4 Aces Equals Big Expectations

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CLEARWATER, Fla. – With pitchers and catchers now in camp, all eyes are on the Philadelphia Phillies new and improved dream rotation. They are lead by two time Cy Young Award Winner Roy Halladay. In his first year in the National League, Halladay was a workhorse eating 250 innings while winning 21 games.

The other righty is Roy Oswalt, a late addition in 2010, courtesy of the Houston Astros who will also be paying almost half of his salary this year. Oswalt is a three time All-Star and has won 20 games twice in his career.

Cliff Lee leads the lefty starters. Beginning his second stint with the team, Lee is now locked up for five seasons. Most remember Lee from his historical playoff run in 2009 with the Phillies. He capped off that season beating the New York Yankees in game one and five of the World Series. He is also a former Cy Young Award winner and won 20 games in the 2008 campaign with the Cleveland Indians.

The last of the four needs no introduction.  He has spent all five of his major league seasons in Philadelphia. He was the World Series MVP in 2008 and helped the Phillies to their only championship since 1980. Cole Hamels will look to play a big role in the number four spot in rotation. Hamels is only 28 year-old and his contract expires at the end of 2011.

Joe Blanton will be the fifth starter in the Phillies rotation. In 2010, Blanton was 9-6 with a 4.82 ERA.

There is no question that the Phillies rotation features four pitchers who would be considered number ones for any other team. The question is whether they can live up to the hype. They are already being compared to the famous 1997 Atlanta Braves starting four. That year’s rotation consisted of John Smoltz (3.02 ERA), Greg Maddux (2.20 ERA), Denny Neagle (2.97 ERA), and Tom Glavine (2.96 ERA). Out of those four pitchers, three are future Hall of Famers.

In the 2010 season, the Phillies featured Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels during their playoff run. They were denied their third straight World Series appearance compliments of the San Francisco Giants. Cliff Lee is expected to make the rotation even more potent, especially during a playoff series.

There is still a long season before the Phillies will be tested in a playoff situation. It is very hard to anoint them the greatest staff ever assembled without seeing them in action together. However, all four of the Phillies aces have shown that they are capable of greatness and can perform under the pressure.

The Phillies will be a clear favorite to win the National League East for the fifth year in a row and possibly the entire National League. They open their 2011 season on April 1st with a three game series against the Houston Astros at Citizens Bank Park.

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