Each weekend, Phillies Nation Editorial Director Tim Kelly will answer reader questions as part of the Phillies Nation Mailbag. Questions can be submitted by tweeting at @PhilliesNation, @TimKellySports or e-mailing your question to tsk@TimKellyMedia.com. Let’s get to this week’s question.
The Phillies are about to finish up their eighth season of this decade. Who has been the best Phillie this decade thus far? – John from the Northeast
This is an interesting question, one that I hadn’t given any thought to until now. Last decade, perhaps there would have been a debate about who the best Phillie was – Chase Utley, Ryan Howard or Jimmy Rollins – but three obvious names came to your mind right away. Given that six of the first seven seasons of this decade have ended with the Phillies not posting a winning-record, this decade is a bit more difficult to sift through.
The late Roy Halladay will appear on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time in 2019. Given that he was his era’s best pitcher, he figures to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at some point, whether it will be first-ballot or not remains to be seen. In any event, while Halladay would go into the Hall of Fame as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, his first two seasons in Philadelphia cemented his Hall of Fame case. His first season with the Phillies, his National League Cy Young Award winning season of 2010, was the final year of the last decade. 2011 may have actually been the finest season of his career, though. He posted a career-low ERA (2.35), career-low FIP (2.20) and career-high fWAR (8.3). Halladay’s 2011 season is probably the finest that a Phillie has had in this decade.
Cliff Lee may have something to say about that, however. In Lee’s first season of his second stint in Philadelphia, 2011, he went 17-8 with a 2.40 ERA, 2.60 FIP and team-leading 8.9 bWAR. Unlike Halladay, who had more bad seasons than good ones this decade, Lee is probably legitimately in this discussion. On top of 2011, he posted a 5.0 fWAR in a strange 2012 season and a 5.5 fWAR in an All-Star 2013 season.
But while Halladay and Lee were probably the two most dominant starters the Phillies have had this decade, their former rotation mate Cole Hamels probably takes the title as the best Phillie this decade.
Hamels was the Phillies third-best starter in 2011, but that’s only because the Phillies had a historically dominant rotation. In his age-27 season, Hamels went 14-9 with a 2.79 ERA, 3.05 FIP and 4.9 fWAR. That season netted Hamels his second career All-Star nod and the only top-five Cy Young Award finish of his career.
A year later, Hamels returned to the All-Star Game, in a season where he won a career-high 17 games, while posting a 3.05 ERA, 3.30 FIP and 4.6 fWAR.
The most frustrating season of Hamels’ career may have been 2014, when he won only nine games despite posting a career-low 2.46 ERA. His 2014 season is perhaps most indicative of what type of decade it’s been for the Phillies.
In total, Hamels posted a 3.07 ERA in just shy of 1,000 innings for the Phillies this decade. Had the rebuilding Phillies not traded him to the Texas Rangers in July of 2015, he would have been the easy answer to this question. Heck, if the Phillies had reacquired him before the tremendous second-half run he’s had had with the Chicago Cubs, it probably would have made him the unquestioned answer to this question. As is, right now it’s hard to argue with Hamels having been the best Phillie this decade.
As John alluded to in his question, the decade isn’t over yet. With two more seasons, it’s possible Aaron Nola gives Hamels a run for his money. Despite the appearance in his last two starts that he may be running out of gas, Nola’s 2018 season has probably been better than any season Hamels has ever had. The 25-year-old righty has a 2.42 ERA, 2.97 FIP and 5.3 fWAR. This is on top of a breakout season in 2017 and a strong rookie campaign in 2015. If Nola stays healthy over the next two seasons, he’ll be in the discussion when we revisit it two years from now.
Perhaps most noteworthy is that it took until after the 700th word of the article to mention a single position player’s contributions this decade. Utley and Rollins, two franchise icons, put together some very good individual seasons this decade, but will be Phillies Wall of Famers (and heavily debated Hall of Fame candidates) largely because of their contributions during the 2000s. The recently retired Howard was largely ineffective after tearing his Achilles in Game 5 of the 2011 NLCS.
Of the Phillies current crop of position players, none really have a chance to find their way into this discussion. Odubel Herrera has been with the Phillies since 2015, and while his highs have been high, his .213 batting average since the All-Star Break is indicative of the inconsistencies that have plagued the former Rule-5 Draft selection. It’s also not entirely clear whether Herrera will still be a Phillie at the end of this decade, though he is under contract through 2021, with affordable club options for the following two seasons. Rhys Hoskins didn’t debut until August of 2017, so he won’t have a large enough sample size.
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