Photo: St. Pete Beach Photo
What did you say?
You heard me.
May 4. 7 p.m. At our field. Be there, Buffalo Butt Breath.
Count on it, Pee-Drinking Crap Face.
Davey Johnson has just stoked the fire, tossed a bit of gasoline on the burning ambers.
There’s no sense recounting all the posturing between Phillies and Nationals folks this winter, because, for the most part, that chatter has remained outside the lines. Yesterday, however, Nationals manager Davey Johnson had some interesting things to say about how the top three pitchers in his rotation (Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzelez, and Jordan Zimmermann) compare to the Phillies' aces (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels, in case you were unawares).
Here’s what Johnson told Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post:
“I mean, he has the chance to be one of the best pitchers in the league,” Johnson said of Strasburg. “With the addition of Gio, [Edwin] Jackson, Zim has proven he’s up there. He’s going to be part of one of the best staffs in our division. I’d take my staff, all five guys or six guys, over any staff in the league.”
“Even the Philles?” Johnson was asked.
Given the Nationals’ youth and potential, Johnson replied, sure.
“Their top three versus our top three, stuff-wise, we match up as good,” Johnson said.
Let’s break it down.
Roy Halladay vs. Stephen Strasburg: Interestingly, this one is probably the closest comparison. Halladay is, obviously, a more experienced ace and perhaps the best pitcher in baseball. But, stuff-wise, there may be no one on the planet who can match Strasburg’s 100 mph fastball and 12-6 curveball. We’ll take Halladay for this year and until his arm falls off, but, if you were building a team, which the Nationals are, you can certainly make an argument for Strasburg (though you are dealing with a small sample size and a guy coming off Tommy John surgery).
Cliff Lee vs. Gio Gonzalez: Picture response:
But seriously, Gonzalez, 25, who was once traded by the Phillies for Freddy Garcia (ouch), had an outstanding season in pitcher-friendly Oakland last year (16-12, 3.12 ERA, 1.31 WHIP– walks + hits per inning pitched).
Lee, 33: 17-8, 2.40 ERA, 1.02 WHIP. Excellence.
Cole Hamels vs. Jordan Zimmermann:
Zimmermann, 25, is another young, bargain bin pitcher (8-11, 3.18 ERA, 1.14 WHIP).
Hamels, 27: 14-9, 2.79 ERA, 0.98 WHIP.
But not by as much as I thought.
Over the past two years, we’ve seen other examples of players, coaches, and writers comparing our beloved, almost mythical Phillies to players who we perceive to be inferior.
In 2010, Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips said he was better than Chase Utley. At the time, we chuckled. But who would you rather have right now: the 2011 All-Star or an aging and ailing Utley? I'd take Phillips.
We laughed when SABR nerds ranked Nats first baseman Michael Morse ahead of Ryan Howard last summer. Who would you rather have for this season?
Last spring, crusty, old writer Pat Jordan called the Phillies’ four aces a bunch of “one trick ponies,” citing their work ethic and accuracy, rather than “stuff,” as reasons for their success. He wasn't wrong, but the tone of his article was grossly unfair to three of the best pitchers in baseball.
That brings as back to Johnson’s comments: I’ll admit that my knee-jerk reaction to reading them on my iPhone while working on drink number two last night was less reasonable than this post. His comparison isn’t crazy— Strasburg, Gonzalez, and Zimmermann are a formidable top three, perhaps among the best in the league. They are young and largely unproven, but talented… and pitching in a pitcher-friendly ballpark.
Pleasantries aside, though, Johnson chose the wrong rotation to make his comparison. The Phillies have the best in baseball and one of the best ever.
And don’t be surprised if they add Roy Oswalt to the mix, again, this summer.
Advantage: still Phillies.