Thursday, March 15, 2012

30 Teams in 30 Days: Philadelphia Phillies

*the picture above is one that I took while visiting their beautiful park in 2011. 

Philadelphia Phillies - 2012 team preview

Key Additions: Jonathan Papelbon (CL - 4 years/$50M (2012-15), plus 2016 option), Jim Thome (1B - 1 year/$1.25M (2012), Ty Wiggington, Juan Pierre, Laynce Nix, Scott Podsednik

Subtractions: Roy Oswalt (SP), Ryan Madson (CL), Brad Lidge (RP), Raul Ibanez (LF), Jamie Moyer (SP), Wilson Valdez (INF)

2011 Record: 102-60

2011 Highlights: With the 102 wins they had, they broke their previous franchise record for most wins and finished with the best record in baseball for the 2nd year in a row.  Ryan Howard led the team offensively with 33 home runs and 116 RBI in 152 games.  Jimmy Rollins missed 20 games, and still quietly had 87 runs and 30 stolen bases. Both Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee finished with at least 17 wins and 220 strikeouts.  Halladay, Lee and Hamels all finished top 5 in NL CY Young voting.

Offseason Moves: In 2011, Ryan Madson was an effective closer, with 32 saves and only 2 blown saves.  So losing him and setup man Brad Lidge could be interesting.  However they did land the off season’s biggest reliever in Jonathan Papelbon.  Excluding last season, he has averaged 37 saves and 78 strikeouts over a 5 year span.  He could once again get 40 saves and 80 strikeouts in Philadelphia.

During their playoff series with the Cardinals, first basemen Ryan Howard tore his Achilles.  His major bat in the lineup and his stats could be hard to replace.  There are rumblings that Howard could be out for a while, even most (if not all of) the season as some reports say.  The signings of Thome, Wiggington and Nix are all in hopes that one can produce in place of Howard (most likely Thome – who will have to use his glove for the first time, after DH’ing for so many years in the AL). 

2011 Rewind - The Phillies began the 2011 season being heavily favored to not only make it to the world series, but to win it all (odds were 3-1).  They came off of a 2010 season where they lost the NLCS to the San Francisco Giants.  So they loaded up for the 2011 season.  They landed some big pieces in getting Jose Contreras, Cliff Lee and during the season adding Hunter Pence.  To begin the season, 3 of their 4 aces won their first 5 starts.  Jose Contreras got injured and was replaced by Ryan Madson.  From May 9th on the Phillies had the best record in all baseball. 

In what was one of the greatest nights for baseball (in probably ever), the Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves on the last game of the year.  That win eliminated the Braves from the postseason and helped the St. Louis Cardinals get in.  However, the Phillies lost to the Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs – oops.  The Phillies were 3-6 against the Cardinals during the regular season as well.

2012 Outlook – This could be the last year with the trio of Halladay, Lee and Hamels, as Hamels is in the last year of his contract.  They will be looking to win somewhere in the 100 win mark once again.  The Phillies are looking to Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick to round out their rotation.  Both should win 10 games in the 4 and 5 slots.

The Phillies are once again slated to be one of the top teams before the 2012 season.  This year there seems to be a little less hype.  On paper, their outfield from left to right is Domonic Brown, Shave Victorino and Hunter Pence.  Pence should replace a lot of Ryan Howard’s numbers (should hit 100-32-100-10).  Which could be one of the best trio’s in the NL.  Their infield has Jim Thome at 1st, Chase Utley (coming off of two injured seasons and has not played a game so far in preseason) at 2nd, Jimmy Rollins at SS, and Placido Polanco at 3rd

Question Marks: What do they have in Domonic Brown?  Hit .245 last year in 52 games but also committed 4 errors.  Last preseason he broke a bone in his hand, and on March 5th 2012, he sprained his right thumb trying to catch a ball.  Although likely to begin the season in triple-A, the Phillies hope Brown will break out, (stats wise that is) this year.  Of any player, Domonic Brown might just need a change of scenery to see his full potential. 
The average age of their infield right now is 36.  So age is also a major question.  How much longer can these players play at a 100-win game pace?  Utley, Polanco and Rollins have all had a few injury filled seasons in a row.  So I wouldn’t bet on either staying healthy in 2012. 

With their issues in the infield, they still have the game’s best pitching rotation.  In fact their 2012 rotation is probably better than it was in 2011.  Their offense will have to make do with Ryan Howard being out (for up to a month and maybe more).  The Phillies will look to Domonic Brown, Hunter Pence and Jim Thome to all bring something new in 2012.

Projected Lineup – Here’s how I would fill out the Phillies batting order; (including Ryan Howard)
  1. Jimmy Rollins (SS)
  2. Shane Victorino (CF)
  3. Chase Utley (2B)
  4. Ryan Howard (1B)
  5. Hunter Pence (RF)
  6. John Mayberry JR./Domonic Brown (LF)
  7. Placido Polanco (3B)
  8. Carlos Ruiz (C)
With Ryan Howard out, I would put Pence in the cleanup spot, then Mayberry JR or Domonic Brown and Jim Thome would bat 6th.

The Philadelphia Phillies should once again rise to the top of the NL East.  Roy Halladay needs 12 more wins for 200, and some say he could win 300 before he is done.  Their outfield looks great on paper with the need for Brown to step up.  The biggest concerns are injuries (Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Domonic Brown just to begin the season) and their age. 

We here at BlueJaysPlus, picked the Phillies to once again win their division and get close to 100 wins, but they are not the best team in baseball anymore.   
The Final Count: 95-67 - 1st in NL East.

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