Cliff Lee, Phillies Join To Form One Of Greatest Pitching Rotations In Baseball History

Rotations as good as the Phillies' laser-eyed Voltron we'll see in 2011 do not happen in baseball. Or, rather, they only happen if the final piece of the puzzle is willing to leave tens of millions of dollars on the table.

Because FanGraphs isn't yet prepared to definitively name Halladay/Lee/Oswalt/Hamels the best starting four of all time, I'm not either. But there will be plenty of this talk going around, and many comparisons will be drawn to the Braves. In terms of how spectacular this team is on paper, it's the 1996 Braves if they picked up Kevin Brown.

Some miscellaneous stats and observation regarding the Big Three And Pretty Good Fourth And Average But Well-Meaning Fifth:

- In their full 2010 seasons, Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Hamels, and Blanton posted a cumulative 3.17 ERA over 1,059 innings. If they were to pitch as well next season, well... a starting rotation ERA of 3.17 is absolutely crazy.

- However, it's not as crazy as the 2.97 rotation ERA the Braves posted in 1998. Braves fans will need to stockpile statistical trinkets such as this one in lieu of actually winning the NL East.

- These are the WHIPs the Phillies will be trotting out in 2011: 1.041, 1.179, 1.025. 1.003, and 1.417. Lee's 1.003 led the American league, and Oswalt's 1.025 led the National League.

- Had Cliff Lee signed with the Yankees or some other team he hadn't already played for, he would have worn five different uniforms within the last two years. Regardless, he did relocate four times. It's not unheard of for a superstar to relocate twice within that timeframe, but four times is almost unprecedented for a star of Lee's magnitude (in 1977 alone, Dave Kingman played for four teams).

- Hey, everybody, remember Cole Hamels? The guy who used to pitch for the Phillies (and still does pitch for the Phillies)? At age 23, he emerged as Philly's rotation ace in 2007. Despite a hiccup in 2009, he's posted a 3.53 ERA with a 1.179 WHIP -- good numbers. How rare is it to see a starter put up quality numbers like that for his entire five-year career, only to get bumped from the top rotation spot to No. 4?

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