Dominant debuts: Phils who starred instantly

February 1st, 2021

PHILADELPHIA -- I get plenty of feedback on these top five lists. Namely, how could you leave this player/pitcher/moment/game off it?

Are you an idiot or something?

The debate is what makes these lists fun. Here is our latest top five: greatest debut seasons in Phillies history. It includes any debut season, rookie or otherwise.

1. Steve Carlton, 1972 (12.1 bWAR)
Phillies general manager John Quinn got crucified for trading Rick Wise to the Cardinals for Carlton in Feb. 1972.

Wise went 17-14 with a 2.88 ERA and made the National League All-Star team in 1971. He not only threw a no-hitter on June 23 in Cincinnati, he homered twice, becoming the face of the franchise in the process. But when Wise and Carlton found themselves in contract disputes with their respective teams, their respective front offices swapped the disgruntled stars. Phillies fans hated the trade. Quinn angrily defended himself to Philadelphia Inquirer baseball writer Frank Dolson a month later in Clearwater, Fla.

“I think Carlton is the top pitcher in the National League,” Quinn said. “This guy, in my opinion, is in the category of Warren Spahn.

“It’s elementary. Elementary. You have to trade a Rick Wise for a Steve Carlton. … I don’t know how anyone can fault us. I just can’t understand. All I’m talking about is who’s the better pitcher. In my mind, it’s no contest. It’s like you had Lyndon Johnson and somebody else had [Dwight D.] Eisenhower and you had a chance to make a trade. What would you do? Would you trade? … “They criticize me. I don’t give a damn!”

Carlton went 27-10 with a 1.97 ERA in 41 starts in his debut season with the Phillies. He pitched 30 complete games, including eight shutouts. He tossed 346 1/3 innings, struck out 310 batters and walked 87. He won the National League Cy Young Award and finished fifth for NL MVP. The rest is history.

2. RoyHalladay, 2010 (8.5 bWAR)
Halladay earns the No. 2 spot for hitting this remarkable trifecta in his debut season: he pitched the 20th perfect game in baseball history, the second postseason no-hitter ever and won the second Cy Young Award of his career.

He went 21-10 with a 2.44 ERA. He pitched nine complete games and had four shutouts. He threw 250 2/3 innings, struck out 219 batters and walked only 30 in 33 starts.

3. Dick Allen, 1964 (8.8 bWAR)
Allen put up eye-popping numbers on his way to winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award. He slashed .318/.382/.557 with 38 doubles, 13 triples, 29 home runs, 91 RBIs and 125 runs scored.

WAR is not everything, but it is worth mentioning that his rookie-season bWAR is 3.8 points higher than any other Phillies rookie position player in franchise history. Roy Thomas had a 5.0 WAR in 1899.

4. Pete Rose, 1979 (3.1 bWAR)
This is where the debate begins. Fans can make a case for Cliff Lee’s 2009 debut, Roy Oswalt’s 2010 debut or Bryce Harper’s 2019 debut. They can talk about the rookie season for players like Grover Cleveland Alexander, Richie Ashburn, Scott Rolen, Del Ennis, Ryan Howard and Rhys Hoskins. Plenty of other players had higher bWARs in their debut seasons with the Phillies than Rose. But Rose gets a spot because his free-agent signing was such a major deal at the time, and he delivered on the field. Rose slashed .331/.418/.430 with 40 doubles, five triples, four home runs, 59 RBIs, 208 hits and 90 runs. He brought swagger to the organization and helped them win a World Series championship a year later.

5. , 2003 (4.7 WAR)
Thome earns a spot for similar reasons to Rose. Big Jim signaled the return of competitive baseball in Philadelphia, and he provided plenty of excitement in the final year at Veterans Stadium. Thome slashed .266/.385/.573 with 47 home runs, 131 RBIs and 111 runs. The Phillies entered that offseason ready to open Citizens Bank Park and build upon an 86-76 finish. It eventually happened with a championship five years later, albeit not with Thome. Still, he jumpstarted the action.