The Phillies’ signing of Cliff Lee has produced “greatest rotation ever” conversations, mostly using the 1990s Braves starters as a yardstick.
But we’re reminded today, with the death of Bob Feller, to dig a few decades more deeply.
In 1954, Hall of Famer-to-be Feller was the No. 5 starter for a Cleveland Indians team that won 111 games in a 154-game season. All he could do—at age 35—was throw nine complete games in 19 starts and compile a 13-3 record with a 3.09 earned run average.
But no wonder he was the last option in the starting bin. Manager Al Lopez also had:
- Early Wynn: 23-11, 2.73 ERA, future Hall of Famer
- Bob Lemon: 23-7, 2.72, future Hall of Famer
- Mike Garcia: 19-8, 2.64, five shutouts
- Art Houtteman: 15-7, 3.35
- And, as an afterthought in relief (he started just one game), Hal Newhouser, future Hall of Famer
Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt looks like a splendid staff. Hall of Fame members-to-be Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and their various 1990s Braves sidekicks were remarkably, consistently good. But dominant pitching goes back further than the SportsCenter era.
Oh, and one other note to optimistic Phillies fans:
The ’54 Indians, with all that great pitching, were swept in the World Series.