A post earlier this week looked at the total bWAR of hitters and pitchers for the top teams in the NL over the last five years. In 2012, it appears the Phillies will have four elite pitchers on their pitching staff. What should we expect the Phillies to get from the group of Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Papelbon in 2013?

Here’s a look at the Baseball-Reference calculated WAR for each of the four over the past five seasons:

’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 Avg High Low
Halladay 0.7 8.5 8.3 6.6 5.9 6.0 8.5 0.7
Lee 4.2 8.3 4.8 5.1 6.5 5.8 8.3 4.2
Hamels 4.2 6.2 5.3 1.7 4.0 4.3 6.2 1.7
Papelbon 1.6 1.5 0.0 3.4 1.8 1.7 3.4 0.0
Totals 10.7 24.5 18.4 16.8 18.2 17.7 24.5 10.7

So, looking at those four players, over the last five seasons the combined bWAR they have contributed has ranged from 10.7 to 24.5 with an average of 17.7.

Sadly, by a wide margin, the worst year of any of the five is the most recent.

Also sadly, that group has been outrageously healthy over the last five seasons. Halladay’s 2012 season is one exception, but he still made 25 starts and threw 156 1/3 innings. Lee has thrown more than 200 innings in each of the last five years. Hamels has made at least 31 starts every year of the last five. Papelbon has thrown at least 60 innings in relief in each year.

So it’s likely they are going to spend less time on the field in the future than they have over the last five years, giving them less opportunities to accumulate bWAR.

The good news is that the average mark for the last five years, 17.7, would be a huge improvement over what they did in 2012.

The previous post suggested that the total combined bWAR for the team’s pitchers and hitters should be around 36 to give the team a solid shot to be among the four best by bWAR in the NL. If you assume a return to the five-year average for the group of Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Papelbon, that gives the Phils 17.7. Over the last two seasons, the best combined bWAR for all of the Phillie position players is 15.0. That’s 32.7. That sounds like it should be good news — it means that all pitchers on the team other than Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Papelbon, including the missing 40% of the rotation, would only need to post a cumulative bWAR of 3.3 to get the Phils to 36.

But.

In 2012, the Phillie pitchers other than that quartet combined to throw to a bWAR of 0.1. Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Papelbon were at 10.7. The other 20 pitchers who appeared for the Phillies combined for a 0.1 — that includes negative bWAR performances from 11 guys (Blanton, Schwimer, Bastardo, Contreras, Qualls, Sanches, Stutes, Diekman, Savery, Lindblom and Rosenberg).

The obvious other big issue here is Halladay, whose 2012 bWAR dropped to 0.7 coming off of back-to-back seasons in which he was amazing, posting a bWAR better than eight in both years. If you saw any sign in 2012 that Halladay was about to return to 2010-2011 form, I sure missed it. And for now, at least, the Phillies are built around the rather reasonable notion that Roy Halladay is going to be the elite pitcher he has been in recent years.

So let’s hope for the best. But if you suggest that Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Papelbon are going to combine to post a bWAR of 17.7 or better in 2013, I’m taking the under. They all have to stay healthy for one thing. And even if they do, they have close to no chance unless Halladay is way, way better than he was in 2012. Also, the entire pitching staff for the Phillies has thrown to a combined bWAR of 17.7 or better twice in the last 29 years — in each of the seasons in which they did, Hallday posted a bWAR better than eight. In one of them, 2011, Lee also posted a bWAR better than eight.

Bottom line is that the group of four has set the bar almost impossibly high for themselves in terms of whether or not they can ever return to previous, especially 2011, form. In 2011, those four pitchers combined to produce a bWAR of 24.5. Over the past ten seasons, only four NL teams other than the ’11 Phils have put up a combined bWAR for their pitchers of 24.5 or better for their entire staff (the ’12 Reds (26.4), ’09 Giants (24.6), ’08 Cubs (26.9) and ’03 Snakes (27.6)).

In this article from last night, Jim Salisbury suggests the deal for Wilton Lopez is not a sure thing.

This says that BJ Upton and the Braves have agreed to a five-year, $75 million deal. I truly do not know what Upton is going to do over the next five years. But if it’s similar to what he’s done over the last four years, I think it will be good news for the Phils that it’s the Braves and not them paying him $15 millionish a year. He does have huge upside, though. So we’ll see.

Update1: This says the Wilton Lopez deal fell apart.

Update2: This says Denard Span has been traded to the Nats for pitcher Alex Meyer.

Updates one and two are both bad news for the Phillies. Span would have filled the center field hole very nicely.