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NL East Division position comparison: first base

The race in the National League East Division should be one of the more compelling during the 2020 Major League Baseball season.

The division has been won by the Atlanta Braves during each of the past two years. The defending World Series champion Washington Nationals also play here. Both the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies are legitimate contenders. And though the Miami Marlins are likely to again bring up the rear, they are an improving ball club with plenty of young talent percolating in their minor league system.

Over the next two weeks, I will be examining the rosters of each team and breaking them down with a position-by-position comparison and ranking. One position each day will be covered, beginning today with the division’s first basemen.

For positions players, I’ll continue working around the infield, then behind the plate, and finally to the outfield. Once the eight starting positions have been covered, I’ll do one piece on each starting pitching rotation as a whole. That will be followed by separate pieces on each bench and bullpen, and finally on the managers.

If it appears as though any particular position is unsettled or that a team may use a platoon situation, any potential starting players will be covered.

Once that process is complete you should have a good picture of where the Phillies, or whichever club is your personal favorite, stands entering spring training.

NL EAST – 2020 FIRST BASE RANKINGS

  1. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves: Freeman plays at age 30 for the entire 2020 campaign. He has been an All-Star in each of the last two seasons, and won a Gold Glove in 2018 and a Silver Slugger in 2019. Freeman slashed .295/.389/.549 a year ago with 38 home runs, 34 doubles, 121 RBIs, and 113 runs scored in what was his 10th big-league campaign. Signed through the 2021 season and due to make $22 million in each of the next two years, it will be interesting to see if the Braves look to extend him beyond that point before their team leader enters the final year of that deal.

  1. Pete Alonso, New York Mets: Alonso was the near-unanimous winner of the 2019 National League Rookie of the Year Award. He turned 25 years of age in early December and so will play at that age for the entire 2020 season. Alonso slashed .260/.358/.583 with 53 home runs, 30 doubles, 120 RBIs, and 103 runs scored in his ROY campaign. Even if he can repeat or approximate those big offensive numbers, he cannot hold a candle to Freeman defensively. But at this stage, Alonso clearly has to be considered the number two first baseman in the division.

  1. Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies: Hoskins was one of the most disappointing players in the entire division a year ago. His inconsistent offensive performances in 2019 were a frequently overlooked piece to the overall disappointing Phillies puzzle. Hoskins will turn 27-years-old on St. Patrick’s Day and play at that age for the entire 2020 season. He slashed .226/.364/.454 with 29 homers, 33 doubles, 85 RBIs, and 86 runs scored in what was his second full MLB season. The Phillies made the right move in bringing him back in from left field to play first base. Though he’ll never win a Gold Glove, he is really not a poor defender at the position. Perhaps no player has more to prove in the division and can be more of a difference-maker should he reach his true potential.

  1. Eric Thames, Washington Nationals: First base is one position that could prove a weakness for the defending world champions. The plan at the moment is to go with the 33-year-old veteran Thames, who signed with the Nats as a free agent earlier this month. He slashed .247/.346/.505 with 25 homers, 23 doubles, 61 RBIs, and 67 runs scored last season with the Milwaukee Brewers. A lefty bat who fields right-handed, Thames is likely to cede at least a few games at the position to 36-year-old Howie Kendrick, the utility man who was MVP of the 2019 NLCS. There is also still the possibility that 35-year-old franchise icon Ryan Zimmerman, currently an available free agent, could return to the club.

  1. Jesus Aguilar, Miami Marlins: The six-year big-league veteran was selected off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays in early December and will go to arbitration next month on a one-year deal with the Fish. Aguilar appeared to have enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2018 when he blasted 38 home runs for a Milwaukee Brewers team that won the NL Central Division and nearly advanced to the World Series. But a year ago, Aguilar regressed to slash just .236/.325/.389 with 12 homers, 50 RBIs, and 39 runs scored split between the Brewers and Rays. He is not a shoo-in to keep the position, as 29-year-old Garrett Cooper is still here and slugging prospect Lewin Diaz could push his way to Miami during the season.

 

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My 2020 IBWAA Baseball Hall of Fame ballot

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The fella in the middle (Chipper Jones) is already a Baseball Hall of Famer. The two flanking him here received my vote this year.

As a lifetime member of the IBWAA (Internet Baseball Writers Association), I have enjoyed the honor of being involved in the organization’s annual Hall of Fame voting process for the last five years. My ballot for 2020 was submitted three weeks ago.

Back in 2009 the IBWAA (Internet Baseball Writers Association of America) was originally, and perhaps fittingly, founded on Independence Day “to organize and promote the growing online baseball media, and to serve as a digital alternative to the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA)” per the organization home site.

While the IBWAA voting process does not earn a player a plaque at Cooperstown, it does reveal the collective opinion and formal endorsement from well informed baseball writers and bloggers who follow the game and who publish regularly on the internet.

In 2017, I began to break down my ballot into three segments. “Hall of Fame” players are those who are receiving my vote. They are newcomers to the ballot who were obvious to me or returnees from prior years whom I evaluated and decided were worthy of receiving my vote.

“Future Consideration” players are those who, after careful consideration, were considered as not so obvious to me. However, I still feel that they are strong enough candidates that I will continue to evaluate them moving forward.

Finally, “Not Hall of Famer” guys are those who just don’t make the cut for me and who will not be receiving my vote now or in the future.

While the BBWAA only allow their eligible Hall of Fame voters to cast ballots for up to 10 players, the IBWAA has a 15-player limit. I submitted a seven-player ballot in 2017 and an eight-player ballot in 2018.

A year ago, I decided after looking over the names and reading a few different articles by writers who I respected to cast a wide ballot. So, for the class of 2019 my ballot included a full 15-player list.

That will not be the case this year. I was almost immediately regretful for having submitted such a wide ballot last year. This time around only six players, the fewest that I have ever submitted, received my vote.

2020 IBWAA NOMINEES

This year’s IBWAA ballot includes most of the same names as considered by the official BBWAA Hall of Fame voters with two notable exceptions. Both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have already received enshrinement by the IBWAA, and so their names were obviously not included by the organization this time around.

The breakdown of players from the 2020 IBWAA Hall of Fame nominees who did not receive my vote this year went as follows.

Future Consideration: Bobby Abreu, Todd Helton, Jeff Kent, Andy Pettitte, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, Omar Vizquel

Not Hall of Famer: Josh Beckett, Heath Bell, Eric Chavez, Adam Dunn, Chone Figgins, Rafael Furcal, Jason Giambi, Raul Ibanez, Paul Konerko, Cliff Lee, Carlos Pena, Brad Penny, J.J. Putz, Brian Roberts, Alfonso Soriano, Jose Valverde

MY 2020 IBWAA BALLOT

These are the six players who received my vote for enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame this year, listed in alphabetical order.

Derek Jeter: 20 seasons, 1996 AL Rookie of the Year, 14x All-Star, 5x Gold Glove, 5x Silver Slugger, 2x Hank Aaron Award, 5x World Series champion, 2000 World Series MVP, 2000 All-Star Game MVP, 2009 Roberto Clemente Award, 3000-Hit Club, New York Yankees #2 retired and Monument Park honoree.

Andruw Jones: 17 seasons, 5x All-Star, 10x Gold Glove, 2005 Silver Slugger, 2005 Hank Aaron Award, Runner-up 2005 NL MVP, 434 career home runs, 152 steals, 124 outfield assists, Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame.

Scott Rolen: 17 seasons, 1997 NL Rookie of the Year, 7x All-Star, 8x Gold Glove, 2002 Silver Slugger, 2006 World Series champion, 316 career home runs, 517 career doubles, 118 steals, Saint Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame.

Curt Schilling: 20 seasons, 6x All-Star, 3x AL Cy Young Award runner-up, 3x World Series champion, 1993 NLCS MVP, 2001 World Series MVP, 2001 Robert Clemente Award, 216 wins, 3261 innings, 3116 strikeouts, 300+ strikeouts in 1997-98, 11-2 career postseason, Philadelphia Phillies Wall of Fame, Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame.

Billy Wagner: 16 seasons, 7x All-Star, 1999 Rolaids Relief Man Award, 2003 combined no-hitter, 422 saves, 9x 30+ saves, 853 games, 903 IP, 1196 strikeouts, 3.99 K/BB, 2.31 ERA, 0.998 WHIP, 2x top-six Cy Young, 11.9 K/9 is highest of any MLB pitcher with at least 800 IP.

Larry Walker: 17 seasons, 1997 NL MVP, 5x All-Star, 7x Gold Glove, 3x Silver Slugger, 3x batting champion, 383 home runs, 471 doubles, 230 steals, .313/.400/.565 career slash, 155 outfield assists, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

 

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Does anyone on the Modern Era ballot deserve Hall enshrinement?

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Do any of the 10 nominees deserve enshrinement at Cooperstown in the 2020 Hall of Fame class?

 

Baseball’s Winter Meetings will get underway on Sunday, December 8 in San Diego. Perhaps the most important and interesting news on that first day will be the announcement of the results in voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame 2020 class by the Modern Era committee.

A brief explanation of the process which players and others now go through in being evaluated for a place at Cooperstown, New York in the museum which honors the game’s immortals.

Voting for players to be inducted into the Hall of Fame is conducted among eligible membership in the Baseball Writer’s Association of America.

Five years after they officially retire, and as long as they had 10 years of MLB service time, players are eligible for consideration. Any player who may die within such a five-year period is eligible six months after their passing.

If a player receives 75% support among the total ballots cast, they will be enshrined. If they fall short of that mark, players continue to be considered for up to 10 years. After that point, players can only get in by voting conducted by one of four special committees. The committee voting is also the vehicle by which umpires, executives, and other non-players can be enshrined.

Those committees are currently as follows: “Early Baseball” covering the period in the game prior to 1950. “Golden Days” covers the period 1950-69. “Modern Baseball” covers the 1970-87 period. “Today’s Game” covers the more recent 1988-present period.

Each committee does not vote each year, but instead on a schedule which is set up well in advance. This year is the “Modern Baseball” committee turn. Here is the upcoming schedule in future years:

Golden Days: December of 2020 for inclusion in the Class of 2021
Early Baseball: December of 2020 for inclusion in the Class of 2021
Today’s Game: December of 2021 for inclusion in the Class of 2022
Modern Baseball: December of 2022 for inclusion in the Class of 2023
Today’s Game: December of 2023 for inclusion in the Class of 2024
Modern Baseball: December of 2024 for inclusion in the Class of 2025
Golden Days: December of 2025 for inclusion in the Class of 2026

2020 Modern Era committee

There are 16 committee members who will be casting ballots this time around on the ‘Modern Era’ nominees.

Those 16 include six Hall of Famers who played during the era: George Brett, Rod Carew, Dennis Eckersley, Eddie Murray, Ozzie Smith, and Robin Yount.

Executives, writers, and other non-players on the committee this time around are: Sandy Alderson, Dave Dombrowski, David Glass, Walt Jocketty, Doug Melvin, Terry Ryan, Bill Center, Steve Hirdt, Jack O’Connell, and Tracy Ringolsby.

2020 Modern Era ballot nominees

There are nine players and one non-player on the ballot being considered by that committee.

The players are infielders Steve Garvey, Don Matthingly, and Lou Whitaker, outfielders Dwight Evans, Dale Murphy, and Dave Parker, catchers Thurman Munson and Ted Simmons, and pitcher Tommy John.

The non-player on the ballot this time around is labor leader Marvin Miller, the former head of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

A nominee must receive a vote from at least 12 of the 16 committee members (75%) in order to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame as a member of next summer’s class of 2020.

Any who fall short of that 75% mark will again be eligible for consideration three years from now when the Modern Era committee is again formed and votes for the Hall’s class of 2023.

Should any of this year’s nominees be enshrined?

If I were on the committee, six of the 10 men on this year’s ballot would receive my vote. Those six are Miller, Whitaker, John, Evans, Munson, and Simmons.

Miller should be a slam-dunk enshrinee. It was his work at the head of the MLBPA back during the late-1960’s through mid-1970’s period that shepherded the players out of the wilderness of the century-old “reserve clause” period and into modern free agency.

Whitaker’s 75.1 career WAR figure is 78th in Major League Baseball history. That is ahead of his long-time Detroit Tigers infield mate Alan Trammell, who was inducted two years ago. It is also ahead of such recent-era players as Reggie Jackson, Frank Thomas, and Jim Thome, as well as this year’s two regular ballot darlings, Derek Jeter and Larry Walker.

Those two were no-doubt, slam-dunk choices for me. The other four receive my support after more close scrutiny.

John is the southpaw for whom the infamous UCL surgery was named. He lost much of the 1974 and all of the 1975 seasons during his prime at ages 31-32 when he suffered the elbow injury that previously would have ended his career.

Undergoing the revolutionary surgery performed by Dr. Frank Jobe, John returned to become runner-up for the AL Cy Young Award twice and a three-time All-Star. Overall, he won 288 games and would have been an easy 300-game winner, and thus already in the Hall, had he not suffered the injury. That he not only underwent the procedure, but battled back from it so successfully, set a path for hundreds of hurlers in the decades to come.

Evans career 67.1 WAR mark ranks him higher than such recent era Hall of Famers as Craig Biggio, Andre Dawson, Roy Halladay, and Dave Winfield, as well as all-time greats Willie McCovey and Billy Williams. Evans banged 385 home runs, 483 doubles, and was perhaps the best defensive right fielder of his time, winning eight Gold Glove Awards.

Frankly, I’m partial to catchers, whose physical demands and in-game responsibilities dwarf other position players. I got to see pretty much the entire careers of both Munson and Simmons. Their stats hold up well when compared against most of the greatest backstops ever enshrined in the Hall.

A star with the New York Yankees of the 1970’s, Munson was a seven-time AL All-Star, a three-time AL Gold Glove Award winner, the 1970 AL Rookie of the Year, and the 1976 AL Most Valuable Player. He was just aged 32 when he died during an in-season crash of the private plane which he was piloting in early August 1979.

Simmons was an eight-time All-Star who played the prime years with the Cardinals (13) and Brewers (5) during a 21-year big-league career. He drove in 90+ runs on eight occasions and finished among his league’s top 10 players in batting average six times. His 193 hits in 1975 are the most of any catcher who caught at least 150 games in a season, and his 192 hits in 1973 rank second on that same list. Simmons ranks second in hits, doubles, and RBIs, and fifth in runs, among all players who caught in at least 50% of their appearances.

Those are the half-dozen players on this year’s Modern Era ballot who would receive my vote. Would love to hear which nominee, if any, would get your support. Just leave a comment below or on social media.

 

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Five Phillies have been named the NL Most Valuable Player

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Klein was the National League MVP in 1932 and finished as runner-up in both 1931 and 1933

 

Major League Baseball will conclude the process of handing out hardware to the 2019 award winners on Thursday with the naming of the National and American League Most Valuable Players.

In a televised announcement on the MLB Network beginning at 6:00 pm EST, the official BBWAA award winners will be announced.

As has been the case all week, the IBWAA (internet writers/bloggers) named their winners during the afternoon.

 

This year’s three finalists for the BBWAA honors in the National League are outfielder/first baseman Cody Bellinger of the LA Dodgers, third baseman Anthony Rendon of the world champion Washington Nationals, and outfielder Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers, the latter of whom as last year’s winner.

Over in the American League the finalists are third baseman Alex Bregman of the pennant-winning Houston Astros, shortstop Marcus Semien of the Oakland A’s, and outfielder Mike Trout of the LA Angels. Trout is a two-time AL MVP and four-time runner-up for the honors.

My thought is that Bellinger will win the NL MVP honors. But my pick would be Rendon. The Nationals turned their season around after a miserable first seven weeks, put up the NL’s best record over the final four months, and won the first world championship in franchise history. Rendon’s productive bat and outstanding play at the hot corner were keys.

In the American League, there is little doubt that Trout is baseball’s best all-around player. But this is not the “Most Outstanding Player” award, it’s for the most valuable. The Halos finished 18 games below the .500 mark and in fourth place. Bregman is similarly outstanding, and his club won. But he was surrounded by easily the best and deepest lineup in the league.

Semien is nowhere near as well known in wider baseball circles. However, his value to the NL West runners-up in leading the small-market Athletics to the postseason for a second straight year is worthy of the award: 33 homers, 83 extra-base hits, 92 RBIs, 123 runs scored and outstanding defensive play at shortstop helped add up to 8.1 total WAR. He would be my choice.

The origins of a formal Most Valuable Player in baseball can be traced back to the 1911 season, and an early automobile manufacturer by the name of Hugh Chalmers.

Chalmers company presented a vehicle to the player with the highest batting average after the 1910 season. For 1911 he instituted the Chalmers Award, with a baseball writer’s committee formed to select what was described as the “most important and useful player to the club and to the league“.

The Chalmers Award was handed out following the next four seasons from 1911-14, and the winners are a who’s who of Hall of Famers: Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Walter Johnson, and Eddie Collins. As World War I began and national attention diverted to the effort that summer, the award was discontinued after the 1914 season.

The American League decided to hand out an award beginning in 1922 to “the baseball player who is of the greatest all-around service to his club“. It was voted on by a baseball writer’s committee, and players were only allowed to win one time.

That award lasted for seven seasons. Hall of Famer George Sisler won the first, and Johnson took the honors in 1924. A pair of legendary New York Yankees stars, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, won the award for the 1923 and 1927 seasons. The first Philadelphia ball player, Mickey Cochrane of the Athletics, won the final award in 1928.

The National League followed suit in 1924 with an award that lasted through the 1929 season, but the NL allowed a player to win multiple times. This resulted in Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby winning in both 1925 and 1929.

For the 1931 season, the Baseball Writer’s Association of America (BBWAA) began to hand out the honors that have lasted through today.  In the NL, the Phillies’ Chuck Klein won in 1932 and finished as runner-up in the voting in both 1931 and 1933.

Philadelphia Athletics ball players captured the first three AL awards, with pitcher Lefty Grove winning in 1931 and then slugger Jimmie Foxx taking it in 1932 and 1933. The A’s would get one more AL MVP winner before leaving town, with southpaw pitcher Bobby Shantz earning the honors in 1952.

Foxx would win again in 1938 for his performance that season with the Boston Red Sox. He is one of only four three-time winners in the American League, joining Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Alex Rodriguez. Trout will try to join that list tonight.

In the National League, Barry Bonds captured the award seven times. Next in line are a list of four three-time winners including Stan Musial, Roy Campanella, and Albert Pujols.

The other three-time winner in the NL is the greatest player in Philadelphia Phillies franchise history, Michael Jack Schmidt.

Mike Schmidt won the National League Most Valuable Player award for his performances in the 1980, 1981, and 1986 seasons. Ernie Banks in 1958-59, Joe Morgan in 1975-76, Dale Murphy in 1982-83, Bonds in 1992-93, and Pujols in 2008-09 are the other back-to-back NL winners. Yelich will try to join those ranks tonight. Bonds also had a stretch of four straight wins 2001-04.

A pitcher with the 1950 Phillies “Whiz Kids” National League championship club, Jim Konstanty was honored with the NL MVP that season, and remains the only reliever to ever win the Most Valuable Player honors. Konstanty received 18 of 24 first-place votes that year to win comfortably over Musial.

How did a relief pitcher capture the honors? Well, it would be hard to argue against Konstanty’s value to the NL pennant winners. He won 16 games and recorded 22 saves while tossing 152 innings and allowing just 108 hits across 74 games, all out of the bullpen.

With Klein, Konstanty, and the three Schmidt honors, that leaves two more Phillies National League Most Valuable Players. Those two were teammates who captured the honors in back-to-back seasons.

In 2006, first baseman Ryan Howard, who had won the NL Rookie of the Year award the prior season, won in a reasonably close vote over Pujols. Howard received 20 first-place votes while Pujols got the other 12, with Howard winning the overall vote by 388-347.

The following year, shortstop Jimmy Rollins predicted before the season began that the Phillies were “the team to beat” in the NL East Division. The club had fallen short despite contending over the prior half-dozen years, and had not won a division crown in 14 seasons.

JRoll backed up his prediction with an MVP performance. He became the first player in big-league history to record 20+ home runs (30), doubles (38), triples (20), and stolen bases (41) and scored 139 runs. Despite such an outstanding season, Rollins win was tight, edging out Matt Holliday of the Rockies by 353-336. Rollins received 16 first-place votes to 11 for Holliday.

A pair of current Phillies players have National League Most Valuable Player awards in their home trophy case. Andrew McCutchen won the award in 2013 as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, finishing third in both 2012 and 2014. Bryce Harper was the unanimous winner in 2015 as a member of the Washington Nationals.

Who will be the next Philadelphia Phillies player to take home the NL Most Valuable Player Award? At just age 27, Harper would seem to be the most logical candidate. If he can do it, he would add his name to a list that includes just 11 players in winning the award multiple times during a career.

 

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NL’s Cy Young Award has gone to a Phillies hurler seven times

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Denny won the 1983 NL Cy Young Award for his performance with the Phillies that season

 

Major League Baseball continues the announcement of its 2019 awards on Wednesday evening. The top pitchers in both the National and American Leagues will be honored as the Cy Young Award winners are publicly revealed in a 6:00 pm EST broadcast on the MLB Network.

Those will be the more formally recognized awards as voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America. However, a few hours earlier, the IBWAA (Internet Baseball Writers Association of America) will announce the winners of voting from their membership.

The 2019 American League Cy Young Award finalists are teammates Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander of the AL champion Houston Astros and former Phillies pitcher Charlie Morton of the Tampa Bay Rays. Verlander previously won the award back in 2011 and is a three-time runner-up for the honors.

In the National League, the finalists are last year’s winner Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets, Korean southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and three-time winner Max Scherzer of the world champion Washington Nationals. Both Ryu and Cole are free agents this off-season.

My choices are Cole and deGrom. Those are the two men who received my IBWAA vote.

MLB first began recognizing the best pitcher in baseball with this formal award with the 1956 season. For the first 11 years, just one winner for all of Major League Baseball was honored.

Due to an overwhelming outpouring of fan requests, a winner was honored from both the National and American Leagues beginning with the 1957 season.

In 1969, the American League vote ended in a tie between Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers and Mike Cuellar of the Baltimore Orioles, and for the only time in the history of the award it was shared. Voting rules were changed as a result, with just one winner honored thereafter.

While the Cy is generally considered to be an honor for the top starting pitcher in the game, that is not a requirement. Mike Marshall of the Los Angeles Dodgers became the first reliever to take the honors in 1974, and eight other relievers have since won the award across the two leagues. The most recent was Eric Gagne of the Dodgers back in 2003.

Roger Clemens holds a record for having won the award seven times. A pair of former Phillies pitchers, Roy Halladay and Pedro Martinez, are among a group of a half-dozen hurlers to be honored with the Cy in both leagues at some point during their careers.

The late Baseball Hall of Famer and Phillies Wall of Famer Halladay is one of just four pitchers to take home a National League Cy Young Award while a member of the Fightin’ Phils pitching staff.

Halladay was the unanimous winner of the award after a historic 2010 season in which he threw a Perfect Game as well as just the second postseason no-hitter in MLB history. He registered an incredible 8.6 WAR value that year, winning 21 games and tossing 250.2 innings with nine complete games.

In 1983, right-hander John Denny captured the honors with the Phillies “Wheeze Kids” team that would go on to win the National League pennant. Denny received 20 of 24 first-place votes to finish as an easy winner.

That Cy followed a 19-win season during which he tossed 242.2 innings over 36 starts. Denny was also the NL’s Comeback Player of the Year in that first full season after coming to the Phillies from the Cleveland Indians in a September 1982 trade.

Four years later, the only Phillies relief pitcher to ever win the Cy took the honors in one of the closest votes ever. Steve Bedrosian saved 40 games for the team that year, exactly half of their total 1987 wins total. He worked 89 innings over 65 games, allowing 79 hits with 74 strikeouts and a 2.83 ERA.

“Bedrock” received just nine of 24 first-place votes, but came out the winner with 57 total voting points. That total edged out the 55 received by Rick Sutcliffe (four first-place) of the Chicago Cubs and 54 for Rick Reuschel (eight first-place), who split the season between the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants.

Halladay, Denny, Bedrosian. Those are three of the seven times that a Phillies pitcher has taken the NL honors. As I said earlier, four pitchers have won the award while with the club. Which means that the fourth hurler would put four Cy Young Awards into his trophy case.

That hurler was, of course, lefty Steve Carlton. The greatest pitcher in Phillies franchise history, Carlton won the Cy for his performances on the mound in the 1972, 1977, 1980, and 1982 campaigns.

That first win in 1972 was one of the most impressive pitching performances in Major League Baseball history. In his first season after arriving from the Saint Louis Cardinals in a spring training trade for Rick Wise, Carlton was the unanimous winner of what has been ranked as the ninth-greatest Cy Young season in history.

The man who became alternately known as “Lefty” or “Super Steve” won 27 games with a putrid Phillies team that would win just 59 games. He made 41 starts with 30 complete games, numbers that are unheard of in today’s game. Carlton allowed just 257 hits over 346.1 innings with 310 strikeouts, registering a 1.97 ERA and 0.993 WHIP.

In 1977, Carlton won 23 games while tossing 283 innings over 36 starts. He registered 17 complete games and struck out 198 with a 2.64 ERA and 1.124 WHIP. That performance allowed him to receive 17 of 26 first-place votes and finish comfortably ahead of runner-up Tommy John of the Dodgers.

For his performance during the Phillies first-ever World Series-winning campaign in 1980, Carlton became just the third pitcher to ever win three Cy’s, joining Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver with that distinction.

That year, the lefty won 24 games, with 38 of his starts resulting in 13 complete games. He struck out 286 batters while allowing just 243 hits across 304 innings pitched. Carlton registered a 2.34 ERA and 1.095 WHIP, and received 23 of the 24 first-place votes as the runaway winner.

Two years later, Carlton became the first pitcher to ever win four career Cy Young Awards, and did so again in runaway fashion, receiving 20 of 24 first-place votes.

That season, Carlton won 23 games while making 38 starts, half of those resulting in complete games. He struck out 286 over 295.2 innings with a 1.147 WHIP for a Phillies team that would battle his old Saint Louis club for the NL East crown down to the last two weeks of the season before falling three games short.

Carlton and Halladay went on to become both Baseball Hall of Famers and Phillies Wall of Famers. Carlton’s 84.1 career WAR mark is the fifth-best in baseball history among left-handed pitchers, while Halladay’s 65.4 mark leaves him among the top 50 hurlers in the history of the game.

Denny had a nice career, winning 123 games over 13 big-league seasons, 37 of those with the Phillies over parts of four years. Bedrosian registered 184 career saves and 76 wins in a 14-year career.

At this time last season, Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola was a finalist for the award after winning 17 games and allowing just 149 hits over 212.1 innings across 33 starts with 224 strikeouts.

Will Nola some day become the fifth Phillies pitcher to capture an NL Cy Young Award? Perhaps Zach Eflin will elevate his game to that level. Or maybe the club will be able to lure Cole or Ryu this winter in free agency and find one of them taking the honors in some future season.

One thing is certain, as the 2011 Phillies who won a franchise record 102 regular season games while featuring a “Four Aces” rotation of Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Roy Oswalt showed, starting pitching is the name of the game in Major League Baseball.

The Phillies need to upgrade their starting pitching rotation by landing a pair of new, proven arms in the free agent market this winter. If they do, the club should finally once again become a serious challenger for a postseason berth in 2020. And perhaps they’ll also get a Cy Young winner in the bargain.

 

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