HALLADAY LEE HALLADAY LEE HALLADAY LEE HALLADAY LEE HALLADAY LEE HALLADAY LEE HALLADAY LEE. The Phillies are once again the proverbial favorites to win the NL East after falling just short of a third straight World Series berth in 2010. After losing to the Giants and their superior pitching staff in the NLCS, the Phillies took it upon themselves to make sure that would never happen again. Remember last year how they said they couldn’t afford to get both Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee? Well, they made it work this year, and now Lee joins a rotation of Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, and some other fat ass that will only be relevant on my fantasy razzball team. On to the preview!
Bats. Even with the departure of right fielder Jayson Werth, the Phillies still boast one of the best lineups in the National League. Replacing Werth in right field will be youngster Domonic Brown, a fleet footed outfielder who the Phillies have kept as a prized prospect in anticipation of the departure of either Werth or that goon in left, Raul Ibanez. Brown struggled last year in limited time with the big league club, but he should get every opportunity to play full time this season as the Phillies look to continue to develop him. He’ll benefit defensively playing next to veteran centerfielder Shane Victorino. After bouncing around with a few teams, Victorino has found himself a permanent home in Philadelphia as their leadoff hitter. He’s a threat to hit 20 homers and steal 30 bases, a nice combination of power and speed. His on base percentage of .327 last season was fairly disappointing considering it was nearly 30 points below what he’d averaged in the two prior seasons.
The infield has been the core of this Phillies team since their rise to prominence began a few years ago. In between Subway commercials and wiping his ass with the ludicrous money the Phillies gave him in his new contract, first baseman Ryan Howard will surge for around 40 homers. The Phillies locked Howard up long term for around $25 mill a season, a stupid move for a guy who strikes out a ton and, in all honesty, isn’t one of the top five first basemen in the league. Howards deal torpedoed the market on first basemen, so while the Cardinals continue to try and work out a deal for Albert Pujols and the Red Sox for Adrian Gonzalez and eventually end up overpaying, they both can thank the Phillies for jacking up the price.
Speaking of overrated, Jimmy Rollins will be back at shortstop this year. Rollins should be known more for his glove, but most people still think he’s some sort of offensive juggernaut because he plays on the Phillies. Wrong. His OPS has been on a steady decline each of the last three seasons, and only hitting for a .694 clip last year is fairly concerning.
The thing that could break this team is the absence of second baseman Chase Utley. Utley is slated to miss a fairly good amount of time because of tendonitis in his knees that may require surgery. Utley has always been the guy who has come up with the big hit for the Phillies in addition to being arguably the best offensive second baseman in the game. If the Phillies get stuck with idiots like Brian Bocock or Wilson Valdez playing second base for an extended amount of time, it’ll be a problem.
Pitching. Lights out. The Phillies have built a pitching staff that’s comprable to the
Miami Heat Boston Celtics “big three”. Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, and now Cliff Lee. Is this even fair? Halladay won the Cy Young last year and had absolutely no problem adjusting to a new league. If I need one pitcher to win me one game, the guy who I want to have the ball is Roy Halladay. Simply put he’s been the best pitcher in baseball for the past four years, he’s just been stuck in Toronto where he hasn’t received the proper attention. The other Roy was also outstanding in his time with the Phillies. Coming over from Houston at the deadline, Oswalt pitched lights out despite going from a bandbox in Houston to a little league field in Philadelphia. Oswalt’s ERA with Philadelphia was a nasty 1.74 and he had a whip of 0.90, both filthy numbers in a hitters park during a pennant race. I have an undying hate for Oswalt because of the many times he’s taken dumps on my fantasy baseball teams over the years, but I won’t deny that, when he’s on, hes tough. Now that he’s pitching for a relevant team and not mired in mediocrity in Houston, look for Oswalt to actually give a shit and, in turn, put up good numbers.
The Phillies were the “mystery team” that so many writers spoke of during the bidding for Cliff Lee. While the Yankees and Rangers lobbed lucrative deals at the Cy Young winner, the Phillies presented the idea of pitching with guys like Oswalt, Halladay, and Hamels and certainly left Joe Blanton out of any discussions. Lee was lights out for Texas last year down the stretch, and he’s a lock to be in the Cy Young discussion pretty much every season. If these guys can all stay healthy, wow.
Joe Blanton eats innings. Literally.
The Phillies have certainly built something out of nothing with their bullpen. Cast offs Jose Contreras and Danys Baez are both in the bullpen, although Baez was awful last year. Who would have thought Contreras would still be around after never figuring out how to become a consistent starter? He’s a nice set up man for the Phillies as they get to Brad Lidge in the ninth.
Brad Lidge is an asshole. Look at this guy. Lidge couldn’t throw a strike to save his life in 2009 after an unreal 2008 season, and then last year remembered how to pitch again. Make up your mind. Are you going to suck or are you going to be dominant? Inquiring fantasy minds want to know, and Phillies fans want to know how much they’ll get to boo you.
Outlook. The Phillies are the clear cut favorites to win this division based on their pitching staff alone. With two world series trips in the last three years and NLCS appearances in each of the last three, they’re odds on favorites to be there again. Injuries could certainly be a problem for this team, but their pitching might be too good to have any sort of injury bug derail their year.