Which rotation is better: 2011's ‘Four Aces' or 2024?

Which rotation is better: 2011's ‘Four Aces' or 2024? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Phillies starting rotation is the main reason why the team has the best record in the sport through 65 games of the season. Pundits are running out of superlatives to describe their dominance, and they drawing direct comparisons to the “Four Aces” starting rotation from 2011, a team that ended up setting the franchise record for regular season wins with 102. Sure, that team lost in the NLDS to the Cardinals, but that’s not important right now.

The question is, to this point, which rotation has been better? The 2011 squad featured two previous Cy Young winners – Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee – and a World Series MVP in Cole Hamels. All three named the NL All-Star Squad that season. But how do they stack up with this year’s edition? Let’s delve into the numbers through 65 games of their respective seasons.

#1 Starter – 2011 Roy Halladay vs 2024 Zack Wheeler

Halladay is an actual Hall of Famer, and he had a sensational 2011 season. Through 65 team games, Halladay was 9-3 with a 2.39 ERA. He led the NL to that point in wins and stirkeouts (106), and was second in ERA. But Wheeler makes this a very close race. He’s at 7-3 with a 2.23 ERA, a mark that ranks fourth in the NL. But he’s also fifth in strikeouts (91), second in opponents’ batting average (.181), and this in opponents’ OPS (.551).

VERDICT: Slight edge to 2011 Halladay

#2 Starter – 2021 Cliff Lee vs 2024 Aaron Nola

Based on numbers to this point, I give Nola the win here. This year’s #2 stands at 8-2 with a 2.77 ERA, good enough for seventh in the NL. He also ranks in the top six in WHIP (0.97), OBA (.195), opponents’ OBP (.249), and opponents’ OPS (.588). Lee suffered a couple of rough starts early on in the 2011 season where he allowd six runs two separate times. This would be a very different result if we were to make this comparison a few weeks down the line, though, as Lee was in the middle of a dazzling June where he allowed one run over 42 innings.

VERDICT: 2024 Nola

#3 Starter – 2011 Cole Hamels vs 2024 Ranger Suarez

What pitcher has been better this season than Suarez? He leads the NL in almost every major category: wins (ten), ERA (1.81), WHIP (0.85), OBA (.181), oponents’ OBP (.238), opponents’ SLG (.280), and he’s sixth in strikeouts (85). Hamels was no slouch himself in 2011, leading the NL through 65 games in WHIP (0.95), opponents’ OBP (.254), opponents’ SLG (.306), and opponents’ OPS (.560). But nobody’s touched Ranger this season, and nothing changes here.

VERDICT: 2024 Ranger Suarez

#4 Starter – 2011 Roy Oswalt vs 2024 Cristopher Sanchez

Oswalt never really lived up to billing as the fourth “Ace” on the Phillies staff. He had solid numbers for this comparison – a 3-4 record despite a 3.05 ERA – but a nagging back injury caused him to miss a chunk of the season. Meanwhile, Sanchez has had a career season in 2024. Similarly, Sanchez has just three wins, but his 2.71 ERA is good enough for fifth in the NL.

VERDICT: Slight edge to 2024 Sanchez

#5 Starter – 2011 Joe Blanton/Kyle Kendrick/Vance Worley vs 2024 Taijuan Walker/Spencer Turnbull

The back end of the 2011 rotation was a relay race for much of the season, as Blanton went on the IL at the end of April, leaving the #5 job to Kendrick and Worley, a call-up from AAA. This season, Turnbull opened the season as the #5 and was very strong, while Walker has yet to find his footing since regaining his spot. All told, the tandem of Turnbull and Walker have pitched to an aggregate of a 5-1 record with a 3.72 ERA, far better than the 2011 triumvirate.

VERDICT: 2024 Turnbull/Walker

Granted, there are nearly 100 regular season games and the playoffs yet to be played, but through 65 games, the 2024 starting rotation has been pitching better than the “Four Aces” et al. it remains to be seen if this year’s squad can see it through all the way to a Broad Street parade.