The Phillies are the best team in baseball this season. Their pitching staff is amazing and the hitters are good. Here is a look at how many bad teams would need to be combined to make a team that would be comparable to the Phillies in talent.
Note: The WAR values used in the article are from 9/21 have changed a bit since I collected the data.
I started by looking at just the WAR production from the position-player starters on the Phillies. Also, I took the top-five starters and relievers. Here is the list of Phillies and their WAR:
Position Players (Total WAR = 25.7 WAR)
Carlos Ruiz (2.7)
Ryan Howard (1.6)
Chase Utley (3.7)
Placido Polanco (2.9)
Jimmy Rollins (3.5)
Hunter Pence (4.3)
Shane Victorino (6)
Raul Ibanez (-1.2)
John Mayberry (2.2)
The total, at the time I collected the data, was 52.3 WAR. Then, I started adding players to get a similar team based on their 2011 WAR totals. Once one of the three categories — hitters, starters or relievers — was filled, I quit looking for more players in that category. I figured the talent pool could only get better, but at that point, the new team was comparable.
I wanted the individual players to be close in 2011 WAR. Meeting this requirement was tough with the starting pitching since the Phillies had a couple of the leagues top pitchers (Halladay and Lee). I just looked to get the total WAR for this group close.
I ordered the teams by record and used this order to select players:
The first group to fill up was the relievers. I expected it to fill up with only one or two teams. After looking at Minnesota and Houston, I only had one reliever over 0.9 WAR, so it took three teams to get the comparable bullpen.
This group of relievers have 4.9 WAR this season.
It only took me two more teams (five total) to get the batters (27.3 WAR) picked out.
It would not be great lineup, but is fairly respectable.
Finding a starting pitching staff took a few more teams. Of the first five teams I looked at, only Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda of Seattle made the final list. As I went through five more teams, I passed over some great hitters that would have knocked players off the initial list (Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, Alexi Ramerz, Mike Stanton, Andrew McCutchen and Alex Gordon). The position players would improve dramatically as teams were added to get the starting pitchers.
Finally after looking at total of 10 teams, a comparable pitching staff could be found (22.1WAR):
Besides Hernandez, it is not exactly a staff that would be as feared as the Phillies staff. Some of the pitchers are having an outlier of year and have never been at this production level before. The next four teams — New York (Mets), Washington, Cincinnati and Chicago (White Sox) — all didn’t have in huge upgrades in pitching. It would take adding Masterson from Cleveland and Kershaw from L.A. to really make any meaningful additions to the new staff.
It took about five of the worst teams in the league combining talent to get a starting lineup and relief staff comparable to the Phillies. Finding a pitching staff was more difficult and took looking at 10 teams. The Phillies are definitely the best team in the league and the talent disparity between them and the worse teams is quite substantial.
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