The class of the division, and of the league. They’ve got the pennants to prove it. But nothing lasts forever, and the Phillies are due for a slide. Except they have the best pitching staff in baseball, and one of the best in history. The offense will be adequate, but is taking a hit, as is the defense. This team will really on shutting down the opponent, not outscoring them. Should make for an interesting year.
Carlos Ruiz. A good catcher with a late career start, he’s even better in the playoffs. Some power, and gets on base a lot. Good with the glove, and he will make the staff even better. If that's possible. His offense will be even more important this year, even though he hits down in the order. Should get into a lot of games, and keep the back up on the bench most days.
Upside: thinks the playoffs start in April
Downside: none really. Doing more than anyone ever really expected
Ryan Howard. Yeah, yeah, yeah, he strikes out too much and RBI’s aren’t the best indicator of success. He’s still an elite first baseman in the league. His defense is slowing down, but he still walks a lot and scores a lot of runs. For all the bashing by the sabermetric community, he does exactly what hey want him to. Hit home runs and get on base above league average. Leave him alone.
Upside: continues to do what he does best
Downside: has to shoulder the offense by himself
Chase Utley. The best second baseman in the league, and maybe the game. Injuries really took his power away last year, so he has to hope he can get that back. Even if he doesn’t, he gets on base a lot, and can run well. Gets hit by pitches a lot. That hurts. Good defender, he can do it all. More than any other player, he’s the heart of the team offense. If he hits, they’ll be okay. If he doesn’t….
Upside: is healthy this year
Downside: doesn’t get his power back
Score: + 2
Placido Polanco. A good, useable player, who probably shouldn’t be starting. He does get on base, but has absolutely no power and doesn’t run anymore. Nagging injuries and age are taking a toll. He’s very versatile and would probably be better suited to a super-utility role, but someone has to play third base, and they don’t have anyone right now. When the offense lags, Blanton is gone.
Upside: has one more acceptable year
Downside: can’t go full time anymore
Jimmy Rollins. Injuries exposed him last year, and he’s no longer the darling he used to be. Still a good player who can do a lot of things, he’ll have to get some of his power back and regain the speed. A good defender, he can’t get on base enough to suit some people, but his strikeouts have dropped. Probably shouldn’t hit lead off, but second would work. Thing is, who else would do it?
Upside: is healthy enough to have a typical year
Downside: becomes Ozzie Smith
Raul Ibanez. Starting the down slope, he was still above average last year. Looks like the power is gone, so he’ll need to get on base more and hit a lot of doubles. Shouldn’t be playing the field, but will have to. Will get a lot of days off, and that will probably help. If they had someone else, this would probably be a platoon, but isn’t for now. Another guy Blanton might bring help for.
Upside: one last year
Downside: he’s a platoon designated hitter and no one has figured it out yet
Shane Victorino. He actually does okay getting on base, and doesn’t strike out too much. He can run, and has limited power. Plays a good center field and is helpful to the team on defense, especially with Ibanez out there. Not a superstar by any means, and seems to have a better reputation than he actually deserves, but don’t we all. He doesn’t have to be great, just steady.
Upside: does his usual thing
Downside: does his usual thing while everyone else doesn’t and has to be too much a part of the offense
Ben Francisco. By default, at least for now. Mr Consistent. Puts up the same numbers every year. Medium power and he can run. Doesn’t walk enough and strikes out to much. Good defense. He’ll get the start and keep playing if he hits. But Dominic Brown is waiting and it looks to be a platoon when he comes back, or left field. Mayberry will see some time against right handers.
Upside: hits well enough to stay in the line up
Downside: still loses his job when Brown is back
Pinch hitter/general utility:
Ross Gload. He’ll also be the back up first baseman, but they won’t really need one. He can get some starts at first, and maybe the outfield, but too many left handed batters in the starting line up leave him as a pinch hitter. His thing is batting average, and this is where that stat comes in handy. He’ll move runners around and be on base for the top of the order. If he can hit .275, he’ll be successful.
Upside: doesn’t have too much to do
Downside: can’t do that
Brian Schneider. A former starter headed into a carer as a back up, he’s a good one to have. A left handed compliment to Ruiz will give him some time off against tough right handers. Schneider has some pop, and hits better than most back ups. He can draw a walk when needed, and he can play good defense. If there was an injury to Ruiz, he could step in. He’ll help the team.
Upside: continues to fit well in this role
Backup first baseman:
Ross Gload. So far this is the only time I’ve listed one player twice at a position, except for Michael Young. While Gload is the back up, he doesn’t figure to get a lot of time here. If Howard is out for any extended period of time, they get Ibanez out of left field. Gload really isn’t a glove guy either, and saving him for defense takes his bat out of the game.
Upside: won’t have to play very often
Downside: can’t get it done if he does
Score: - 2
Wilson Valdez. There is a new position listed on Baseball-Reference. MI – middle infielder. Says so much more than utility infielder. This is the guy that designation was made for. Got a lot of plate appearances last year, but won’t this year. Has some speed, but absolutely no power. Will hit for some average but not walk. Good glove at a lot of positions. He’s too old to take over, but will be a big help all around.
Upside: only has to start 20 games at each position
Downside: gets as much playing time as last year
John Mayberry, Jr. By default, because of Browns injury. He’ll be up as long as Brown is injured. Has some power, like his father. Unlike his father, he doesn’t walk at all and strikes out way too much. Defense isn’t great, but he hasn’t had a lot of plate appearances at this level either. Showed power and speed in the minors, so any of that would help here.
Upside: only has one
Downside: doesn’t have an upside
Score: - 2
Rotation (front 3):
Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. And that’s leaving Roy Oswalt off, as well as Joe Blanton, who would be top three on most teams. What can you say about these guys? While 20 wins is passé, we could be looking at a group of four here for the first time in a long time. Five? Only two areas get a three on their score. These guys and one other yet to come.
Upside: bullpen gets to take the summer off
Downside: only one Cy Young award gets handed out
Rotation (back end):
Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton. Yeah, Blanton is the fifth starter, but only because the others would all be aces on other team. See the comments above. There really is no 1 – 5 on this team. Either of these guys could step right in with no loss. The only issue is that Blanton will be gone soon for a hitter. No reason to have him on the team when they don’t really need a fifth guy.
Upside: either one can step in if needed
Downside: not enough innings
Ryan Madsen, Danys Baez, J.C. Romero, Jose Contreras and Kyle Kendrick. Not the greatest bullpen in the world but they’ll be okay. They don’t pitch too many innings which isn’t a problem as, they won’t be needed. The starters will go deep, letting these guys be the one inning/one batter pitchers they are, so hopefully that will make them even better. Kendrick will likely move back to the rations when Blanton is gone.
Upside: don’t have to do too much
Downside: can’t do that
Brad Lidge. I’m not really sold on Lidge as an elite closer any more. He had a nice bounce back year, but it wasn’t to his usual standard. Career lows in almost everything. Strikeouts are down, and he still walks too many. Good thing is, he shouldn’t be called upon as much. The rotation will keep the runs down, and the offense should keep their up. Lots of big leads and fewer save opportunities.
Upside: returns to what he did in the past
Downside: we can see the light
Team speed (which includes base running):
Good. Enough stolen bases and triples. If the middle guys are healthy, and Polanco has a good year, the numbers will be better. Brown could help out also, when he returns. It will help the defense also, as Ibanez needs all the assistance he can get, and Francisco isn’t really a range type of guy. Should be lots of ground balls from the staff, so a return to form by the infielders will be a big boost.
Upside: every little bit helps
Downside: injuries hurt the defensive range more than the stolen bases
Score: + 1
Good. Really good up the middle. Some of the best in the game overall. Not as good on the corners, but not completely bad, except for Ibanez. This is a ground ball staff, so the outfield will have less to do and Victorino will take care of a lot of that. There won’t be a lot of free runners or balls rolling around the outfield. This will help an already outstanding starting rotation.
Upside: other team’s scores so little that Ibanez’s defense doesn’t matter
Downside: everyone hits to left field
Score: + 1
Better than I think it is, but I’m just not convinced. They rank in the top of all the categories and that was with injures. So they will probably be better this year if everyone one is healthy. But the team is getting old and a fall off is coming soon. That won’t be quite as much a problem as the pitching will be so good that they can overcome a drop.
Upside: everyone is healthy and hits like they did their last full season
Downside: age catches up quickly
Very good. The starting rotation is the best in the game, and they will go deep, helping the bullpen stay fresh. But I have concerns about the bullpen and the number of guys they walk. If the starters can consistently go into the seventh, it won’t be a problem. I’m not sold on Lidge anymore either, and his ability to close out a lot of close games. Very good. But not great.
Upside: Halladay is the old guy
Downside: the rotation can’t relieve themselves
Score: + 1
Total score: 11