Curt Schilling was wrapping up his first month in a Phillies uniform 28 years ago this week, establishing himself as a 25-year old relief pitcher on a 1992 Phillies team that finished last in the NL East. Schilling's numbers that year compare favorably to his eight other seasons in Philadelphia and they are made all the more impressive by the fact that he excelled both as a reliever and a starter. But Schilling's efforts in 1992 don't get the same recognition that his 1993 season or dominant 1997 and 1998 campaigns received.
With that in mind, I went looking for the 10 most unheralded Phillies pitching seasons of the last 40 years. You won't find Steve Carlton, Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee on this list. Those guys all received more than their share of accolades during their Phillies careers, and rightfully so.
Here are 10 seasons listed in chronological order that tend to be overlooked in the discussion of dominant Phillies pitching performances. In the interest of fairness, I included five seasons from starters and five seasons from relievers.
Tug McGraw (1980)
McGraw is best remembered for striking out the Royals' Willie Wilson to end the 1980 World Series and deliver the first world championship in Phillies franchise history. But McGraw was excellent throughout the entire 1980 season. In 57 appearances, he recorded a career-best 1.46 ERA with 20 saves. He allowed just 15 earned runs in 92.1 innings and finished 5th in the NL Cy Young voting.
He stepped up his game in the World Series, posting a 1.17 ERA in four appearances against the Royals.
John Denny (1983)
It's strange to think that a Cy Young season qualifies as "unheralded," but for whatever reason Denny's 1983 campaign gets lost in the shuffle. In his first full season in Philadelphia, Denny went 19-6 with a 2.37 ERA in 36 starts. His 19 wins were tops in the National League and he threw seven complete games, compiled 242⅔ innings and allowed just nine home runs.
This was the best season of Denny's career and earned him the NL Cy Young award. He was equally effective in the 1983 postseason, posting a 2.37 ERA in three playoff starts.
Steve Bedrosian (1987)
Yet another unheralded Cy Young season appears on this list courtesy of Steve Bedrosian's dominance in 1987. Bedrosian recorded an MLB-leading 40 saves and a 2.83 ERA in 65 appearances, earning his only career All-Star selection and the NL Cy Young award.
"Bedrock" spent three-and-a-half seasons in Philadelphia, collecting 103 saves and posting a 3.29 ERA.
Curt Schilling (1992)
Schilling made an immediate impact in his first season with the Phillies. He began the year pitching out of the bullpen, recording a 2.86 ERA and two saves in 16 relief appearances before being moved to the starting rotation in mid-May. Schilling was even better as a starter — he had a 2.27 ERA and 10 complete games in 26 starts.
He pitched in 42 total games and finished with a 2.35 ERA, leading all of baseball with a 0.99 WHIP and 6.6 hits allowed per nine innings. Schilling's 1992 season served as a springboard for a Hall of Fame-caliber career that saw him win 216 games and three world championships.
Tommy Greene (1993)
Greene went 16-4 with a 3.42 ERA for a 1993 Phillies team that won 97 games and the NL pennant. He finished the season with 200 innings and threw seven complete games, including a remarkable streak of five straight complete games from mid-May to early June. The Phillies had a 23-7 record in his 30 starts.
Greene finished 6th in the NL Cy Young voting and recorded the win in the Phillies' NLCS-clinching Game 6 victory over the Braves.
Danny Jackson (1994)
Jackson followed up a solid 1993 season with an even better performance in 1994. He made 25 starts in a strike-shortened season, finishing with a 14-6 record and 3.26 ERA. Jackson threw 179⅓ innings and registered 129 strikeouts compared to just 46 walks.
Jackson earned his second career All-Star appearance and finished 6th in the NL Cy Young voting. This would be his final season with the Phillies — he signed a free-agent contract with the Cardinals prior to the 1995 season.
Ricky Bottalico (1996)
Everyone's favorite reliever-turned-television analyst was the Phillies' lone All-Star representative the last time the Midsummer Classic was played in Philadelphia. Bottalico recorded a career-high 34 saves in his first season as the Phillies' closer, posting a 3.19 ERA in 61 appearances.
He struck out 74 batters in 67⅔ innings, a rate of nearly 10 strikeouts per nine innings. Bottalico was actually more efficient in 1995 with a 2.46 ERA but his 1996 season gets the edge here thanks to his All-Star appearance and successful transition to closing games.
Billy Wagner (2005)
Wagner's two seasons in Philadelphia may not be remembered fondly by fans and his former teammates, but he certainly was effective when he took the mound. He was at his best in 1995, posting a 1.51 ERA and 293 ERA+ in 75 appearances. He finished with 38 saves and 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
Wagner, who joined the Phillies Talk podcast Monday, earned the fourth of his seven career All-Star selections in what ended up being his last season with the Phillies. He signed a 4-year, $43 million deal with the Mets the following offseason.
Roy Oswalt (2010)
Oswalt was overshadowed by the likes of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels during his season-and-a-half with the Phillies. But he quietly recorded a 2.96 ERA in his 36 outings in red pinstripes. Oswalt was flat-out dominant in 2010 after the Phillies acquired him in a trade with the Astros. In 13 games (12 starts) following that late-July trade, he went 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA to help the Phillies win their fourth straight NL East title.
He had a 2.74 ERA in his four postseason appearances, including a 1.84 ERA in the 2010 NLCS that the Phillies lost to the Giants in six games.
Ken Giles (2015)
Giles was brilliant in his first full major league season, finishing with a 1.80 ERA in 69 appearances. He took over as the Phillies' closer midway through the 2015 season and converted 15 of his 17 save opportunities. He struck out 11.2 batters per nine innings, cementing his status as "100 Miles Giles."
Giles posted a 214 ERA+ in what turned out to be his final season in Philadelphia. He was traded to the Astros the following offseason in exchange for five players including Vince Velasquez.