Team Preview: Philadelphia Phillies

In one sense, the 2011 Phillies are pretty easy to sum up – they’ve pushed all in on starting pitching, and with the best rotation that anyone has seen in some time, they are perceived as the strong favorites to win the National League. If the pitching holds up, they’re going to be good. But, there’s far more to the story than that, and I actually find this Phillies team rather fascinating.

Let’s start with the offense.

Starting Line-Up

1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
2. Placido Polanco, 3B
3. Chase Utley, 2B*
4. Ryan Howard, 1B*
5. Raul Ibanez, LF*
6. Shane Victorino, CF
7. Carlos Ruiz, C
8. Domonic Brown*/Ben Francisco, RF

There are a lot of stars in that line-up, both in how they are perceived throughout the game and by the mark denoting their left-handedness. While most teams would happily take any or all of these individuals (as long as they didn’t have to take their contracts too), it will be interesting to see how the summation of the parts comes together without Jayson Werth mixing things up in the middle of the line-up.

It is inevitable that bringing in a left-handed reliever to go after the Utley/Howard/Ibanez trio will become standard operating procedure for every manager in high leverage situations this year. For Utley, this shouldn’t be that big of a deal, as he’s consistently hit left-handed pitching throughout his big league career. For Howard and Ibanez, however, this will present problems, as both have had their struggles against tough left-handers, and they will almost certainly see a greater proportion of them in important situations this year. While line-up protection is often overstated, the presence of a lefty-masher in Werth did limit opposing manager’s from being able to play the match-up game as often as they will this year.

Beyond that issue, the Phillies also face some uncertainy in right field, where Domonic Brown looked overmatched in his brief big league trial last year and is struggling enough to cause concern in spring training. At the very least, it seems likely that Ben Francisco will be asked to split time with Brown to give them another right-handed bat against southpaws, but using Francisco to platoon with Brown means that he can’t be used in tandem with Raul Ibanez, who also shouldn’t be viewed as any everyday player any more. With one aging corner outfielder who is nearing the end of his usefulness and another who might be too inexperienced to produce in 2011, the Phillies have some areas of concern that could become major weaknesses.

When you add in expected regression from Carlos Ruiz, this is a line-up that simply isn’t as deep as the Phillies are used to, leaving them heavily dependent on the top of the batting order to produce runs. If Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley stay healthy, there is enough talent there to carry the load, but the dropoff is severe if either of them end up on the disabled list. Swapping out either for Wilson Valdez could prove disastrous if they miss extended periods of time.

This is an offense that could be very good if Utley and Rollins both play 150 games and either Ibanez fights off aging or Brown matures quickly. This is an offense that could be a problem if more than one or two of those things go awry. There is talent here, but there is also a good deal of risk, and a lack of legitimate backup plans means that the Phillies may be scrambling to make some trades this summer.

Pitching Staff

RHP Roy Halladay
LHP Cliff Lee
RHP Roy Oswalt
LHP Cole Hamels
RHP Joe Blanton

CL Brad Lidge
RHP Ryan Madson
RHP Jose Contreras
LHP J.C. Romero
RHP Danys Baez
LHP Antonio Bastardo
RHP Kyle Kendrick

I don’t know that we need to rehash just how good this rotation is. Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball, Lee isn’t that far behind, and Oswalt and Hamels are legitimate all-stars. Even Joe Blanton is among the league’s best when you compare him to other fifth starters around the game. The Phillies will have the advantage on the mound in nearly every game this year. That’s a huge advantage, and this is clearly the strength of the team.

However, there is risk here too. Pitchers get hurt – it’s just what they do. The Phillies have put their golden eggs in the basket that has the highest attrition rate of any position in the game. Now, you can make a good argument that the pitchers that the Phillies have have proven more durable than most, but the reality is that even workhorses break down with some regularity. When all four are healthy and pitching back-to-back, this rotation is formidable. Hardly any team makes it through an entire season with their rotation in tact, however, and the cost to the Phillies will be higher than for most teams when a starter inevitably ends up missing some starts. Like with Utley and Rollins, the drop-off from any of the big four to the their replacement is going to be drastic. The Phillies plan involves getting close to 1,000 innings out of their projected starting five, and while that’s possible, I don’t know that I’d term that very likely.

In terms of the bullpen, I actually feel this is one area where the Phillies are a bit underrated. Brad Lidge may not be a relief ace anymore, but he can still rack up the strikeouts, and Ryan Madson is one of the games premier setup men. Jose Contreras is lights out against right-handed batters, and J.C. Romero is a capable LOOGY who should never face a right-handed batter – seriously, he ran an 8.12 (!) xFIP against them last year. Toss in Antonio Bastardo and Kyle Kendrick, and this a strong, deep bullpen with enough options from both sides to allow Charlie Manuel to take advantage of match-ups when he needs to. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this bullpen is how Manuel will manage to find enough work for all of them, given how consistent their starters have been at pitching deep into games over the past few years.

The Key Player

It would be easy to put Domonic Brown in this spot, as he has the talent to become a good everyday player, but in the end, I don’t think Brown’s development will be what makes or breaks this Phillies team. Francisco is a capable fill-in, and it isn’t that hard to find a decent corner outfielder to share time with him if Brown proves unable to handle the job. No matter which direction they go, the Phillies are unlikely to get either a great or terrible performance from their right field spot.

However, at shortstop, feast or famine looks like a real possibility.

A healthy Jimmy Rollins could be a +4 to +5 win player and a huge asset to an offense that could really use a dynamic switch-hitter at the top of the order. A gimpy Jimmy Rollins who is sharing the position with Wilson Valdez could be a huge problem. Most of Rollins’ drop in offensive production is related to a huge drop in BABIP the last few years, but given that he’s been fighting leg problems, we can’t just chalk that all up to bad luck.

If Rollins gets back to his 2008 form, the Phillies probably are the best team in the National League. If he doesn’t, they might not even be the best team in the National League East. There are no obvious solutions if he struggles again, and it’s a problem that is essentially unfixable this year. Either Rollins plays well or he doesn’t – at this point, I’m not sure there’s much Ruben Amaro can do about it.

The Phillies have a chance to be really good. However, there are enough risks here that the rails could also completely come off, and there are quite a few scenarios where they end up on the outside looking in during October. They’ve bet big on a bunch of guys with health risks and a few guys with age-related questions. They need to win most of those gambles. If they do, they’re going to be nearly impossible to beat. If they don’t, this team could end up being a major disappointment.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

56 Responses to “Team Preview: Philadelphia Phillies”

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  1. Mike Schmidt says:

    Jimmy Rollins is a frustating hitter. He needs to swing more through the ball and hit more line drives and just get on base. He needs to be more like my friend, Pete Rose, who just attempted to make contact with the ball and get on base. That’s Jimmy’s job at the top of the lineup, and instead he thinks he’s some kind of power hitter.

    Consequently, Jimmy has developed a terrible Babe Ruth like uppercut on his swing that causes him to hit a lot of lazy fly balls. He’s a shortstop leadoff hitter who hacks at the ball like he’s trying to get it out of CF at the Polo Grounds.

    He needs to be more disciplined and be more of a team player. Not going for the gaudy power numbers, but just trying to get on base to let the sluggers behind him knock him in.

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    • neuter_your_dogma says:

      Ha. Schmitty should be golfing instead of hanging around Clearwater.

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    • Angela says:

      Mike, I am an “out-of-place” Phillies fan born and raised in the heart of Braves Country. I was very unpopular as a teen when I sat in the old Braves stadium and rooted for you and My Phillies. This year I was blessed with the opportunity to attend my first spring training in Clearwater. We had a wonderful time. We even attended the “Legends” Game because I was hoping to get pix and an autograph from my ALL-TIME FAVORITE Player… Michael Jack Schmidt!!!! The Honor of seeing you and getting your autograph is the ONLY way it could have been better!!! I did {however} get Charlie Manuel’s autograph and a ball from Chooch!
      I will try again next year.
      You are STILL my FAVORITE!!

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  2. BillPetti says:

    Great analysis, Dave. This is what concerned me after the Phillies made the Lee signing–it was almost more of a requirement than a luxury given the offense lost by letting Werth walk (the right move, IMO) and from the continuing decline of Rollins, Utley, Howard, and Ibanez.

    It’s entirely possible that their run differential barely budges even after adding Lee based on the declining offense. Mix in an injury or two and an unexpected down year from one of the four horseman and this becomes a very good, but not dominant, team.

    None of this is to say the Phillies won’t be great. Given the extra advantage to elite pitching teams, if they are going to be lopsided they picked the right side of the equation. But there are just as many things that could go wrong with this current configuration as could go right.

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  3. mike savino says:

    I think we’re being a bit gun shy considering the gushing praise for the Mariners last year. The Phillies will have to have a lot of things go quite badly before they’re the second best team in the NL East, methinks. The season will not end if Jimmy Rollins gets hurt.

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    • Anon21 says:

      I tend, reluctantly, to agree with this. I think the Phils need to be worried about 2012, but this year, the division is definitely theirs to lose.

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    • Jason B says:

      “The Phillies will have to have a lot of things go quite badly before they’re the second best team in the NL East, methinks.”

      This I think is quite true.

      “I think we’re being a bit gun shy considering the gushing praise for the Mariners last year.”

      This I think is quite stupid.

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  4. Cos says:

    The Phillies used about 600,000 different lineup combinations last season, and a lot of them featured Shane Victorino at the top of the lineup. Victorino is probably a better base stealer at this point, certainly has a healthier lower body (and should be the team’s #1 choice to attempt steals despite Chase’s success %), and has been better than Jimmy at getting on base for the last few seasons. Charlie needs to sit Jimmy down and inform him that if he wants to take upper cut swings at the first pitch he sees, he’ll be doing it in the 7 spot.

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  5. vivalajeter says:

    Nice article, and I certainly agree with the key points. If healthy, this team can run away with it. But every one of their main hitters is a question mark – even Utley, as great as he is, has gone down quite a bit over the last few seasons. I get a sense that their offense is higher in reputation than in production.

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    • erich1212 says:

      utley may have had his peak in his his age 29 year, but he’s not “down quite a bit” as you suggest. he’s a 7-7.5 WAR player when he plays 155+.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        well, his slugging was down 80 points from ’09, and 120 points from his peak – that’s a significant drop. And the “155+” is a major part of the problem; there’s absolutely no reason to believe he’ll play that many games. He was injured last year and he’s injured in spring training already. Hip and knee issues don’t go away out of the blue.

        I have no clue where that 5.2 WAR came from in ’10, because his numbers were down across the board. As you said, that translates to about 7 WAR over 155 games, but every other number suggests that he wasn’t the same hitter.

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      • erich1212 says:

        i agree utley is off his peak, but the rate at which he produces WAR–and 1 WAR is 1 WAR, right?–isn’t THAT far down. sure, his ISO was down last year, as was his babip, but as you suggest, how much of that is related to the injuries?

        as for the knee tendinitis, if it doesn’t require surgery, i’ll take him over 140+ games. i mean, given how he always seems to be nicked up and yet always is in the lineup, who wouldn’t?

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  6. Hank says:

    I thought this was a good and balanced view of the Phils outlook (though I’m sure the comments will say Dave is just hating on the Phils again).

    In addition to Werth, who has been a 5 WAR player the last 3 years, I think Ruiz’s likely regression is also going to be significantly felt. He posted 4.1 WAR last year (his previous high was 2.2), and his BABIP was more than 50points over his career average- while some of that may be real, a chunk of that has to be variation/luck… While Brown/Francisco will produce something you are talking about losing 6-7 WAR with Werth and Ruiz’s likely regression – that’s Cliff Lee assuming another really good and healthy year .

    While the pitching is obviously elite and even the loss of one of the big four would still leaves them well above average, the pitching is being counted on pretty heavily. The other question is who is the 6th starter; as Dave alluded to, the likelihood of any starting 5 rotation going through an entire season is fairly slim (and since they are so pitching heavy that might be a huge dropoff if someone not named Blanton gets hurt)

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    • Evan says:

      This a good analysis and the way I think year will play out, with a Phillies team that is about as good as in 2010 assuming nor long term losses to the pitching staff.

      However I think you can expect at least a bit more value out of the offense coming from Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley if they have healthy seasons. If their # of PAs shape up more like they did last year the Phils are still replacing the 5 WAR Werth with a 5 WAR pitcher in Lee and they are in decent shape. Howard is also bounceback candidate to add another win or two if last year’s drop in power/WAR was a fluke.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        Here’s the problem though: You just mentioned 3 offensive players that can be better in 2011 than they were in 2010, but the youngest of them is 31 years old. At their age, there’s as good a chance of them declining more instead of bouncing back – especially since Utley is already dealing with knee problems this spring.

        If you stripped away their name and just looked at their trend and age, you probably wouldn’t expect 3 rebounds (granted, you said Howard is a candidate, you didn’t say you expect a rebound).

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      • don says:

        Utley and Rollins were each 2.5 WAR under his 2007-2009 average in 2010 while missing considerable time. You expect some decline from 30+ middle infielders, but not that much that fast. They’re both good athletes and neither are strikeout machines. They could be even worse next year but I think there’s pretty goods that they stay steady or bounce back a little.

        Rollins managed to hit about a buck forty on grounders last year. He also walked 10% of the time which is really weird for him.

        Howard, eh. Not betting on much there. He hit lefties a little last year but his plate discipline keeps getting worse.

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  7. neuter_your_dogma says:

    Phillies had all those bad things happen to them last year (no Utley, Rollins or Howard for extended periods, no Werth (with RISP), no Lee, 0.4 an Oswalt, 0.75 a Blanton, so-so bench production and an average bullpen) and still managed to barely squeze out 97 wins. Yes, bad things can happen to the Phillies, but they also can happen to every other team.

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  8. Mr.MojoRisin says:

    As a Met fan I hate this team! I really hate these guys! And I can only hope every bad scenario that was laid out occurs, as the only thing I’ve had to look forward to each year was Oliver Perez making Ryan Howard look like a fool at the plate. And who wants to watch Opie pitch for their team anyway! (There was a game two years ago where Howard had 3 really ugly K’s against Opie, while seeing only 10-11 pitches, but the rest of the line-up knocked Opie out by like the 4th inning, and in Howard’s next AB against a Met reliever he clubbed a monster HR!)
    I can only hope that they get the injury bug, but I just can’t see a scenario here and now in early March where they aren’t the Wild Card at worse this year.

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  9. Ryan Bones says:

    While the Phillies are good, and they’ll likely win the NL east, the real powerhouse of the NL is STL.. WS winners in 5 games.. Mark it down or my name isn’t Ryan Bones

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  10. bill says:

    Carlos Ruiz still has value even with that inflated BABIP going down a bit though – he’s always had a good walk rate, and 270/360/410 from your 8 hitter isn’t bad production.

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  11. chomO says:

    Good analysis here. Phillies definitely could be in trouble if the rotation gets banged up, especially with Utley already hurting.

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  12. Brian says:

    Hey buddy, I know that Baez is making a lot of money but there is no way he is making this team.

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  13. Tim says:

    Dave, you’re the best writer on this site, but coming from a Phillies fan, Ibanez is not gonna hit fith this year. Manuel himself said he likes Raul in the six-hole. Great analysis though.

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  14. Brian says:

    A few issues with this:

    “Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball, Lee isn’t that far behind”

    Really? Halladay has had 735 IP of ERA+ 160 and 20.2 WAR in the last 3 years.

    Lee has had 666 IP with an ERA+ of 143 (Carried by his 168 CY year in 2008) and 16.6 WAR. That is a huge gap between them.

    Also, there is a lot of Rollins love for a guy who has posted a 92.5 OPS+ in the last 3 years in 1744 PA. That’s a good sample size, Jimmy is done.

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    • Karl Winslow says:

      How many other pitchers occupy that huge gap between Halladay and Lee? 2? 3?

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    • fredsbank says:

      not to mention his (rollins’s) acerbic personality and stolen MVP

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    • Jimmy the Greek says:

      How does 92.5 OPS+ compare to other SS? Ok, it’s not Tulo or Hanley, but it sure beats Brendan Ryan or Alex Gonzalez. Add in the fact that Rollins is a top-5 defensive SS, and he’s still quite a bit above-average for a SS.

      Good try, though.

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  15. NEPP says:

    One of the biggest mistakes the Phillies made in the off-season was not getting a legitimate utility infielder.

    Losing Utley or Rollins for an extended period would be a huge blow to their offense. Losing both (a decent possibility based on their recent track records) might just be too much to overcome.

    Using Wilson Valdez or, even worse, Michael Martinez is not a viable option long-term.

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    • erich1212 says:

      i actually think this concern is a bit overblown. obviously, last year, they felt comfortable with valdez for 100+ games of average play. however, three years ago when utley broke his hand, they went out and rented tad igutchi for a month, in part because they didn’t have the depth they did last year. i know, crazy, right? still, i don’t believe it’s unreasonable to guess that if valdez is awful or they lose a big player for an extended stretch, RAJ wouldn’t go out and make a deal to improve the short term prospects of the team.

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  16. j6takish says:

    I wasn’t on board with the idea at the time, but in retrospect… signing Magglio Ordonez would have been a really good idea. He really isn’t that bad of a fielder when you factor in his offense, and slotting him behind Ryan Howard would have really balanced out the lineup

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  17. Guess how times Jayson Werth’s presence prevented other teams from putting in lefties in late innings to face Utley and Howard? Let me give you a guess. Close your eyes.

    Please don’t make things up. Nothing has changed there. If they signed Vlad Guerrero and batted him fifth, teams would still apply the strategy.

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    • Hank says:

      The difference is if you have Ibanez batting 6th (or 5th and stacking 3 lefties) instead of a guy named Werth batting 5th , managers can leave their LOOGY in for 4 batters (and take your chances with Victorino or whatever righty bat they put in the 5th slot) instead of just using them for 2 batters

      Werth’s value was not preventing the lefty from coming in against Utley/Howard, it was the value of forcing the lefty out so he couldn’t stay in for Ibanez.

      In fact since Victorino is a switch hitter and his career wOBA is about 40points higher batting lefty, you probably want a lefty for him too… so you potentially get a lot of value out of a lefty specialist without Werth to break it up.

      The strategy against Utley/Howard may not change, but the strategy after it has….

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  18. rickyhasting says:

    I accidentally discovered this forum and I am glad to be here. This is a wonderful place for discussion and share your thoughts.I fully read this story its really interesting..!
    http://hubpages.com/hub/SlimBerry-Review-Get-Into-The-Perfect-Shape-in-a-Natural-Way

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  19. kick me in the GO NATS says:

    I am hoping the Phillies do not run away with it! I am hoping Werth makes them regret his leaving! I am hoping the Nationals exceed expectations this summer! I am hoping to catch Anne Hathaway on the beach sun bathing! I am hoping many things this time of year! That is why I love Spring training!

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    • NEPP says:

      Hope is a good thing…maybe the best of things and no good thing ever dies. I will be hoping that this letter finds you and finds you well.

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  20. Kirsh says:

    I think that bullpen’s putrid, but what are the odds they’re really going to need a bullpen in the first place? Maybe two innings per game for every four of five days.

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    • bill says:

      They have 3 pretty good pitchers (Madson, Lidge, Contreras), one good LOOGY (Romero), two pretty mediocre pitchers (Kendrick, Bastardo), and one bad pitcher (Baez). Bastardo has the stuff to be a decent LOOGY at least, also.

      The main thing is, the less you need the bullpen, the more your good bullpen pitchers can be used. That means most of the usage will be Lidge/Madson (8th/9th), and Contreras. Those 3 guys are pretty good.

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  21. jordan says:

    The 2011 Phils look like they’ll be about as good as the 2010 Phils were in the regular season (minus Werth, plus Lee), but with the top 4 of their rotation, I have a hard time seeing this year’s version losing a playoff series if they get there.

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  22. hk says:

    Last year, despite suffering through health risks and age-related issues with key players like Blanton and Howard being DL’d, Utley and Madson each missing 30% of the season and Rollins missing 45% of the season, the Phillies won 97 games with a pythag record of 95-67. This year, they will have Cliff Lee, but not Jayson Werth, which may turn out to be a wash. However, what has been somewhat overlooked is that they will have Roy Oswalt for six months this year instead of two months of Oswalt and four months of some combination of Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick.

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  23. adohaj says:

    “If they do, they’re going to be nearly impossible to beat. If they don’t, this team could end up being a major disappointment. ”

    It couldn’t make me happier if the latter happens

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  24. Pete says:

    Good write-up.

    A LOT would have to go wrong for this team to miss the playoffs. Remember they led the league in wins last year with 1/2 season of Oswalt, no Cliff Lee and career worst years from Victorino, Utley and Howard (and a horrible year by Rollins).

    I’m worried about the offense. Utley is off to a terrifying start being banged-up already, Ibanez probably won’t give us much. But Rollins, Vic and Howard should be better and don’t forget about the most popular Phillies: Carlos Ruiz! Nevertheless, I expect a lot of low scoring games, so the bullpen will play a big role as well.

    Wouldn’t be surprised to see them pick up a Cody Ross-type player at the deadline.

    Exciting time to be a Phillies fan.

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  25. bflaff says:

    The wheels would have to fall off, the house would have to burn down, and the dish would have to run off with the spoon. Then – maybe- the Phillies would struggle to make the playoffs.

    Biggest hurdle for the Phillies this year will be injuries and boredom. They got hit with both last year and finished with 97 wins.

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  26. Ben Hall says:

    I know that in a market like Philadelphia it will never happen, but lineup optimization would really help the Phillies avoid the lefty problem. The Book showed that the three best hitters should hit in the #1, #2, and #4 spots. Without even following all of this, if the Phillies put Utley at the #2 spot they’d avoid having three lefties in a row. Beyond that, switching Victorino (or Rollins) at #5 would break up the two who struggle most against lefties. Victorino and Ibanez were comparable offensive players last year.

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    • hk says:

      I agree that putting Utley in the #2 hole would both optimize the lineup and negate the impact of LOOGY’s late in games. I suggest batting Victorino 3rd. However, I don’t think that the size of the market is the reason this won’t happen. I think it won’t happen because the manager and the GM are stuck on old school thinking that you must bat your best hitter 3rd and will never believe any lineup optimization studies that show the 2-hole is the best spot for the best hitter.

      I also think that talk of the Phillies being vulnerable to left-handed pitching is overstated. Last year, they had the 4th highest team OPS vs. LHP’s in the NL. People like to credit Werth for this, but Werth was better vs. RHP’s than LHP’s last year. Utley’s lifetime OPS vs. LHP’s is the same as vs. RHP’s and both switch-hitters Rollins and Victorino are better vs. LHP’s.

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  27. jimbo jones says:

    Bat Rollins out of the 5 spot and let Victorino lead off.

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  28. Brian says:

    How many other pitchers occupy that huge gap between Halladay and Lee?

    I included 2008 to help Lee and there are 3 pitchers occuying that spot. Include only the last 2 seasons and there are 9 pitchers between them.

    How does 92.5 OPS+ compare to other SS? Ok, it’s not Tulo or Hanley, but it sure beats Brendan Ryan or Alex Gonzalez. Add in the fact that Rollins is a top-5 defensive SS, and he’s still quite a bit above-average for a SS.

    Good try, though.

    Hey, Jimmy the Greek: How’s this:

    There were 14 Shortstops with better OPS+ scores than the pathetic 92.5 Rollins posted between 2008-2010.

    Good try, though.

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  29. zmoney says:

    While I will agree that there are concerns about the Phils’ offense and it’s declining production (Jayson Stark did a nice couple of pieces the other day), I can’t agree that they are an injury or two away from catastrophe.

    In 2010 the Phils won 97 games with Kendrick starting over 30 and Valdez over 110.

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  30. GoJetzoff says:

    I think you can over-analyze the Phillies’ lineup by relying too much on numbers. As a big Phillies fan who has watched the last 10 seasons pretty regularly, I’ll give my anecdotal thoughts on some of the issues raised above:

    The problem with Jayson Werth in 2010 was his production in clutch situations. Like Bobby Abreu, he’d get hits when people weren’t on, or waited until September to produce.

    Rollins has always had a power swing and not particularly good OBP numbers for a lead-off – and everyone knew that. His defining stat was the Phillies’ record whenever he did get on base. He shouldn’t be judged on his 2007 season, which was phenomenal.

    Howard is a problem when he’s the only big bat in the lineup. He takes awhile to warm up and has shown himself to be susceptible to off-speed pitches. However, if healthy in August and September, he can really be valuable. Howard’s worth came a lot from the Phillies’ ability as a team to get on base, which allows him to burn through outs. This team OBP waned a lot last year, which hurt his production (along with the injury). No Utley hurts Howard immensely.

    Starting rotation is awesome. It was less a season move to get Lee than an early Playoff one. They want to win the World Series, not prove they can make the playoffs. Also, despite the lineup worries, the starting rotation takes care of other teams’ lineups. The Phils need to learn how to play small ball.

    Also, we won the series in 2008 with Cole Hamels as our ace. Our lineup was at its peak. We can’t do it again with the lineup if they don’t start producing runs in lean situations.

    Biggest threats: Braves, Rockies, Brewers.

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