What are the five best individual seasons by a pitcher in Phillies history?
Well, it depends on the criteria. If we wanted, it could be a list with only Steve Carlton’s and Grover Cleveland Alexander’s best seasons. But what is the fun in that? So we came up with two criteria: We only use a pitcher once. We only consider pitchers from 1900 and later.
Sorry, Kid Gleason and Charlie Buffinton.
Here is our list:
1. Steve Carlton, 1972
Lefty’s 1972 season truly is one of the greatest by any pitcher in baseball history.
First, consider the traditional numbers: 27-10, 1.97 ERA, 41 starts, 30 complete games, 346 1/3 innings, 310 strikeouts, 87 walks. Then look at the modern metrics: 182 ERA+, 2.01 FIP, 12.1 bWAR, 11.1 fWAR. Carlton won the National League Cy Young Award, finished fifth for NL MVP and made the NL All-Star team.
But the most impressive part about Carlton’s season is that he put up those numbers on a truly terrible team. The 1972 Phillies finished 59-97. Carlton won a record 45.8 percent of his team’s games that season, becoming just the sixth pitcher at the time to win 20 or more games for a last-place team, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He won 15 consecutive decisions at one point and tossed eight shutouts.
No pitcher has won more games or thrown more complete games since Carlton in 1972. No pitcher has thrown more innings since '73.
There will never be a season like that again.
2. Grover Cleveland Alexander, 1915
“Old Pete” helped the Phillies win their first NL pennant in 1915. He went 31-10 with a 1.22 ERA, striking out 241 in 376 1/3 innings. He won the pitcher’s Triple Crown, leading the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts. He also led the league with 36 complete games and 12 shutouts.
Alexander went 1-1 with a 1.53 ERA in two starts against the Red Sox in the World Series.
3. Roy Halladay, 2010
Halladay arguably had a better season in 2011, if you consider WAR as a way to compare seasons. He had an 8.7 fWAR and an 8.8 bWAR in 2011, compared to 6.2 and 8.5 marks, respectively, in 2010. Halladay really should have won a second consecutive Cy Young Award in 2011, but Clayton Kershaw (7.3 fWAR/6.8 bWAR) won two more games and had a slightly lower ERA, so he got the nod.
But Halladay’s first season with the Phillies must be considered one of the greatest in Phillies history. He went 21-10 with a 2.44 ERA, nine complete games, four shutouts, 250 2/3 innings pitched, 219 strikeouts and 30 walks in 33 starts. He threw the 20th perfect game in baseball history on May 29, 2010, in Miami. He pitched the second postseason no-hitter in history when he dominated the Reds in Game 1 of the NL Division Series -- the first postseason start of Halladay’s career. Halladay packed so many incredibly memorable moments into one awesome season.
4. Robin Roberts, 1953
Roberts was one of the most dominant pitchers in the 1950s, but he remains underrated in the minds of many. He won 199 games in the '50s, second in the NL only to Warren Spahn’s 202. Roberts led the league in strikeouts (1,516), complete games (237) and innings pitched (3,011 2/3). His 30 shutouts ranked second to Spahn’s 33, and his 3.32 ERA ranked sixth among NL starters. He started for the NL in the All-Star Games in 1950-51 and '53-'55.
Roberts won 20 or more games in six consecutive seasons from 1950-55. He won 28 games in '52, the first NL pitcher to win 28 games in a season since Dizzy Dean in 1935. No NL pitcher has won 28 since. But Roberts’ '53 season is probably the best of the bunch. He went 23-16 with a 2.75 ERA, starting 41 games and finishing 33 of them. He threw 346 2/3 innings and struck out a career-high 198.
5. Curt Schilling, 1998
A lot of pitchers could have fit into this spot: Cole Hamels, Jim Bunning, Cliff Lee, Aaron Nola. Each had tremendous individual seasons. But we’ve got to take Schilling here. He went 15-14 with a 3.25 ERA in the thick of the steroid era, threw 15 complete games and struck out 300 in 268 2/3 innings. He was a horse every five days.