Trivia question: Who was the last team to have four 20-game winners in one year?

Answer: The 1971 Orioles rotation that featured Dave McNally (21-5, 2.89), Mike Cuellar (20-9, 3.08), Pat Dobson (20-8, 2.90) and oh yeah, Hall of Famer Jim Palmer (20-9, 2.68).

No one has been able to match that feat, or really come close for that matter. Keep in mind baseball was a different game in 1971 from today. Starting pitchers went further into games almost every time out and averaged more starts throwing on less rest than today’s pitchers. Though now the big comparison to this rotation is the current one the Phillies are about to start the 2011 season with that includes Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton (the fifth guy could be my neighbor, it really doesn’t matter).

Do four pitchers on this staff actually have a shot at 20 wins each? Well three out of four have won 20 games at some point in their career. Halladay has done it three times including last year, Oswalt twice and Lee once. Hamels career high in win was 14 in 2008, but this could be a breakout year for him with less pressure on him as the number four guy. Though Blanton actually has more wins than Hamels in a year with 16 in 2006 with Oakland.

There’s obviously a chance, but I see it as a long shot to accomplish it. The offense is certainly there for the Phillies to produce plenty of runs, but everything would basically need to go right for them to do it.

As I mentioned above, Lee has only won 20 games once in his career as injuries have been a problem for him over the years. Oswalt is also 32 years old and his back is always a question mark. He reached 200 innings last year, but I think it will be difficult for him to continue to go deep into games all year. And Hamels would really need to take a jump in production and dominate to reach the 20-win mark. Halladay appears to be a lock for 20 wins (barring injury) with the way he pitched last year for Philly.

Plus, look at the ’71 Orioles numbers above for each pitcher. McNally reached 21 wins, but the other three just barely reached 20 wins. Obviously they were an incredible staff, but even they received some luck down the stretch for three of them to just get over the mark. You need the offense to score runs, you need your bullpen to hold leads late in the game, you need to stay healthy and avoid a freak injury, need weather to hold up and not wash out a pitcher’s start among other intangibles.

Another interesting fact is while that Orioles staff was unreal with four 20-game winners, they still did not win the World Series. They came close though losing in seven games to, that’s right, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Will the Phillies hold the same fate?


NLCS Game 5: Phillies 4, Giants 2
Well it wasn’t pretty, but on a soggy, strange night in San Francisco, Roy Halladay out dueled Tim Lincecum in round 2 to defeat the Giants, 4-2, and send the series back to Philadelphia. The Giants lead the series 3 games to 2.

The Phillies took advantage of suspect defense and a missed foul call on a Halladay bunt to score three runs in the top of the third inning and never gave up that lead behind Halladay and stellar work for their bullpen. Despite giving up a run in the first inning and looking visibly angry at the umpire, Halladay settled down to go 6.0 innings with two runs allowed on six hits, two walks and five strikeouts for the win. Ryan Madson struck out the side in the eighth inning and Brad Lidge worked his first save of the series with a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

The Phillies opened the third with a single and a hit by pitch with Halladay coming to the plate. He attempted a bunt that hit home plate and rolled back, but was ruled a fair ball by the umpire. Posey picked it up and fired to first to almost nab Ibanez at third, but Sandoval missed the bag with his foot. With runners on third and second with one out, Victorino hit a line drive to first where Aubrey Huff misplayed off his glove and caromed into right field as both runs scored. Polanco singled in the next at-bat to score Victorino to give the Phillies a 3-1 lead.

Jayson Werth added a solo home run, his second of the series, to provide an insurance run in the top of the ninth inning. The Phillies were actually out-hit in this one, 7-6.

Lincecum went 7.0 innings, but allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits, one walk and seven strikeouts to get tagged with the loss.

The teams will meet Saturday night back in Philadelphia for Game 6. Can the Giants win one game in Philly to clinch a spot in the Fall Classic? They will turn to Jonathan Sanchez to try in Game 6 against Roy Oswalt.

The Reds shortstop Orlando Cabrera had just witnessed Roy Halladay‘s no-hitter firsthand as he went 0-for-3 himself with a strikeout in Wednesday’s Game 1 of the NLDS. After the game Cabrera decided to let the world know he was a sore loser on an elite level.

“Another umpire, he wouldn’t have thrown a game like that,” Cabrera told reporters following the game. “He was getting every pitch. We had no chance. We had to swing.”

Seriously, man? Just please stop talking.

Caught Looking breaks down the playoff games from the night before in a feature that will continue throughout the postseason. The opening day of the playoffs was of course dominated by none other than Roy Halladay. The best pitcher in the game over the past decade just threw the best pitching performance in the playoffs in 54 years. Let’s recap the games…

Game 1: Phillies 4, Reds 0
So much for postseason experience being so crucial? Roy Halladay added clout to his legend as he made his playoff debut by firing just the second no-hitter in MLB postseason history, second to only Don Larsen’s perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series. Halladay struck out eight batters on 104 pitches with his only blemish being a two-out walk to Jay Bruce in the fifth inning. Honestly, there’s nothing this guy can do anymore that really surprises me. It was his second no-no of the season as he threw a perfect game back in May. The Phillies didn’t need much offense but they quickly built a 4-0 in the first two innings with Doc even driving in a run with an RBI single in the bottom of the second. Shane Victorino drove in Halladay and Wilson Valdez two batters later with a single off Reds starter Edinson Volquez. Victorino finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a double.

Game 1: Rangers 5, Rays 1
The visiting Rangers jumped on Rays ace David Price early scoring two runs in the 2nd inning followed by single runs in the 3rd, 4th and 5th innings to build a 5-0 lead. Nelson Cruz and Bengie Molina provided some pop with solo home runs. Molina, who only hit two home runs all season, had a nice afternoon from the ninth spot with three hits, a homer and two RBIs. Texas put ace Cliff Lee on the mound and he picked up right where he left off in last year’s playoffs. Lee went 7.0 strong innings, five hits, one run allowed, 10 strikeouts and zero walks. The Rays had a chance early to get to Lee with bases loaded in the first off three singles, but Lee bore down to strike out Carlos Pena and Rocco Baldelli to end the threat. Lee cruised the rest of the way after that allowing only two hits the rest of the way. Ben Zobrist drove himself in for the only run of the game for Tampa Bay with a solo home run in the 7th inning.

Game 1: Yankees 6, Twins 4
The Yankees just own the Twins in postseason play. The Twins built a 3-0 lead and appeared to finally get a leg up on the Yankees, but things fell apart quickly in the top of the sixth as the Bronx Bombers finally got to Francisco Liriano with RBI singles by Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada followed by a two-run triple by Curtis Granderson to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead. After the Twins tied it in the bottom of the inning, it wasn’t tied for very long as Mark Teixeira launched a two-run bomb off reliever Jesse Crain to give the Yanks a 6-4 lead. The bullpen took over from there as Mariano Rivera worked a four out save to close the door on the Twins in Target Field, the first outdoor postseason game in Minnesota since 1970. C.C. Sabathia picked up the win in a laboring start (112 pitches in 6.0IP) with four runs (three earned) allowed through 6.0 innings. Michael Cuddyer provided the early fireworks for Minnesota with a two-run blast in the second.

This is an important point of the season for the Phillies. Prior to the season, I didn’t think there was any chance they wouldn’t be making the postseason for a third straight year. Now, I can see how it may happen. Inconsistent play is one main reason and a problem spot that can hurt any team at any time snuck up to bite the Phillies—injuries.

The Phils DL list already looks like so: Placido Polanco, JA Happ, starting catcher Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Madson and Chad Durbin. But now the main injury concern is all-star Chase Utley, who requires surgery on his thumb, and will be out at least eight weeks. Besides an injury right before the playoffs, I think this is the worst time for news like that. The Phillies are in third place (yes, even behind the Mets) and four games back of the Braves in the NL East. They haven’t looked good in a while and losing a three-game series to the Reds earlier this weekend has everyone believing the Reds are legit.

I wrote in spring training that Cole Hamels was the key to the Phillies this year. Well, he’s been mediocre at best in the first half of the season. Everyone continues to wait to see Hamels put it all together and “re-breakout” again, but so far it’s the same “middle of the road” pitcher that we keep seeing. Roy Halladay has been a Godsend, but we already knew he would. But while Doc is being his usual dominant self, the rest of the rotation seems to have taken a step back. Joe Blanton is struggling, Kyle Kendrick struggles to keep his ERA under 5.00, Happ is on the DL after making just two starts this year. Maybe keeping Cliff Lee around for another year wouldn’t have been such a bad idea?

It will be interesting to see what Philadelphia does at the trade deadline especially with its depleted roster at the moment. Will they add an arm that they desperately need like Dan Haren or Roy Oswalt? Will they acquire infield help in the name of Ty Wigginton, Miguel Tejada or Jose Lopez? I think the starting pitching is more of a need because they need another dominant starter along with Halladay. But something has to be done quickly before this funk they are in ends up dropping them too far behind the Braves/Mets where a late-season comeback will be, well, late.

“He’s a different kind of creature than just about anyone else in his profession these days. He’s a pitching monster who seems to have popped out of a time machine, transported into the year 2010 with the mindset of a guy who’d have been very comfortable pitching in 1910.” – Jayson Stark

So did you hear about Roy Halladay’s perfect game by now? Obviously you have because I have no clue how anyone could have missed it. My 10-year-old nephew knew about it, which usually means that’s a pretty big story if he was able to take 10 minutes out of his 18 straight hours of his PSP to watch the event.

Anyway, one of the things I like to do after a historic event like Halladay’s perfect game is to see how all the sports outlets and blogs covered it and the angle they took. Here’s a rundown of numerous links from around the internet baseball world and blogosphere:

ESPN: Jayson Stark writes about how it was a Halladay weekend (get it?). By the way am I the only one who is annoyed by the videos that instantly start running even though you only clicked on the game STORY? I’m supposed to read a story, not hear an ad and then a play. If I want to view the video, I’ll click it, but don’t allow it to automatically start! Ugh, OK I digress.

Yahoo! Sports: This article uses the most hyphens I have ever seen in the lead. writes about how Halladay’s teammates began giving him the cold shoulder about 2pm that afternoon. They also did a great piece on the losing pitcher Saturday night, which is something you usually don’t see when you have someone toss a perfect game. But Marlins starter Josh Johnson pitched great and probably didn’t deserve to lose with the game’s only run being scored on an error, his strong outing will get overshadowed forever because he was not perfect. focuses on how Saturday’s perfect game may have only been Halladay’s fourth-best performance ever.

Of course I can’t put together a links post without the great insight from the Baseball-Reference Blog. Their post focuses on some of the overall game scores from Halladay’s career and the other perfect games.

Big League Stew puts together a great (and long) read of 27 thoughts and factoids from the perfecto. My personal favorite was the number two thought: I’m also glad he got out of the postgame mob without breaking a leg. Indeed.

Also, I just want to throw out there that I actually called this perfect game for Halladay—only I called it last week when he was pitching at home against the Pirates. Of course he would lose to the Pirates and Red Sox and then shake those losses off with a perfect game.