The 10 greatest Phillies offensive seasons of the last 50 years
Chase Utley launched a prolific power surge 14 years ago this week. His four home runs and nine RBI over a two-day span covering April 13-14 kick-started a MVP caliber 2006 season that was part of Utley's Hall of Fame-worthy prime. But Utley's 2006 season — when he hit .309 with a career-high 32 HR and 102 RBIs — didn't make the cut when it comes to the 10 greatest Phillies seasons of the last 50 years.
That gives you an idea of how stiff the competition is here. This top 10 includes four NL MVP seasons and several others that could have easily resulted in MVP honors. For the sake of variety, I limited each individual player to a maximum of two appearances on this list. Otherwise it would have been real tempting to just pick the four best Mike Schmidt seasons, the four best Ryan Howard seasons and figure out the other two.
One last caveat — the postseason matters. Players get extra credit for following up the regular season with a dynamic performance in October.
(All photos courtesy of AP Images and USA Today Images)
10. Bobby Abreu (2004)
Abreu put up some outstanding numbers during his nine seasons in Philadelphia and 2004 stands out as his finest work. He played 159 games and hit .301 with a .428 OBP and a .971 OPS, earning his first career All-Star appearance. Abreu's combination of plate discipline, power and speed was on full display — he had 47 doubles, 30 HR and 105 RBI to go along with 127 walks, 118 runs scored and 40 stolen bases.
You can make the argument that Abreu was underappreciated during his time in a Phillies uniform but he's starting to get his due now. He was inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame last summer and has emerged as an intriguing candidate for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
9. Chase Utley (2007)
Utley's 2007 season would likely be much higher on this list if a broken hand didn't sideline him for an entire month. In 132 games, he posted career-highs in BA (.332), OBP (.410), OPS (.976) and doubles (48). He added 22 HR and 103 RBI to help the Phillies end their 14-year postseason drought.
This was the best season of Utley's career, a potential MVP season had he not gotten hurt at the end of July. As it turned out, his double play partner Jimmy Rollins won NL MVP honors. Utley finished eighth in the voting while Ryan Howard finished fifth. The amount of firepower in the 2007 Phillies lineup was nothing short of remarkable.
8. Jim Thome (2003)
Thome didn't waste any time making an impact after signing a six-year, $85 million free agent contract with the Phillies in December of 2002. He hit an MLB-best 47 HR and had a career-high 131 RBI in his first season in Philadelphia, falling one home run shy of Mike Schmidt's then franchise record.
Thome played 159 games and hit .266 with a .385 OBP and .958 OPS. He also had 30 doubles and 111 walks in his only season playing at Veterans Stadium.
7. Greg Luzinski (1977)
Luzinski's monster year was the driving force behind the Phillies matching a then franchise record with 101 wins in 1977. 'The Bull' registered career-highs in BA (.309), OBP (.394), OPS (.988), HR (39), RBI (130) and runs scored (99). He played 149 games and finished second behind the Reds' George Foster in the NL MVP voting.
Luzinski added 35 doubles as the Phillies won the second of their three straight NL East titles from 1976-1978.
6. Ryan Howard (2007)
Howard's first appearance on this list comes courtesy of his prolific 2007 season. He backed up his 2006 MVP year with 47 HR and 136 RBI in 2007. Howard hit .268 with a .392 OBP, .976 OPS and 107 walks in 144 games, finishing fifth in the NL MVP race. It was the second of four straight seasons that he finished in the top five of the MVP voting.
Howard's 2007 season gets the slight edge over 2008 and 2009 as the second-best season of his legendary career.
5. Jimmy Rollins (2007)
Chase Utley and Ryan Howard each had MVP caliber seasons in 2007, but it was Rollins who won the award and sparked the Phillies to their first NL East title in 14 years. Prior to spring training, Rollins said the Phillies were the "team to beat" in the division. Then he went out and backed up his words with one of the most incredible seasons in franchise history.
Rollins played all 162 games and led the NL with 778 plate appearances, 139 runs and 20 triples. He hit .296 with a .344 OBP and his 212 hits, 30 HR and 94 RBI were all career-highs. He added 38 doubles and 41 stolen bases to become one of just four players in MLB history to record 20-plus doubles, 20-plus triples, 20-plus HR and 20-plus stolen bases in the same season.
4. Lenny Dykstra (1993)
Dykstra was the catalyst for one of the most beloved teams in franchise history, leading the 1993 Phillies to 97 wins and the NL pennant. He played 161 games and led all of baseball with 773 plate appearances and 143 runs scored to go along with a NL-best 194 hits and a franchise record 129 walks. Dykstra authored one of the finest seasons by a leadoff hitter in modern baseball history, hitting .305 with career-highs in OBP (.420), OPS (.902), doubles (44), HR (19), RBI (66) and stolen bases (37).
Dykstra finished second in the NL MVP voting behind the Giants' Barry Bonds. He gets bonus points for his remarkable performance in the 1993 postseason, hitting .313 with six HR and 10 RBI in 12 games. Had the Phillies won the 1993 World Series, Dykstra would have been a lock for WS MVP honors. He had a .500 OBP, four HR and a 1.413 OPS in six games against the Blue Jays.
3. Mike Schmidt (1981)
This very well could have been the greatest season in Phillies history had a players' strike not shortened the 1981 season to 107 games. Schmidt put up prolific numbers, posting career-highs in BA (.316), OBP (.435) and OPS (1.080) and leading MLB with 31 HR and 91 RBI in just 102 games. He also led the NL with 78 runs scored and 73 walks.
Schmidt won his second straight NL MVP award in 1981, leading the Phillies back to the postseason for the fifth time in six years.
2. Ryan Howard (2006)
Howard's first full season in the big leagues was a smashing success. He set a new franchise record with 58 HR on his way to becoming the Phillies' first NL MVP in 20 years. Howard played 159 games in 2006, posting career-highs in BA (.313), OBP (.425), OPS (1.084), HR (58), RBI (149) and walks (108). Those 58 HR led MLB and are tied for 11th most in baseball history for a single season. They are tied for fourth most if you exclude players linked to performance enhancing drugs.
Howard's 149 RBI also led MLB and were the most by a Phillie since 1930. His 2006 season was nothing short of historic and presented a very compelling case to land at the top of this list.
1. Mike Schmidt (1980)
The greatest Phillies' greatest season gets my vote as the best season of the last 50 years. Schmidt played 150 games in 1980 and set a then franchise record with a MLB-best 48 HR. He also led the NL with 121 RBI and a 1.004 OPS, hitting .286 with a .380 OBP and capturing the first of his three NL MVP awards.
OPS+ measures a player's performance in a given year relative to the rest of the players in the league. Schmidt's OPS+ was 171 in 1980, slightly higher than Howard's 167 in 2006.
Another factor in Schmidt's 1980 season getting the edge over Howard's 2006 season — Schmidt's heroics in the 1980 postseason. He led the Phillies to their first World Series championship in franchise history, taking home WS MVP honors after hitting .381 with a .462 OBP and 1.176 OPS in six games against the Royals.