Looking Back at the 1993 Phillies: Career Years?

Rick Stewart

The established story is that the 1993 Phillies rose from worst to first on the strength of unprecedented and unpredictable career years from virtually every player on a mediocre roster. As usual, the truth is more ambiguous, and a lot more interesting.

In the first installment of The Good Phight's look back at the 1993 Phillies, we broke down how GM Lee Thomas built a roster that stunned the baseball world. Whether or not you accept the widely held premise that the Phillies’ success that season was a fluke, it was indisputably anomalous. Between 1987 and 1997, the Phillies finished last five times in eleven seasons, and failed to crack .500 in every year but '93. The pennant year was an island of excellence in a sea of sub-mediocrity, a Picasso in a warehouse full of Thomas Kinkades.

Even so, the conventional wisdom that the team racked up 97 wins and came within two games of a world championship on the strength of virtually every player on the roster enjoying a career year is an exaggeration. It's true that a handful of players did enjoy their best seasons in ’93, and the team was unusually and almost universally fortunate in terms of health. But for the most part, this was a case of good players in or near their prime years modestly outperforming their career norms, rather than nobodies suddenly emerging as all-stars.

Pos


Name


’93 Age


PA


1993 slash


Career slash


1993 OPS+


Career OPS+


Diff


Notes

C

Daulton

31

637

.257/.392/.482

.245/.357/.427

136

114

+22

Better in ‘92

1B

Kruk

32

651

.316/.430/.475

.300/.397/.446

145

134

+11

Better in ‘92

2B

Morandini

27

470

.247/.309/.355

.268/.338/.359

79

85

-6

Better in ’94, ‘95

3B

Hollins

27

640

.273/.372/.442

.260/.358/.420

119

106

+13

Better in ‘92

SS

Stocker

23

302

.324/.409.417

.254/.338/.343

125

79

+46

Absurd career year

LF

Thompson

34

387

.262/.341/.350

.274/.335/.372

88

94

-6

Start of decline

CF

Dykstra

30

773

.305/.420/.482

.285/.375/.419

144

120

+24

Career year

RF

Eisenreich

34

394

.318/.363/.445

.290/.341/.404

118

103

+15

Had better years in ’95, ‘96

UT

Duncan

30

518

.282/.304/.417

.267/.300/.388

93

86

+7

Near career averages

LF

Incaviglia

29

402

.274/318/.530

.246/.310/.448

125

104

+21

Career year

RF

Chamberlain

27

306

.282/.320/.493

.255/.299/.424

116

96

+20

Career year

1B

Jordan

28

170

.289/.324/.421

.281/.308/.424

100

103

-3

Better in early Phils yrs

UT

Batiste

25

161

.282/.298/.436

.234/.250/.318

96

52

+44

Absurd career year

C

Pratt

26

95

.287/.330/.529

.251/.344/.398

128

94

+34

Better a decade later

As the table above shows, 11 position players made more than 300 plate appearances for the ’93 Phils: six full-time starters, two outfield platoons, and super-sub Mariano Duncan. Nine of the 11 out-performed their career averages, and the two who didn’t, Mickey Morandini and Milt Thompson, weren’t off by much. Four of them—Kevin Stocker, Lenny Dykstra, Pete Incaviglia and Wes Chamberlain—did have their best seasons.

But with two exceptions, Stocker and Kim Batiste, these weren’t bad hitters having good years. (Actually, Batiste was a horrendous hitter—his career triple-slash was .234/.250/.318, with an OPS+ of 52—who had a decent year in ‘93.) For the most part, these were good hitters—Darren Daulton, John Kruk, Dave Hollins, Jim Eisenreich—having very good years. Lenny Dykstra was a very good hitter who had a great year.

And again with few exceptions, they all played in 1993 at ages where you’d expect a fairly high likelihood of a career season. Eisenreich, the oldest along with Thompson at age 34, actually got even better in the three seasons that followed. Finally, of the three Phillies with lower OPS+ in ’93 than their career averages, two of them—Thompson and Ricky Jordan—nonetheless had higher on-base percentages.

If you really want to ascribe the ’93 season to luck, you’re better off looking to health. Daulton and Dykstra set career highs in games played, and Kruk, Inky and Thompson never reached as many games played again.

Name


Age


’93 IP


’93 ERA+


Avg ERA+


Difference


Notes

Schilling

26

235.1

99

127

-28

2 bad months; much better later

Jackson

31

210.1

106

100

+6

Better in ‘94

Greene

26

200

116

93

+23

Career year

Mulholland

30

191

122

93

+29

Career year as starter

Rivera

25

163

79

85

-6

Better in ’92; Last full season

West

28

86.1

136

89

+47

Career year

MtWilliams

28

62

120

111

+9

Better in ‘91

Andersen

40

61.2

137

121

+16

Various better seasons

MkWilliams

24

51

75

97

-22

Good career bookended by lousy work with Phillies

Mason

35

49.2

82

95

-13

Midseason pickup

DeLeon

32

47

123

102

+21

Traded midseason

What about the pitchers? The first thing to consider with the 1993 Phillies pitching staff is that they enjoyed quantity about as much as quality. The one likely Hall of Famer on that team, Curt Schilling, didn’t have a statistically great year—though if you remove a handful of midsummer starts when he probably went through a dead-arm stretch, it was pretty much a typically excellent Schilling season. But there was a lot of it: his 235 innings was above his career norm. Likewise for rotation-mates Danny Jackson, Tommy Greene and Terry Mulholland, as the quartet accounted for more than 800 of the team’s total 1472.2 innings.

As the 2010-11 Phillies reminded us, simply having good health in the starting rotation can go a long way toward a successful season. Considering that Schilling missed stretches of the next three years, and that Greene and Rivera never again pitched full seasons, their durability that year was even more remarkable. That said, Greene and Mulholland did enjoy their best seasons, at least in terms of Wins Over Replacement. (Mulholland had some statistically better campaigns as a reliever over his extraordinarily long career.)

In the bullpen, the only reliever who really pitched way above his established level was lefty setup man David West. A large and ornery human who’d bounced between the rotation and relief work for the Twins—and earned a World Series ring with the ’91 Twins despite an infinite ERA in two Fall Classic appearances—West corralled his big fastball in ’93 to average better than a strikeout per inning while leading the staff with 76 appearances. He had one more good year for the Phils in ’94, then succumbed to injuries when the team tried to re-convert him to starting.

West’s partner in setup work was Larry Andersen, whose current fame as a deservedly beloved broadcaster with the team has partly obscured the truth that he was one hell of a relief pitcher. LA averaged better than a strikeout per inning and posted the best ERA+ on the staff at age 40, yet Andersen’s ’93 season was probably no better than the sixth- or seventh-best of his long career.

While the rotation was stable, the bullpen composition changed all season long: closer Mitch Williams, West, and Andersen were the only three relievers with the team throughout the ’93 campaign. Roger Mason was acquired in-season for homegrown reliever Tim Mauser, while Jose DeLeon was shipped out in August for former single-season saves record-holder Bobby Thigpen (6.05 ERA in 19.1 IP). Former Cy Young Award winner (and long-ago Phillies draftee) Mark Davis was acquired in an April trade, then released in July; on Sept. 1, Thomas dealt for White Sox setup man Donn Pall, who was ineligible for the postseason roster. Another homegrown product, Mike Williams, alternated starting and relief work, to mostly subpar effect. In fact, with the arguable exceptions of DeLeon and Pall, none of these relievers pitched particularly well—rendering the contributions of Andersen, West and even Mitch Williams (whose strong numbers in ’93 admittedly surprised me) even more important.

Considering their 1993 performances in the context of their careers, it’s not surprising that GM Lee Thomas and his front-office colleagues mostly elected to stand pat in terms of personnel heading into the 1994 season. But however understandable, this decision proved unwise, as we’ll see in the final installment of TGP’s look back at the 1993 Phillies.

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