The Phillies Nation Top 100: #100-96 – Phillies Nation
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The Phillies Nation Top 100: #100-96

Welcome to the Phillies Nation Top 100. Our mission is to assess the Top 100 Phillies players of all time using impact to the Phillies, individual achievement, team achievement, traditional stats, and analytics as our criteria. The list was compiled by Ian Riccaboni and Pat Gallen with input from the rest of the Phillies Nation staff. 

Each weekday, we will reveal five Phillies from the PN Top 100, with longer or more expansive posts dedicated to individuals that are of particular note to Phillies fans or are closer to the top of the list. To view the 2008 iteration of the list of Greatest Phillies of All Time as compiled by Tim Malcolm, please click here.

#100 – Jose Mesa

Years: 2001-2003, 2007

13-18, 112 saves, 4.05 ERA in 242 IP

Previous Rank: 97 (-3)

fWAR Phillies Rank: 138th among pitchers, 304th overall

Signature Stat: Franchise’s all-time saves leader

The eccentric closer from the Dominican kicks off the Phillies Nation Top 100. Mesa makes the list based primarily off of his terrific 2001 and 2002 seasons with the Phillies. For those two seasons, Mesa’s bright gloves were the exclamation points on a pair of over-achieving Phillies clubs, giving fans at the Vet when he toed the rubber late in games. With the benefit of hindsight and ease of use of modern statistics, Mesa’s 2001 and 2002 campaigns (2.34 and 2.97 ERAs, with 42 and 45 saves respectively) no longer look as pretty as they did then. In particular, Mesa’s 4.44 xFIP (defined here) in 2002 compared to his 2.97 ERA indicates he benefited greatly from a solid defense and a large measure of luck.

Mesa’s solid pitching and good luck ran out in 2003 as Mesa’s ERA ballooned to 6.52 ERA, racking up just 24 saves and a career-high H/9 IP. The Phillies finished just five games out of the Wild Card in 2003; Mesa had blown four saves and had surrendered a tie in three additional games. Mesa would return to the Phillies on June 9, 2007 after being released by the Tigers, filling a need created by a run of injuries that effected most of the Opening Day bullpen. Mesa would be one of the 21 pitchers to pitch in relief for the 2007 Phils, appearing in 40 games posting a 5.54 ERA.

Mesa’s final line (4.05 ERA, 1.421 WHIP) as a Phillie makes him an interesting choice to include in a top 100 over other, arguably more talented, relievers. But Mesa makes the list as the Phillies’ record holder for saves (112) and his place on a trio of unexpected contenders in 2001, 2003, and 2007.

#99 – Antonio Bastardo

Years: 2009-active

15-11, 11 saves, 3.65 ERA in 251.2 IP

Previous Rank: New to Rankings

fWAR Phillies Rank: 160th among pitchers, 331st overall

Signature Stat: Highest K/9 IP in franchise history

Pop quiz: which Phillies pitcher with at least 100 innings pitched has the highest K/9 IP in team history? It’s not Billy Wagner, Tug McGraw, Ryan Madson, or even Brad Lidge. No, that honor belongs to lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo. Bastardo has been very quietly among the most dominant relievers in baseball since being called up in 2009 by the Phillies. His 11.22 K/9 IP are ninth in baseball among relievers with at least 150 innings pitched and those numbers are good enough to outpace every other Phillies pitcher, ever.

Bastardo was signed as an international free agent in 2006 out of the Dominican Republic and gets outs on a mid-80s fastball. Bastardo emerged as a bullpen-stabilizing lefty late in the Phillies playoff runs. In our rankings, there was much debate where to place a player like Bastardo, one that had been suspended for steroids but one that has very much been among the most over-powering pitchers in Phillies history. When compared to a pitcher like David West, Bastardo narrowly outpaces him in all categories except for ERA, including WHIP, saves, and BB/9 IP. Had the Phillies won a championship in 2010 or 2011, Bastardo would likely be in higher regard by association but because of his suspension and the downturn in the fortunes of the Phillies, Bastardo may be an unpopular choice on this list.

Bastardo’s appearance on this list also highlighted something that became very apparent to Pat and I very quickly while assembling this list: despite being over 130 years old, the Phillies have only had about 10 marquee players and 25-30 “awesome” players. Everybody after that was usually, at best, very good, for only a year or two, or good for a a few years. Bastardo’s inclusion on this list may be more of an indirect commentary on what the Phillies franchise was, or better yet, wasn’t, from 1883 to 1976 than anything.

**Note: As the list continues, we anticipate this to be among the most contentious of selections. There were a number of players considered for spots 99 and 100 that did not make the list, including West, Mickey Morandini, and others.**

#98 – Brett Myers

Years: 2002-2009

73-63, 21 saves, 4.25 ERA in 1183.2 IP

Previous Rank: 80 (-18)

fWAR Phillies Rank: 37th among pitchers, 97th overall

Signature Moments: Closing out the 2007 NL East clincher, Nine-pitch walk against C.C. Sabathia in the 2008 NLDS

If there was an initial moment of hope, a moment that led me to believe the Phillies had an opportunity to really contend or that things might be going their way for once with young players in the early 2000s, it was the debut of Myers.  Myers was the 12th pick in the 1999 amateur draft and was the #33 prospect in baseball according to Baseball America headed into the 2002 season. As a 21-year old, Myers earned a win at Wrigley Field by pitching eight innings of one-run ball, striking out five with the only run on his ledger coming off the bat of Sammy Sosa, out-dueling prospect darling Mark Prior.

Myers would be one of the pillars of consistency for the Phillies as they took shape into outside contender into A-level franchise, earning 73 wins (24th in franchise history), posting a 4.40 ERA (30th in franchise history among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched), and even memorably converted into a closer during the 2007 season to stabilize a bullpen that used 21 pitchers.

Though Myers was never an All-Star with the Phillies, he was part of some of the clubs’ most memorable moments. Myers earned the win in Game 2 of the 2008 NLDS against the Brewers with a seven-inning performance, surrendering just two runs. While his pitching was good enough to hold off opposing starter C.C. Sabathia, what was more impressive was his day at the plate. Myers’ nine-pitch, two-out walk against the former Cy Young winner that would keep the inning going for Shane Victorino two batters later to crank a two-out grand slam into the Philadelphia twilight. Myers would see 20 pitches in three at bats, following his nine-pitch walk with a 10-pitch line out, and concluding with a single on the first pitch he saw from Brewers’ reliever Seth McClung in the bottom of the fifth. Somewhat forgotten is his stellar follow-up at the plate just a few days later in Game 2 of the NLCS against the Dodgers: a record-tying three-hit game with three RBIs in an 8-5 win over the Dodgers in Philadelphia.

Despite the late efforts of Eric Bruntlett, Myers would be out-dueled by James Shields in Game 2 of the 2008 World Series, undoubtedly on the losing end in part because he was unable to hit in the American League park. Myers would raise the World Series trophy in 2008 and return the following year as a reliever after missing significant time with injuries. Myers is including in the Top 100 for his longevity and place on winning Phillies’ ball clubs but drops a few spots due to unfortunate off-the-field extra-curriculars.

#97 – Ryan Madson

Years: 2003-2011

47-30, 59 saves, 3.59 ERA in 630 IP

Previous Rank: 74 (-23)

fWAR Phillies Rank: 61st among pitchers, 135th overall

Signature Season: Recording 32 saves in 2011 with a 2.37 ERA

Ryan Madson is one of just seven players to remain a Phillie during their entire five-year run as NL East champions. Madson had a brief cameo in 2003 with the Phillies before breaking onto the scene for good under Larry Bowa in 2004. In Madson’s rookie year, he put up a career-low 2.34 ERA in 77 innings pitched over 52 games. A brief experiment in the starting rotation in 2006 aside, Mad Dog was the Phillies most stable and steady relievers during their 2007-2011 run, posting a 2.89 ERA (37th among relievers) and a 1.192 WHIP, as well the 29th best FIP, and 30th best xFIP.

At various points from 2009 through 2011, Madson would fill the closer role on behalf of the injured Brad Lidge, accumulating 47 saves over those three years. Madson was also a dominant postseason pitcher, posting a 2.31 ERA in 35 innings pitched. The last pitches Madson threw as a Phillie were in the 2011 NLDS against Nick Punto of the St. Louis Cardinals, striking him out on a 1-2 count. He has not played a game in Major League Baseball since, dealing with elbow issues.

#96 – Ron Reed

Years: 1976-1983

57-38, 90 saves, 3.06 ERA in 809.1 IP

Previous Rank: 43 (-53)

fWAR Phillies Rank: 42nd among pitchers, 102nd overall

Signature Moment: Earning the save in Game 2 of the 1980 World Series

Signature Stats: Compiling the most fWAR among any Phillies reliever, compiled the most wins of any Phillies reliever

It is sort of fitting that Reed directly follows Madson on this list. Madson was like the Reed of the 2000s and Reed the Madson of the last great era of Phillies baseball prior to their most current run, retro-fitted for era-appropriate bullpen use. They also share striking physical similarities: Madson a 6’6″ righty, Reed the same.

Reed was a sixth, seventh, eighth, and sometimes ninth inning man for the Phillies from 1976 through 1983 who was responsible for four of the 42 100+ innings pitched seasons in Phillies history. In that time period, Reed accumulated 10 more saves than Tug McGraw, ranking ninth in baseball in those eight seasons in saves, fourth in innings pitched by a reliever, 46th in ERA but 18th in FIP. Reed was not just among the best pitchers in the Phillies bullpen during this time, he was a top 25 reliever in baseball for the duration of his run.

For advanced stat gurus, Reed holds a pretty unique distinction: Reed accumulated the most fWAR out of any relievers in Phillies history. For traditional stat gurus, Reed holds an equally unique distinction: Reed earned the most career wins with the Phillies (54) than any other reliever and his 13 wins in 1979 is the second among relievers in a Phillies single season, only trailing Jim Konstanty‘s 16 wins in 1950. While Reed was very good in the regular season, Reed struggled in the postseason for the Phils, posting a 5.06 ERA in 32 postseason innings pitched. Three of those earned runs came in Game Three of the 1976 NLCS, when Reed blew a 6-3 lead against the Big Red Machine. Reed would get his playoff moment of redemption, however, in 1980, earning a save in Game 2 of the 1980 World Series and pitching a scoreless sixth in Game 5 in Kansas City.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Lil' Kim Jong-il

    January 3, 2014 at 11:05 am

    Joe Table barely hanging on!

  2. Jay Floyd

    January 3, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Holding a team record in a major stat category should have more of an impact on a guy’s place. I’d have Mesa higher than Bastardo based on being the saves leader. Just my personal outlook though. Maybe it’s the 100 spot that’s got me feeling like that, because at 100, Mesa might as well be off the list.

    • George

      January 3, 2014 at 1:55 pm

      Saves might be a major stat category to some, but to me they are one of the least legitimate markers of a pitcher’s effectiveness. A save can be earned just by getting the final out when the team is ahead by three runs. Many times, the save should probably go to the seventh inning guy who comes in with one out and the bases loaded and gets out of the jam. Another thing to look at with those saves are the number of blown ones. A closer might rack up 30 saves in a year, but he’s not so good if he loses a dozen leads in the process. There are also pitchers around who aren’t given many chances to close. How many save opportunities has Bastardo been given in his Phils career, as compared to Mesa in his time with the team? In the few chances he’s gotten, he’s been pretty effective.

      • hk

        January 4, 2014 at 11:36 am

        Just because Jerome Holtzman did baseball a disservice and created the Save statistic, shouldn’t mean it gets credence in any ratings, especially if you understand how relatively meaningless it is. Jose Mesa was a mediocre pitcher for a short period with the Phillies. He should not be on this list.

    • Ian Riccaboni

      January 3, 2014 at 2:03 pm

      In short, the only reason Mesa made the list at all was because of his saves record. Even though the save, in itself, is a very flawed metric, we still wished to recognize it.

      As for him being the franchise record holder in it, at 112, it is almost impressive for the wrong reasons. The total is very low. Take, for instance, the Mariners are almost 100 years younger than the Phillies but their franchise saves leader is Kaz Sasaki at 129. In a bit of an unfair example, Padres, about 85 years younger, have Trevor Hoffman above 550, but another “younger” franchise like the Angels has Troy Percival at 316. 75 players have racked up over 112 saves with one franchise.

      The obvious retort to this is the fact that relief pitchers had been used very differently up until around the mid-1970s and the age of the franchise shouldn’t matter but his 112 ranks in the bottom half of MLB team saves records. In case anyone was wondering, the Phillies record (112) sits 26th among Major League clubs.

      Mesa was very, very good for two seasons but horrible for his third and passable for his fourth. There are a pair of relievers in this countdown coming that face similar positions but were so good that that is no longer a concern. Honestly, had Mesa only been a Phillie for 2001 and 2002 but not have accumulated the saves record, he would likely rank higher and we’d be discussing Steve Bedrosian’s inclusion/exclusion.

  3. Bart Shart

    January 3, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    Big mistake ranking Reed at #96. He should be no higher in rank than 65. Just on man’s opinion.

    • Ian Riccaboni

      January 3, 2014 at 4:05 pm

      Bart – we have received a LOT of feedback on Reed. Comparable to that of what which received on Bastardo.

      Thanks for taking a look – hopefully the entries that follow will change your mind.

  4. chris

    January 3, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    How is it even possible for a player who holds the most Saves on a franchise be #100 on a top 100 list? You guys really screwed up on that one, sorry!

    • Ian Riccaboni

      January 3, 2014 at 5:15 pm

      As stated, saves are not a particularly useful tool for measuring a pitcher’s performance and the Phillies saves record isn’t particularly impressive. 75 other players have gotten more saves with an individual team than Mesa did with the Phillies and Mesa’s 112 as a team record ranks 26th in the Majors.

  5. Lefty

    January 3, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Just a quick note about Ron Reed. Not many athletes played pro ball in multiple sports. He spent 2 years on the Detroit Pistons of the NBA while at the same time grooming himself in the Braves organization to play baseball. Check his height on the basketball site, a 6’5″ power forward who apparently grew an inch after switching full time to baseball.

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/r/reedro01.html

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/r/reedro01.shtml

  6. Lil' Kim Jong-il

    January 3, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    Looking at some old teams and noticed that the Phillies played the entire 1976 season using only 11 pitchers. How the game has changed…

  7. TnTsDaD

    January 6, 2014 at 9:14 am

    Hope you looked back to players in 50s & 60s too. Glad to see Ron Reed, but I hope you don’t forget about Chris Short, Lowell Palmer, Kaat, Bunning, Christiansen and the likes if you’re looking at pitching. And if overall, Glanville, Lonnie Smith, Dave Cash, Burrell, etc … some of the names from the past that I know today’s youth don’t recognize, for the most part.

  8. DavidE

    March 1, 2014 at 11:15 pm

    My daughter just saw me on this site and said: Dad, get a life!
    Anyway, here are my objections. McGraw was a key part of the Phillies for several years and was absolutely critical to the first championship. He should be higher than 66. While Lidge was erratic, his 2008 year was so good, he could have been given the MVP. Dick Allen is too high on the list. He played about 7 years for the Phillies but two of them were at the end of his career when he was barely an average player. Luzinski, Burrell and Howard all should be higher than Dick Allen. Werth should be higher than Abreu as he was certainly critical to the team’s success in the years he played here. Trillo was an outstanding defensive player who probably should be higher and Bob Boone should be higher as well.

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