After Cole Hamels threw another gem last night, it became clear that this is by far the best rotation the Phillies have had during this four-year run of theirs.  And it’s even better when you consider the pitchers at the top of that rotation: Hamels, Roy Halladay, and Roy Oswalt.

In a playoffs, you almost never see a fifth starter, and rarely need the fourth.  That means teams with front-loaded rotations are built that much better for the playoffs.  Like, for example, the 2001 Diamondbacks, who had Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, followed by a bunch of slop.

So I got to thinking, who has had the best front-loaded rotation in the Wild Card era?

The Phillies are right in the mix.  Hop over the jump to see the comparison.

There are three teams we considered: the afeormentioned 2001 Diamondbacks, the 1995 Braves, and your 2010 Phillies.  I’m sure someone will kindly point out a team we missed, but the D-backs immediately come to mind when you think of stacked, front-line starters.  And, of course, the Braves of the mid 90’s are known for having tremendous pitching, with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz.  1995 was the year they put it all together and won their only World Series.

Let’s look at how those two teams stack up when compared to the Phillies top three starters.  Oh, and it should be noted, we left out all of those saber nerd stats and went with ones that people actually understand.

                               ERA        WHIP   K/BB

Roy Halladay    2.36       1.05       7.00

Roy Oswalt         3.09      1.07       3.36

Cole Hamels      3.06      1.16        3.48

                               ERA        WHIP   K/BB

Randy Johnson  2.49    1.00       5.24

Curt Schilling     2.98     1.07        7.51

                               ERA        WHIP   K/BB

Greg Maddux      1.63        0.81        7.87

Tom Glavine       3.08        1.24        1.92

John Smoltz        3.18        1.23        2.68

The obvious difference that jumps out here is that the D-backs only have Schilling and Johnson listed.  Their next best starter was Albie Lopez with an ERA of 4.00.  After him, they had two starters with ERAs over five.  That makes the comparison a little difficult because, when adding Lopez's stats in, their numbers jump up significantly.

As a whole, the Phillies have the highest average ERA at 2.84, but but have the same WHIP (1.09) as the Braves, and a K/BB ratio of 4.6/1, which is second to Schilling and Johnson's ridiculous  6.3:1 ratio.  Of course, when adding in Albie Lopez, the D-backs have the highest ERA (3.16) of the group and the same 1.09 WHIP.

It’s clear that Maddux had the best season of any pitcher listed here.  A 1.63 ERA, a WHIP well under one, and an almost 8:1 K/BB ratio.  After him, however, Glavine and Smoltz had ERAs of 3.08 and 3.18 respectively, with WHIPS over 1.20 and low K/BB ratios.  Still very strong numbers, but not nearly as dominant as those of the other pitchers listed here.

The Phillies, on the other hand, have three guys (whose seasons not are completed yet) with strong numbers across the board.  Roy Halladay’s ERA is second only to Maddux’s, while Cole Hamels’ outstanding WHIP of 1.16 is the highest among the three Phillies starters. 

Schilling and Johnson are an undisputable 1-2 punch, both with ERAs under three and ridiculous strikeout to walk ratios (they struck out a combined 665 batters in 2001).  However, the D-backs' rotation dropped off significantly after their starts, whereas the Phillies and Braves both have three “ace" type pitchers.  But even with Maddux’s dominance, I’d personally favor the Phillies rotation, that has second and third starters with better numbers, both with World Series experience, and one with an MVP award.

Which rotation would you rather have going into a playoff series?  Did we miss someone?  Let us know in the comments.

No matter what your choice is, it’s clear that the 2010 Phillies belong in this conversation.