the rate one might prefer. However, Brandon Moss is now extremely a thing, and Lil Scooter compiled some of Moss’s most titanic moon shots.
The other A. Reyes
With Alex Reyes firmly entrenched (I think) in MLB, Arturo Reyes is the definitive MiLB Cardinals prospect, and he was a big part of ebo’s prospect report yesterday.
The VEB podcast
Episode 51 of the Viva El Birdos podcast was posted on Friday night, just in time for what seemed like an inevitable rain delay. Anyway, most people opted to watch the actual living, breathing Cardinals game instead of listening at the time, so join everybody else in listening to the new episode, starring myself and Lil Scooter (whose name I use regularly during the actual episode but whom I refuse to call by name in News and Notes posts). Please listen, give nice reviews, and make us feel good about our broadcasting acumen.
It turns out Craig Edwards believes the Cardinals should destroy the Phillies. And while it seemed like a loss might happen early in Friday night’s game, they managed to win in 11 innings by the score of 4-3, and mister_manager provided the recap.
Okay, that was fun. Luke Weaver vs. Jeremy Hellickson tonight is a more difficult game on paper but perhaps they can pull it off.