Barring a collapse by one of the Big Three, the Phillies will become the 17th team since 1893 to have 3 pitchers with at least 5 Wins Above Replacement (using B-R's WAR formula).
If you believe that pitching is the main key to championships, this list might give you pause; only 2 teams with this kind of "big three" have won the World Series, and none after 1912.
|1||2011||NL||Philadelphia Phillies||1st in Div.||Roy Halladay / Cole Hamels / Cliff Lee|
|2||2005||NL||Houston Astros||Pennant||Roger Clemens / Roy Oswalt / Andy Pettitte|
|3||1996||NL||Atlanta Braves||Pennant||Tom Glavine / Greg Maddux / John Smoltz|
|4||1974||NL||New York Mets||5th, 71-91||Jerry Koosman / Jon Matlack / Tom Seaver|
|5||1973||AL||Chicago White Sox||5th, 77-85||Stan Bahnsen / Terry Forster / Wilbur Wood|
|6||1973||AL||Detroit Tigers||3rd, 85-77||Joe Coleman / John Hiller / Mickey Lolich|
|7||1970||NL||Chicago Cubs||2nd, 84-78||Bill Hands / Ken Holtzman / Fergie Jenkins|
|8||1968||NL||San Francisco Giants||2nd, 88-74||Bobby Bolin / Juan Marichal / Gaylord Perry|
|9||1960||NL||St. Louis Cardinals||3rd, 86-68||Ernie Broglio / Larry Jackson / Lindy McDaniel|
|10||1956||AL||Cleveland Indians||2nd, 88-66||Bob Lemon / Herb Score / Early Wynn|
|11||1925||NL||Cincinnati Reds||3rd, 80-73||Pete Donohue / Dolf Luque / Eppa Rixey|
|12||1913||AL||Chicago White Sox||5th, 78-74||Eddie Cicotte / Reb Russell / Jim Scott|
|13||1913||NL||New York Giants||Pennant||Rube Marquard / Christy Mathewson / Jeff Tesreau|
|14||1912||AL||Boston Red Sox||W.S. CHAMP||Ray Collins / Buck O'Brien / Smoky Joe Wood|
|15||1912||NL||New York Giants||Pennant||Rube Marquard / Christy Mathewson / Jeff Tesreau|
|16||1909||NL||Chicago Cubs||2nd, 104-49||Mordecai Brown / Orval Overall / Ed Reulbach|
|17||1907||NL||Chicago Cubs||W.S. CHAMP||Mordecai Brown / Carl Lundgren / Orval Overall|
But no, I'm not suggesting this has any bearing on the 2011 Phillies.
Three of these 17 teams had a reliever among their big three: the 1973 White Sox (Terry Forster, 173 IP including 12 starts) and Tigers (John Hiller, 125 IP, 1.44 ERA, record 38 saves, 10-5 record), and the 1960 Cardinals (Lindy McDaniel). None of those teams were serious contenders.
Now, the Phils' big three already have at least 5.3 WAR apiece, so they may all wind up with 6 WAR. Which of the teams above would meet a higher threshold?
Interestingly, though perhaps coincidentally, the teams' fortunes fade as the WAR threshold is raised. Teams with 3 pitchers at 5.5+ WAR won 1 pennant and no WS -- the '96 Braves, '25 Reds, '13 White Sox, '09 Cubs. And the only other team with 3 pitchers at 6 WAR was the 1913 White Sox, who finished 5th, just above .500.
Again, I'm not trying to make a point about the 2011 Phillies. I just think the table is one piece of evidence contrary to the popular belief that a team with 3 excellent starters has a great shot to win it all. However, it could also be said that, in the wild-card era, only 2 teams have made the tourney with three 5-WAR pitchers, and both won the first 2 series.
One last point: None of the greatest records in history show up on this list -- no 2001 Mariners, no 1998 Yankees, no 1954 Indians, no 1906 Cubs, etc. Of the 18 teams that won at least 106 regular-season games since 1901, only the 1907 Cubs (107-45) made the "big three" list.
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