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TGP’s Opening Day Starter Madness!

Who is the greatest Phillies Opening Day starter of the past 32 years? You decide!

Miami Marlins v Philadelphia Phillies
Roy Halladay started three consecutive Opening Days for the Phillies
Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament - or at least the round of 64 portion of it - tips off today, and to celebrate, The Good Phight is holding a March Madness tournament of our own. I’ve taken the Phillies’ Opening Day starting pitchers from the past 32 years, separated them into two brackets chronologically, and seeded them 1 to 16 according to their bWAR for that season.

Over the past 32 years, the caliber of pitcher the Phillies have used on Opening Day has varied greatly. There’s been one Hall of Famer, multiple All-Stars, some veteran journeymen, and a few head scratchers. (Hey there, Omar Daal!) The quality of start has varied greatly as well. There have been some gems (Terry Mulholland in 1993, Roy Halladay in 2012), as well as some real stinkers. (What happened to Cliff Lee in 2014?)

Here’s a quick rundown of the competitors:

Steve Carlton Bracket

#1 2011 Roy Halladay 19-6 2.35 ERA 8.8 WAR

Opening Day line: 6 IP, 1 ER, ND (Phillies won 5-4)

The ace of the Four Aces, Halladay followed up his Cy Young winning 2010 season with an arguably superior campaign but finished second in the voting behind Clayton Kershaw.

#2 2018 Aaron Nola 17-6 2.37 ERA 8.5 WAR

Opening Day line: 5.1 IP, 1 ER, ND (Phillies lose 5-8. Thanks, Gabe!)

His Opening Day start ended prematurely, but it was a fantastic season overall for Nola, who made the All-Star team.

#3 2010 Roy Halladay 21-10 2.44 ERA 8.5 WAR

Opening Day line: 7 IP, 1 ER, W (Phillies win 11-1)

Halladay was touted as one of the best pitchers in baseball, and he lived up to that billing in his first season in Philadelphia, pitching a perfect game, a postseason no-hitter, and capturing the National League Cy Young Award.

#4 2013 Cole Hamels 8-14 3.60 ERA 4.0 WAR

Opening Day line: 5 IP, 5 ER, L (Phillies lose 7-5)

As the core of the division-winning team crumbled around him, Hamels turned in a solid, yet slightly disappointing season.

#5 2016 Jeremy Hellickson 12-10 3.71 ERA 2.9 WAR

Opening Day line: 6 IP, 0 ER, ND (Phillies lose 6-2)

Signed as a veteran innings eater, Hellickson was a big step down from the Opening Day starters of the years before, but he turned in a solid enough campaign for a rebuilding team.

#6 2021 Aaron Nola 9-9 4.63 ERA 2.7 WAR

Opening Day line: 6.2 IP, 2 ER, ND (Phillies win 3-2)

Nola couldn’t seem to find a groove. His peripheral numbers looked fine, but difficulties with home runs, two outs, and runners aboard were a constant source of frustration.

#7 2015 Cole Hamels 6-7 3.64 ERA 2.6 WAR

Opening Day: 5 IP, 4 ER, L (Phillies lose 8-0)

As the 2015 season began, it was a question of when, not if Hamels would be traded. He was eventually sent to Texas, but not before making one last very memorable start.

#8 2019 Aaron Nola 12-7 3.87 ERA 2.1 WAR

Opening Day line: 6 IP, 1 ER, W (Phillies win 10-4)

Nola was good but couldn’t replicate his All-Star season of 2018. The team attempted to ride him down the stretch, and he was unable to come through.

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves
Aaron Nola has started the past four Opening Days, and is poised to do so again in 2022
Photo by Casey Sykes/Getty Images

#9 2020 Aaron Nola 5-5 3.28 ERA 1.6 WAR

Opening Day line: 5.1 IP, 4 ER, L (Phillies lose 5-2)

Nola pitched well for most of the pandemic-shortened season, but once again, faltered in the final weeks of the season.

#10 2006 Jon Lieber 9-11 4.93 ERA 1.5 WAR

Opening Day line: 3.1 IP, 8 ER, L (Phillies lose 13-5)

In his second season with the Phillies, Lieber led the league in fewest walks allowed per nine innings, but his overall performance was disappointing.

#11 2017 Jeremy Hellickson 6-5 4.73 ERA 1.2 WAR

Opening Day line: 5 IP, 1 ER, W (Phillies win 4-3)

Hellickson made his second straight Opening Day start for the Phils, and the average pitcher turned in an average performance before being traded at midseason.

#12 2014 Cliff Lee 4-5 3.65 ERA 0.8 WAR

Opening Day line: 5 IP, 8 ER, W (Phillies win 14-10)

Lee started off the season strong, but his season - and career - was cut short by an injury that he was never able to recover from.

#13 2012 Halladay 11-8 4.49 ERA 0.8 WAR

Opening Day line: 8 IP, 0 ER, W (Phillies win 1-0)

For the first month of the season, Halladay seemed to be as good as ever. But things quickly fell apart, as he succumbed to a shoulder injury that would ultimately end his career.

#14 2008 Brett Myers 10-13 4.55 ERA 0.7 ERA

Opening Day line: 5 IP, 3 ER, ND (Phillies lose 11-6)

After being used as a closer in 2007, Myers returned to the rotation in 2008, but the transition wasn’t smooth. He struggled to the point where he was sent to the minors, but he eventually returned and pitched well down the stretch.

#15 2007 Brett Myers 5-7 4.33 ERA 0.7 WAR

Opening Day line: 7.2 IP, 3 ER, ND (Phillies lose 5-3)

With the Phillies desperate for bullpen help, the Phillies shifted Myers to the closer role, which he greatly enjoyed. His save in the regular season finale is one of the best moments in franchise history.

#16 2009 Brett Myers 4-3 4.84 ERA 0.5 WAR

Opening Day line: 6 IP, 4 ER, L (Phillies lose 4-1)

With Cole Hamels not ready to start the season, Myers made his third consecutive Opening Day start, but injuries played havoc with his season, and he ended it in a relief role.

Philadelphia Phillies vs New York Mets - May 25, 2006
Brett Myers made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the Phillies
Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Robin Roberts Region

#1 1997 Curt Schilling 17-11 2.97 ERA 6.3 WAR

Opening Day line: 8 IP, 0 ER, W (Phillies win 3-0)

The 1997 Phillies were awful four out of every five days of the year. But when Schilling took the mound, they at least had a chance at victory.

#2 1998 Curt Schilling 15-14 3.25 ERA 6.2 WAR

Opening Day line: 8 IP, 0 ER, ND (Phillies lose 1-0)

Schilling took a step back from his amazing 1997 season, but still turned in a strong season that included another spot on the National League’s All-Star team.

#3 1999 Curt Schilling 15-6 3.54 ERA 4.9 WAR

Opening Day line: 6 IP, 4 ER, W (Phillies win 7-4)

One of the reasons the 1999 Phillies had such a horrific late-season collapse was because Schilling only threw 16.2 innings after the month of July.

#4 1993 Terry Mulholland 12-9 3.25 ERA 3.7 WAR

Opening Day line: 9 IP, 0 ER, W (Phillies win 3-1)

Mulholland started the All-Star Game for the National League, but unfortunately, an injury limited him down the stretch.

#5 1991 Terry Mulholland 16-13 3.61 ERA 2.9 WAR

Opening Day line: 7 IP, 2 ER, ND (Phillies lose 2-1)

Coming off a year in which he threw a no-hitter, Mulholland was a slightly surprising pick to start Opening Day but developed into one of the better left-handed starters in the National League.

#6 2003 Kevin Millwood 14-12 4.01 ERA 2.3 WAR

Opening Day line: 6 IP, 2 ER, W (Phillies win 8-5)

Somewhat miscast as an ace after coming to the Phillies in a trade, Millwood had a solid season which included a no-hitter

#7 1995 Curt Schilling 7-5 3.57 ERA 2.2 WAR

Opening Day line: 5 IP, 3 ER, ND (Phillies lose 7-6)

Schilling was having a solid year that ended prematurely due to injury. Without the staff ace, the Phillies collapsed in the second half of the season.

#8 1992 Terry Mulholland 13-11 3.81 ERA 2.1 WAR

Opening Day line: 7 IP, 4 ER, L (Phillies lose 4-3)

After a rocky first month of the season, Mulholland was excellent the remainder of the way, pitching a league high 12 complete games.

Philadelphia Phillies v Pittsburgh Pirates
From 1991 to 1993, Opening Day was in the hands of Terry Mulholland
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

#9 1996 Sid Fernandez 3-6 3.43 ERA 1.8 WAR

Opening Day line: 7 IP, 2 ER, ND (Phillies lose 5-3)

Signed off the scrap heap the year before, El Sid was a boon to the Phillies’ rotation, but an injury cut his 1996 season short.

#10 2005 Jon Lieber 17-13 4.20 ERA 1.3 WAR

Opening Day line: 5.2 IP, 3 ER, W (Phillies win 8-4)

Lieber was signed to lead a young Phillies rotation, but the most memorable thing about his tenure in Philly was the truck he showed up in to Spring Training.

#11 1994 Curt Schilling 2-8 4.48 ERA 1.3 WAR

Opening Day line: 6 IP, 4 ER, ND (Phillies win 12-6)

After his postseason heroics in 1993, Schilling’s season got off to a poor start. A stint on the DL appeared to turn things around for him, just in time for the remainder of the season to be cancelled.

#12 2004 Kevin Millwood 9-6 4.85 ERA 0.7 WAR

Opening Day line: 6 IP, 2 ER, L (Phillies lose 2-1)

Millwood’s second season with the team went worse than his first. He was inconsistent for most of the year, and injuries limited him to just three starts after July.

#13 2001 Omar Daal 13-7 4.46 ERA 0.4 WAR

Opening Day line: 5.1 IP, 4 ER, ND (Phillies win 6-5)

Coming off a season where he lost 20 games, Daal was a surprising pick to start the opener, but he provided veteran stability and leadership to a young rotation.

#14 2000 Andy Ashby 4-7 5.68 -0.8 WAR

Opening Day line: 6 IP, 6 ER, L (Phillies lose 6-4)

The free agent signee was expected to serve as a complement to Curt Schilling atop the Phillies’ rotation. He turned out to be a major bust, and was traded to the Braves at midseason.

#15 2002 Robert Person 4-5 5.44 -1.1 WAR

Opening Day line: 5 IP, 3 ER, L (Phillies lose 7-2)

The most memorable part of Person’s season was when he hit two home runs in a game. That’s generally not a good thing for a pitcher.

#16 1990 Bruce Ruffin 6-13 5.38 -1.8 WAR

Opening Day line: 6 IP, 1 ER, ND (Phillies lose 2-1)

Entering his fifth season in the league, the Phillies thought their home-grown lefty was going to finally put it all together. He didn’t.

Philadelphia Phillies v Pittsburgh Pirates
Bruce Ruffin didn’t develop into a frontline starter
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Now it’s time for you to vote on the winners. How do you decide which pitcher gets your vote? It doesn’t matter! You can vote for the pitcher who had the superior season. You can vote for the pitcher who had the best performance on Opening Day. You can vote for the better looking pitcher, or the guy who had the coolest name. Or heck, just flip a coin and let fate decide!

Voting for round one ends on Sunday morning.

Poll

#1 2011 Halladay vs. #16 2009 Brett Myers

This poll is closed

  • 97%
    Halladay
    (142 votes)
  • 2%
    Myers
    (4 votes)
146 votes total Vote Now

Poll

#8 2019 Aaron Nola vs. #9 2020 Aaron Nola

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    2019 Nola
    (101 votes)
  • 19%
    2020 Nola
    (25 votes)
126 votes total Vote Now

Poll

#4 2013 Cole Hamels vs. #13 2012 Roy Halladay

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    Hamels
    (58 votes)
  • 54%
    Halladay
    (70 votes)
128 votes total Vote Now

Poll

#5 2016 Jeremy Hellickson vs. #12 2014 Cliff Lee

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    Hellickson
    (29 votes)
  • 76%
    Lee
    (96 votes)
125 votes total Vote Now

Poll

#2 2018 Aaron Nola vs. #15 2007 Brett Myers

This poll is closed

  • 85%
    Nola
    (106 votes)
  • 14%
    Myers
    (18 votes)
124 votes total Vote Now

Poll

#7 2015 Cole Hamels vs. #10 2006 Jon Lieber

This poll is closed

  • 92%
    Hamels
    (107 votes)
  • 7%
    Lieber
    (9 votes)
116 votes total Vote Now

Poll

#3 2010 Roy Halladay vs. #14 2008 Brett Myers

This poll is closed

  • 92%
    Halladay
    (109 votes)
  • 7%
    Myers
    (9 votes)
118 votes total Vote Now

Poll

#6 2021 Aaron Nola vs. #11 2017 Jeremy Hellickson

This poll is closed

  • 81%
    Nola
    (95 votes)
  • 18%
    Hellickson
    (22 votes)
117 votes total Vote Now

Poll

#1 1997 Curt Schilling vs. #16 1990 Bruce Ruffin

This poll is closed

  • 91%
    Schilling
    (102 votes)
  • 8%
    Ruffin
    (10 votes)
112 votes total Vote Now

Poll

#8 1992 Terry Mulholland vs. #9 1996 Sid Fernandez

This poll is closed

  • 83%
    Mulholland
    (87 votes)
  • 16%
    Fernandez
    (17 votes)
104 votes total Vote Now

Poll

#4 1993 Terry Mulholland vs. #13 2001 Omar Daal

This poll is closed

  • 87%
    Mulholland
    (90 votes)
  • 12%
    Daal
    (13 votes)
103 votes total Vote Now

Poll

#5 1991 Terry Mulholland vs. #12 2004 Kevin Millwood

This poll is closed

  • 68%
    Mulholland
    (71 votes)
  • 31%
    Millwood
    (32 votes)
103 votes total Vote Now

Poll

#2 1998 Curt Schilling vs. #15 2002 Robert Person

This poll is closed

  • 89%
    Schilling
    (91 votes)
  • 10%
    Person
    (11 votes)
102 votes total Vote Now

Poll

#7 1995 Curt Schilling vs. #10 2005 Jon Lieber

This poll is closed

  • 82%
    Schilling
    (85 votes)
  • 17%
    Lieber
    (18 votes)
103 votes total Vote Now

Poll

#3 1999 Curt Schilling vs. #14 2000 Andy Ashby

This poll is closed

  • 87%
    Schilling
    (87 votes)
  • 12%
    Ashby
    (12 votes)
99 votes total Vote Now

Poll

#6 2003 Kevin Millwood vs. #11 1994 Curt Schilling

This poll is closed

  • 48%
    Millwood
    (49 votes)
  • 51%
    Schilling
    (53 votes)
102 votes total Vote Now

See? It can be done: Phillies 8, Nationals 2

Gamethread 10/1: Phillies at Nationals, game 2

Capital punishment: Nationals 13, Phillies 4