Across MLB.com, fans are being asked to vote from a select group of player seasons to form an all-time lineup for each team. The Phillies ballot can be found here.
While I appreciate, and favor, some of the selections provided, I’m reserving the right to write-in a season if I think it’s missing. You can’t see it, but I just had what amounted to about a three-minute pause as I watch this cheap horror gore flick. Late-night HBO does wonders for making the mind mushy.
Anyway. We have here my all-time eight, simply because I’ll reserve pitchers for another time. Maybe. With the way I post, that may not be until next November, who knows?
It would seem difficult to argue with Ryan Howard’s 2006 monstrosity here. Back when he was drawing walks at a prolific rate, Howard seemed unstoppable. A guy who could hit .313 and hit 58 homers? Awfully impressive. If I had to write in an honorable mention, it would be for Dolph Camilli’s 1937 season in which he hit .339/.446/.587 with 27 HR in exactly 100 fewer PA than Ryan Howard had in his MVP year.
That notwithstanding, 2006 Ryan Howard is the choice here.
Chase Utley is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest players in franchise history, but it sure doesn’t seem like enough people either realize this or embrace it fully. One of my biggest laments is that Utley never saw regular playing time before 2005, when David Bell and Placido Polanco – who probably should have played third in Bell’s stead – blocked his path.
Despite that, Utley has still put up four of the best seasons a second baseman could ever hope to have. Truth be told, it’s not all that close; it’s really just a matter of picking the best of his years. Had he not missed a month in 2007, that very well could have been the best of all. All of the rate stats are career highs, and very well could have stayed that way, but we’ll never know if they would have stood up. That said, 2007 Chase Utley takes the prize. Even though he missed a month, his numbers are still the best of any other season.
The front runner would seem obvious here. After all, Mike Schmidt was a machine both at the plate and in the field. He’s not widely regarded as the greatest third baseman in history for peanuts. As with Utley, it comes down to picking the best season from one player. With due respect paid to Dick Allen’s 1966 season, he doesn’t quite match up with Michael Jack.
Schmidt’s 1980 season is listed because of his 48 home runs. Yet I see 1981 Mike Schmidt as the pick here because, despite having amassed fewer dingers than in 1980, Schmidt’s numbers were better across the board. While hitting .316/.435/.644, he was also, arguably, better in the field. Unfortunately, no advanced metrics can tell us for sure, as they just weren’t around back then and can’t be retroactively applied. Sadly, it just doesn’t work that way.
Again, we’re lucky enough to be enjoying three of the best players in franchise history do their thing in the infield. Putting it that simply would overrate Rollins, because while he’s a superb defender, his bat is really not all that special. His 2007 season is remembered mostly for reaching the arbitrary 20 doubles, triples, home runs and steals plateau – a mark which, oddly enough, Curtis Granderson matched that very year and received approximately half the publicity for it – as well as an MVP award, which should have gone to Matt Holliday.
All of this overrates Rollins’s 2007 season to the point where it becomes almost mythical when, in fact, it was merely a very good season for a shortstop. I could be edgy and pick 1932 Dick Bartell – by all accounts except homers, he had a far superior season at the plate – but Rollins’s speed, slugging and defense simply can’t be matched by any other Phillies shortstop. 2007 Jimmy Rollins is the pick.
Raul Ibanez is having a nice year, but his season isn’t done yet. Even then, he wouldn’t have enough. Jayson Werth wouldn’t quite make it, either, and he’s having a better season than Ibanez.
No, the best Phillies outfielder seasons are a group of throwbacks. Start with 1929 Lefty O’Doul, a guy whose name is often lost amid the yore of this franchise. All he did was hit .398/.465/.622 with 32 homers. Hitting .400 with power is Ted Williams-like. It’s impossible not to include a season that good.
The next season came just a year later in the form of 1930 Chuck Klein. His line: .386/.436/.687 with 40 homers. I’ll make apologies now to Ed Delahanty and Billy Hamilton who, while incredible contact hitters, couldn’t quite measure up on the power scale.
Well, that apology only lasts so long for one of the two mentioned. In an incredible 860 plate appearances (if the schedule were 162 games long back then), 1894 Billy Hamilton deserves a spot on this list, even in spite of his relative lack of power. A .404/.523/.528 line with four homers is simply too good to not have as a lead-off hitter.
Of those three, only Klein’s season is on the ballot. Strange that O’Doul gets passed over.
I’ll go with an option that’s on the ballot for this one. 1993 Darren Daulton – yup, crazy old Dutch has found his way onto this blog for the first time – is the best season for a catcher in franchise history. Others have batted higher than his .257, others have been on base more than his .392, and others have slugged higher than his .482, but none put together a season of quite the quality that all three of those numbers as a whole would suggest. A superb batting eye (a .135 difference between batting average and on base percentage suggests an incredible feel for the strike zone) leads to more time on base, which is really what anyone should want in a hitter, above all else.
Andy Seminick’s 1950 season and Spud Davis’s 1932 season would probably be better choices if they were more complete seasons. Neither of them topped 500 PA in their respective seasons, while Daulton maintained his .392 OBP over 637 PA as a catcher.
Put ’em all together and what do you get? A sweet, sweet batting order. Using this analyzer, the following lineup would be the best possible configuration and would probably average somewhere around 7.3 runs per game, or about 1,183 runs over a 162-game season. Hell-o!
1894 Billy Hamilton – .404/.523/.528, 4 HR
1981 Mike Schmidt – .316/.435/.644, 31 HR
2008 Chase Utley – .332/.410/.566, 22 HR
1930 Chuck Klein – .386/.436/.687, 40 HR
1929 Lefty O’Doul – .398/.465/.622, 32 HR
2007 Jimmy Rollins – .296/.344/.531, 30 HR
2006 Ryan Howard – .313/.425/.659, 58 HR
1993 Darren Daulton – .257/.392/.482, 24 HR
Obviously, this lineup is lefty-heavy, but with numbers like those, would you really care? I’ll be interested to see how this lineup rates with the eventual results of the fan vote. What do you think?