It's gotta be the socks. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Roy Halladay had the perfect game, the playoff no-hitter and the Cy Young Award. Cole Hamels has those two post-season MVP awards and the distinction of being the best homegrown Phillies starter in a half-century or more. Cliff Lee is CLIFF LEE.
But the best pitching performance of any Phillie in 2010 came from Roy Oswalt. In fact, Oswalt’s work over ten starts in August and September stands among the best sustained stretches of rotation work in memory. After losing his Phillies debut to the Nationals on July 30 to fall to 6-13 on the season, Oswalt went 7-0 with a 1.40 ERA in his next 10 starts, allowing 42 hits and 17 walks while striking out 65 over 70.2 innings. Opponents hit a collective .174/.229/.282 against him in those ten games—all ten of which were Phillies wins.
It’s easy to forget now how important Oswalt’s acquisition was. When he took the mound on August 5 against the Marlins in the first of his decisive ten starts, the Phils trailed the Braves by two games in the NL East, and hadn’t seen the top spot since the end of May. When he watched Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge finish off the Braves in a 1-0 win on September 22, the last of the ten—a game in which Oswalt took a no-decision despite holding Atlanta to one hit and one walk over seven innings—the East was all but won with a six game lead. Without any disrespect to J.A. Happ, the man Oswalt replaced in the rotation, absent that trade, the Phillies might not have closed the gap.
Halladay, great as his full season was, didn’t have any ten-start sequences quite as good as Oswalt’s; his best came between July 5 and August 25, when he went 7-2 with a 1.87 ERA. Hamels had his best ten start stretch between August 1 and September 20, putting up a 1.91 ERA (with an eye-popping 11 walks against 79 strikeouts); being Hamels in 2010, he went only 5-3 over this stretch and the team somehow lost four of the ten games. (For fun, Lee’s best ten-game stretch in 2010 came between June 7 and July 27, a period that saw him move from the Mariners to the Rangers; he went 6-2 with a 2.08 ERA, threw a ridiculous 86.1 innings and allowed three—THREE!!!—walks against 68 strikeouts.)
Oswalt is probably the lowest profile of the Phillies’ four aces, and unless something crazy happens, he'll probably be the first one to move on after the 2011 or 2012 season, for which the Phils have a $16 million option. He doesn’t have Halladay’s trophies or all-time feats, Hamels’ post-season legacy or Cliff Lee’s CLIFF LEE-ness. But he accomplished something last season that none of those guys could match.