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The Phillies Nation Top 100: #2 Steve Carlton

The Phillies Nation Top 100 continues today with #2. 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. 

From this point forward, each weekday, we will reveal two Phillies from the PN Top 100 in separate posts. To view the players listed thus far, please click here. To view the 2008 iteration of the list of Greatest Phillies of All Time as compiled by Tim Malcolm, please click here.

Please check back tomorrow for the Greatest Phillie of All Time. – Steve Carlton

Years: 1972-1986

241-161, 3.09 ERA, 1.211 WHIP in 3697.1 IP

Previous Rank: 2 (No Change)

fWAR Phillies Rank: 1st among pitchers, 2nd among Phillies

First-Ballot Hall of Fame Selection in 1994 as a Phillie

Won Four Cy Young Awards as a Phillie (1972, 1977, 1980, 1982)

Seven NL All-Star Selections as a Phillie, Won Gold Glove (1981)

Won 20 Games five times and 13 games or more in 13-straight seasons as a Phillie

All-Time leader in games started, wins, and strikeouts in Phillies history,

Signature Season: Went 27-10 for the 59-97 Phillies in 1972 with a career-low 1.97 ERA en route to his first Cy Young

Signature Series: Went 2-0 with a 0.66 ERA in 13.2 IP in the 1983 NLCS

Signature Game: Went seven innings, giving up only one earned in the 1980 Series-clinching Game Six en route to a win and the Phillies’ first World Series victory

Lefty, the greatest pitcher in Phillies history. Acquired from the Cardinals in a trade for the Top 100’s #40, Rick Wise, Carlton joined the Phillies a year after they had won just 67 games. Carlton came to the Phillies with an impressive pedigree: a World Series champion in 1967 with St. Louis, Carlton, at age 27, had already been a three-time selection to the NL All-Star team. Because of a contractual situation that decreased the Cardinals leverage, the Phillies were able to execute perhaps the greatest trade in franchise history: trading a very good pitcher for a pitcher that ranks among the greatest in not only franchise but baseball history.

Carlton would arrive in time for Spring Training in 1972 and immediately set a higher standard for pitching. Despite the team winning eight less games in 1972 than the season before (67 to 59), Carlton would win 27 decisions on his own, the highest in club history since Robin Roberts won 28 in 1952 on a team that went 87-67. Carlton earned the winning decision in 45.76% of his team’s games and was worth an astounding 12.1 fWAR to his team. Wise was worth 5.5 WAR that season, meaning, had the trade not happened, the Phillies likely would have hovered around 51-53 wins, making them one of the worst teams in history.

The Phillies trade for Steve Carlton single-handedly altered the directions that both the Phillies and Cardinals would take. From 1973 through 1980, the Cardinals would come close but fall short of a series of NL East crowns before breaking through in 1981. The Phillies, on the other hand, would put the pieces together in 1976 and win four division titles and a World Series crown in that time. During his parts of 15 seasons with the Phils, Carlton led baseball in wins while ranking second in WAR, games started, innings pitched, and strikeouts. His iconic 1972 Cy Young win would be his first of four with the Phillies, earning the award for the league’s best pitcher in 1977, 1980, and 1982 as well.

One of the very few knocks on Carlton is the fact that early in his time with the Phillies, Lefty struggled in the postseason. In his first three Phillies’ postseasons, Lefty posted a 1-2 record with a 5.53 ERA and a .269/.355/.472 BAA, dropping Game One of the 1976 NLCS against the Reds and the series ending Game Four of the 1977 NLCS against the Dodgers. In the Phillies return to the postseason in 1980 after missing the playoffs in 1979 for the first time in three seasons, Lefty was a different pitcher. Carlton went 3-0 in the 1980 playoffs, including wins in Game Two and Game Six of the 1980 World Series. Carlton would channel similar postseason dominance in 1983, putting up a League Championship series for the ages, going 13.2 innings against the Dodgers, striking out 13, and earning the win in Game One and the pennant-winning Game Four at the Vet.

Carlton’s time with the Phillies would conclude at age 41 when the Phillies released him on June 24, 1986. Carlton would play through 1988, spending time with the Giants, White Sox, Indians, and Twins. Carlton’s 329 career wins rank 11th all-time, fourth in strikeouts, sixth in games started, 75th in complete games, and 14th in shutouts. Carlton was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994 as a first-ballot selection and on to the Phillies Wall of Fame in 1989, when his number 32 was also retired.

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