Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Forty Greatest Philadelphia Phillies of All Time, Part 3: ##21-30

The 1950 National League Champion "Whiz Kid" Phils at Shibe Park, 21st St. and W. Lehigh Ave., North Philadelphia

Here are numbers 21-30 in my list of the greatest players who ever played for the Philadelphia Phillies. For previous posts in this series, see here and here.

30. Jayson Werth (OF, 2007-10)

Jayson Werth left the Phillies somewhat acrimoniously via free agency after the 2010 season to sign with the then-lowly Washington Nationals. Needless to say, he is not the most popular player on the Nats with the South Philly faithful. But this is not a popularity contest. What Jayson Werth was was a great outfielder, an irreplaceable cog in the Phils' batting order protecting Ryan Howard and keeping opposing pitchers honest. Since he left the offense has never been the same. He came to the team in 2007 with little fanfare, having hit just .234 with 7 home runs in 2005 before a wrist injury ended that season and caused him to miss the entire 2006 campaign. In 2007 he flashed his potential, hitting .298 with 8 homers in just 255 at-bats. But it was the next three seasons that Werth finally came into his own and showed steady improvement. In 2008 he hit 24 homers in only 418 at-bats, stole 20 bases, batted .273, and slugged .498 before hitting .444 in the World Series against the Rays. In 2009 he upped his power production, slamming 36 homers, creating 161 runs (98 runs, 99 RBI), and, despite his .268 batting average, had a .373 OBP due to his 91 walks and slugged .506. In 9 postseason games, he hit 5 homers and drove in 10 runs as the team failed to make the World Series for the first time in three years. In 2010, he led the league with 46 doubles, hit 27 homers, produced 164 runs (106 runs, 85 RBI), batted .296 with a .388 OBP and .532 slugging percentage. And GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. just let him go, imagining that Ben Francisco could take over RF in his place ...

29. Darren Daulton (C, 1983, 85-97)

Dutch Daulton is unquestionably the greatest leader to have played for the Phillies in the past 50 years. He was the glue who kept the 1993 pennant winners in line and together throughout their unlikely run to the World Series. Early in his career Daulton showed little promise. From 2005-09 he never hit more than 8 homers or higher than .225. He had a good season in 1990 (12 HR, .268) before slipping back to .196 in '91. But his next three years were remarkable. In '92 he came out of nowhere to hit a career-high 27 home runs, bat .270, drive in a league-high 109 runs, and slug .524. In '93 he picked up where he left off, hitting 24 homers, driving in 105 runs, and slugging .482. Despite his .257 batting average, his 117 walks led him to a career-high .392 OBP. In 1994, a knee injury robbed Daulton of what was shaping up to be his best season. In just 67 games, he hit 15 home runs, drove in 56 runs, hit .300, and slugged .549. He would never be the same. But 1993 was enough to cement his reputation and place in any list of the Phillies' greatest players.

28. Garry Maddox (CF, 1975-86)

Maddox's 1980 Topps Card
(from the author's personal collection)

Maddox's nickname, "The Secretary of Defense," coined by columnist Bill Conlin, says all one needs to know. The winner of a Gold Glove in his first 8 seasons for the Phils ('75-'82), Maddox is by far the greatest fielding outfielder I have seen in a Phillies' uniform, patrolling Veterans Stadium's (relatively) vast acres with an equine grace that belied his speed and uncanny ability to get good jumps on balls hit in the allies. And in his early years after being acquired in 1975 from the Giants for my favorite Phillie, Willie Montanez, he could hit too. In 1976, the first of two consecutive 101-win seasons for the Phils, Maddox hit .330. The next year he hit .292 while upping his homer total to 14 and hitting 27 doubles and 10 triples. In each of his first 6 seasons with the club he stole between 22 and 33 bases, finishing his Phillies career with 189. His cumulative batting average in his 12 seasons in South Philly was .284. But it is his defense for which he will be remembered.

27. Del Ennis (LF, 1946-56)

Del Ennis was a hometown hero, a native of the Olney section of Philadelphia, who lived in the area till the day he died in 1996 at the age of 70. He was also a slugger of the utmost consistency. In his ten prime years (1948-57), all but the last with the Phils, Ennis hit 20+ home runs 9 times and drove in more than 100 runs 7 times. But his three best seasons were 1948-50. In '48, he hit 40 doubles, 30 homers, drove in 95 runs, batted .290, and slugged .525. In '49 he hit 39 doubles, 11 triples, 25 home runs, drove in 110 runs, batted .302, and once again slugged .525. In '50 he was the prime offensive force for the pennant-winning Whiz Kids, hitting 34 doubles, 8 triples, a career-high 31 home runs, a league-leading 126 RBIs, a career-high .311 batting average and .551 slugging percentage. For his efforts he finished 4th in the voting for the National League's MVP award. He ranks high in a number of career batting categories for the Phillies: 9th in runs (891), 5th in hits (1812), 7th in doubles (310), 10th in triples (65), 3rd in home runs (259), 3rd in RBIs (1124), 7th in runs created (1031), and 4th in total bases (3029) [he is also 1st in grounding into double plays, with 171, but we won't hold that against him]. For his Phillies career, he hit .286 and slugged .479, making up for his lumbering defensive presence in leftfield, for which he served as an anticipation for Greg Luzinski and Pat Burrell.

26. Chris Short (SP, 1959-72)

Short's classic 1967 Topps Card
(from the author's personal collection)
Short, ironically a towering 6'4'' lefty out of Milford, Delaware, was one of the best starting pitchers in the National League between 1964-68, until back problems rendered him a marginal player at best his final five seasons ('69-'73, when he sported a decidedly substandard 20-36 record). In his five peak seasons, Short went 83-45, won 20 games in 1966, and struck out 931 batters in 1259 innings. In the ill-fated 1964 season, Short had perhaps his finest season, going 17-9 with a microscopic 2.20 ERA (good enough for 3rd in the league behind Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, and better than Juan Marichal, Bob Gibson, and teammate Jim Bunning), striking out 181 batters in 220.2 innings. In 1965 he proved his success in '64 was no fluke, going 18-11 with a 2.82 ERA and striking out 237 batters in a career-high 297.1 innings. For his Phillies career he posted a 132-127 record with a good 3.38 ERA. He ranks fourth in wins (132), 4th in innings pitched (2253), 3rd in strikeouts (1585), 4th in shutouts (24), and 6th in WAR for pitchers (32.2) in Phillies history. Unfortunately, Short died young, suffering a ruptured aneurysm at the age of 50, and dying three years later in 1991 in Wilmington, Delaware, never having regained consciousness.

25. Lenny Dykstra (CF, 1989-96)

Dykstra watching one of his 2 homers in
 game 4 of the 1993 World Series

Lenny "Nails" Dykstra, in many respects, is a failed human being. But he was a great baseball player. In particular, he was a great big game baseball player, perhaps the greatest clutch hitter I have ever seen in my 50 years of following the game. When the Phils traded for the diminutive (5'10", 160 lbs.) Dykstra, I was overjoyed despite the fact that he had never hit more than 10 home runs or batted higher than .295 in his 4+ seasons with the Mets. I remembered his memorable 1986 postseason, when he hit .300 with 3 homers in 50 at-bats, including 2 in the Mets' victory over the Red Sox in the World Series. Little did I know that he would more than replicate his heroics for the Phillies 7 years later. In his first full season with the Phillies, Nails flirted with the .400 mark for much of the summer before cooling down and ending at "only" .325. He scored 106 runs and led the NL in both hits (192) and OBP (.418). The next two seasons he was limited to only 148 total games due to injuries both self-inflicted (smashing a car on the Main Line while drunk and breaking his collarbone) and in action (broken wrist via a HBP). Yet he hit .297 and .301 those two seasons. Nothing could have predicted his 1993 season, however, one of the greatest ever by a Phillies player. That year he led the league in at-bats (637), runs (143), hits (194), and walks (129). He also hit 44 doubles, 6 triples, a career-high 19 homers, batted .305, and had a career-high .420 OBP. For his efforts he came in second in the league's MVP balloting. But he saved his best, as usual, for the postseason. He batted .280 with 2 homers against the Braves in the NLCS, and .348 with 4 homers and 8 RBIs in the losing effort against the Blue Jays. The diminutive Dykstra never played a playoff series in which he failed to homer. For his career, he played in 32 postseason games, scoring 27 runs, hitting 10 home runs, driving in 19 runs, batting .321, and slugging .661. Unfortunately, injuries plagued Dykstra the remainder of his career, never playing more than 84 games in any of his final 3 seasons.

24. Johnny Callison (RF, 1960-69)

My 3 Favorite Players after the 1964 All-Star Game:
Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, and Johnny Callison
Callison watching his walk-off homer at Shea Stadium
in the 1964 All-Star Game
Callison, a smallish (5'10", 175 lbs.) power hitter out of Qualls, Oklahoma and Bakersfield, was the face of the Phillies in the 1960s. He came to the Phillies in 1960 in a trade with the Chicago White Sox. But it was in 1962 that the young (23) Callison hit his stride, and for the next 4 years was one of the premier players in the Senior Circuit. In those 4 years he scored 395 runs, hit 117 doubles, 47 triples (leading the league in '62 and '65), 112 home runs, and drove in 366 runs. His signature season was 1964, when he had 101 runs, 31 homers, 104 RBI, batted .274, and came in second behind Ken Boyer in the NL MVP voting only because of the team's historic collapse out of first place in the season's final two weeks. Callison was also a fine fielder, a master at playing Connie Mack Stadium's infamous corrugated "spite fence" in rightfield along 21st Street, and possessing a rifle arm (his assist totals in 1962-65 were 24, 26, 20, and 21). After 1965, despite his being only 27 years old, Callison's production mysteriously tailed off (despite his leading the league with 40 doubles in 1966). Upon further reflection, his declining statistics were probably largely due to the nature of the game during those years. Callison's OPS+ during his 4 peak seasons ranged from 125 to 140. From 1966 to 1969 they ranged from 109 to 120—a decline, to be sure, but not nearly as precipitous as it then appeared. Indeed, his 1968 season seemed like a disaster at the time (14 HR, .244). But his OPS+ was 120 that season, a mere 5 points below his classic 1964 campaign. That, of course, was the year of Bob Gibson's historic 1.12 ERA, a year in which only 5 players, none of them power hitters, hit .300, and only 3 batters (Willie McCovey, the Phils' Richie Allen, and Billy Williams) slugged .500 (Hank Aaron "only" slugged .498 and the 37-year old Willie Mays .488, coming in fourth and 5th, respectively). Nonetheless, after the season Callison was dealt to the Chicago Cubs, where he had his final productive season, hitting 19 homers in 1969. For his Phillies career, Callison hit 185 homers and batted .271. He ranks 8th among Phillies position players with a cumulative 39.5 WAR.

23. Ryan Howard (1B, 2004-13)

Ryan Howard, in his prime in the early part of his career, was one of the most feared sluggers in the game. after winning the NL's Rookie of the Year at the age of 25 in 2005 when he smashed 22 homers and hit .288 in just 88 games (making mockery of the Phils' longstanding practice of bringing players up from the minors only when they reach their mid-20s, the "Big Piece"—certainly not an ironic nickname for the hulking 6'4", 240 lb. slugger—had one of the greatest offensive seasons ever produced by a Phils' player in his first full year. In that 2006 season Howard won the NL's MVP award on the strength of his league-leading 58 home runs and 149 RBIs, while batting .313 and slugging .659, with an offensive WAR of 6.1. In each of the next 3 seasons Howard hit at least 45 homers (leading the league with 48 in 2008) and drove in at least 135 runs (leading the league with 146 in 2008 and 141 in 2009), though his batting average slipped to between .251 and .279, his strikeouts peaked at 199 in both 2007-8, and his walks steadily decreased from 108 in 2006 to 75 in 2009. Then came the 2009 World Series against the Yankees. After going 2-5 with 2 doubles in the game 1 victory, the Yanks shut Howard down, holding him to 2 hits in 18 at-bats the rest of the series, including 11 more strikeouts. The rest of the NL was watching, and Howard's production slipped considerably (even more than the general trend toward better pitching the past few years). In each of the next 2 years Howard hit more than 30 homers and drove in more than 100 runs, but his slugging percentage dropped to .488 by 2011. The reason? His steadily increasing inability to hit lefthanded pitching, particularly offspeed pitches (indeed, there are few things more pathetic in sports than Howard attempting to hit a southpaw's slider), which was exposed for all the world to see by the Yanks in 2009 (for a statistical evaluation, see my post here). Nowhere was his ineptitude made more evident than in his last two playoff series, both Phillies losses. In the 2010 NLCS against the Giants, Howard was superficially fine: a .318 average with 4 doubles. But he failed to drive in a run and struck out 12 times (surpassed only by his 13 Ks against the Yankees the previous year). Then, in the 2011 NLDS against the Cards, Howard went only 2-19, striking out 6 times in 5 games. And, of course, his season and probably his career went crashing when he tore his Achilles' tendon on the series' last play. Howard's fairly low ranking on this list may be somewhat surprising to those who know his HR and RBI titles, not to mention his second place rank on the Phils' career HR list (311). But his very poor defense and slowness of foot on the basepaths have to be taken into consideration, not to mention the highly offensive era in which he amassed his numbers. All told, his career WAR is a mere 18.8 (oWAR 23.1), less than half that of Johnny Callison and less even than the notoriously slow Greg Luzinski (19.1). As it stands, his number is only 0.4 more than that of John Kruk despite having 2017 more plate appearances than the Krukker. The lesson: superficial, decontextualized statistics can be very misleading.

22. Cole Hamels (SP, 2006-13)

Research has led me to a greater appreciation for Cole Hamels. Yes, he's not as good as either Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee in their prime. Nevertheless, he has been one of the NL's best starting pitchers since he posted a 15-5 record and 3.39 ERA (135 ERA+) for the 2007 division-winning Phillies. In 2008 he actually improved, going a misleading 14-10 with a 3.09 ERA (ERA+ a career-high 141) and a league-leading 1.082 WHIP. In 2012 he was one of the few bright spots on the team, going 17-6 with a 3.05 ERA, striking out a career-high 216 in only 215.1 innings. As I write, his career record is 99-74, with a 3.38 ERA (123 ERA+). The 3-time All Star has struck out 8.5 batters per 9 innings for his career with his deadly changeup, and his 33.4 WAR ranks 5th on the team's all-time list. He has a 7-4 lifetime record in the playoffs with a 3.09 ERA, winning the 2008 World eries MVP along the way.

21. Jimmy Rollins (SS, 2000-2013)

Jimmy Rollins, despite his frustrating qualities (failure to run out ground balls, reluctance to take bases on balls, swinging for the fences out of the lead-off position, etc.), is the greatest shortstop ever to play for the Phillies. He is a 4-time Gold Glover, was the 2000 NL Rookie of the Year, and the 2007 NL MVP. Six times he has scored more than 100 runs in a season, 5 times he has led the league in triples, four times hit more than 20 homers, a ten times stolen 30+ bases, leading the league with 46 in 2000. In his MVP season of 2007, "J-Roll" put it all together, scoring 139 runs, amassing 212 hits, with 38 doubles, 20 triples, and 30 homers, driving in 94 runs out of the lead-off spot, hitting .296, and slugging .531. As of this writing, Rollins ranks 3rd all-time among Phillies in runs scored (1245), 4th in hits (2170), 2nd in total bases (3436), 1st in doubles (455), 3rd in triples (107), 10th in home runs (199) 8th in RBIs (832), and 2nd in stolen bases (425). His offensive WAR of 38.3 ranks 9th in club history, whereas his defensive WAR of 12.7 ranks 5th, with only Larry Bowa bettering him as a shortstop.


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