A tight-lipped Steve Carlton rears back to fire away at the Royals in the second game of the World Series at Veterans Stadium, Oct. 16, 1980. Although relieved in the ninth inning, Carlton received credit for the Phillies 6-4 come-from-behind victory. He worked for it, having thrown 159 pitches. Ninety-three were strikes and 66 were balls. He threw 59 pitches in the 7th and 8th innings. (AP Photo)

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Whenever we open up the mailbag on a Hittin’ Season podcast, we always get fascinating questions.

My favorite question came from one of the very best Twitter feeds in the Phillies-verse, @FranzkeLA, who tweeted:

On the surface, this might seem to be an easy question. Take the best player from each year and throw him on the 2023 team, right? Well, it’s not quite so cut and dry.

With the 1983 Phillies, there are three potential options:

  • Mike Schmidt: .255 average, .399 on-base percentage, 40 HRs, 109 RBIs
  • Steve Carlton: 15-16, 3.11 ERA, 283.2 innings, 275 strikeouts
  • John Denny: 19-6, 2.37 ERA, 242.2 innings, 139 strikeouts 

As for the 1993 Phillies, I think there are three candidates as well:

  • Lenny Dykstra: .305 average, .420 on-base percentage, 19 HRs, 37 stolen bases, 143 runs
  • John Kruk: .316 average, .430 on-base percentage, 14 HRs, 85 RBIs, 100 runs
  • Curt Schilling: 16-7, 4.02 ERA, 235.1 innings, 186 strikeouts

I decided we needed at least one starting pitcher to help out with a 2023 rotation that has struggled. Aaron Nola’s ERA is 5.40 so far, with a strikeout rate that has dropped precipitously since last year. Zack Wheeler’s run into some tough luck, but he’s sporting a 4.73 ERA. Taijuan Walker has been inconsistent and, until Ranger Suarez comes back next month, we’re still seeing a lot of Bailey Falter. 

Prioritizing starting pitching, the two best candidates are from the ‘83 team: a future Hall of Famer (Carlton) and that year’s Cy Young Award winner (Denny). The latter has a better ERA and all the wins, but the former struck out a ton of guys, pitched nearly 300 innings and was — by advanced metrics — the better pitcher that season.

So, Carlton is the pick from 1983.

Now we need an offensive player, and we can’t go with Schmidt. So which to add, Dykstra or Kurk? If I pick Kruk, that means Harper can’t play first base when he returns, and I think Harper to first base allows the Phillies to add another bat at the trade deadline in the outfield. 

So I’m going with Dykstra, the MVP runner-up, who can shift to left field with Brandon Marsh in center and Nick Castellanos in right and Kyle Schwarber as the everyday designated hitter.

But I also couldn’t argue if you went with 1983 Mike Schmidt, which would have made Alec Bohm the full-time first baseman or DH, with Harper the other half of that duo. And then you’d throw Schilling or Terry Mulholland into the rotation, but I don’t think that’s quite as strong an option.

All I know is seeing a permed Mike Schmidt in the lineup is an entirely defensible position to take, if that’s your choice.

John Stolnis grew up in Delco as a rabid fan of all Philadelphia sports, but the Phillies have always held a special place in his heart, particularly those disappointing Juan Samuel-led teams of the late...