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Let’s not pencil the Phillies into the World Series just yet

Dec 14, 2010, 1:34 AM EDT

World Series Phillies Yankees Baseball

There’s no doubt that the Phillies’ rotation has a chance to be historically great, with two likely Cy Young candidates and two other starters that could rank among the NL’s 10 best, but this is still a team with issues.

- First, it’s no lock that Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels will live up to the sure sky-high expecations. Oswalt finished 8-6 with a 4.12 ERA in 30 starts for the Astros in 2009 and seemed on a pretty steady decline before bouncing back last year. Hamels was 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA in 2009.

- The team’s best position player is a 32-year-old second baseman, and second basemen have a track record for falling apart early. Ryne Sandberg had his last big year at 32. Roberto Alomar was 33. Craig Biggio hung around forever, but he was never the same after 32. Maybe Chase Utley has some Jeff Kent in him, but he did miss 47 games and finish about 80 points south of his usual OPS last year.

- Jimmy Rollins has been a bust in back-to-back years, hitting .250/.296/.423 in 2009 and .243/.320/.374 in 88 games last season.

- The outfield is a question mark, particularly if the Phillies are forced to dump as much of Raul Ibanez’s salary as anyone will take.  Top prospect Domonic Brown might not prove quite ready to step into right field, leaving Ben Francisco and maybe John Mayberry Jr. to hold down the fort for a spell.  Left field could be handed to a cheap free agent if Ibanez goes, maybe Austin Kearns or Marcus Thames.  

- Not one of those guys mentioned figures to approach Jayson Werth’s 921 OPS. 

- The bullpen has definite implosion potential.  Brad Lidge was plenty effective last season, but he’s continued to lose velocity off his fastball and he’s only getting outs with his slider at this point.  Ryan Madson is great in the eighth, but he’s melted down when asked to pitch the ninth, leaving Jose Contreras as the Phillies’ fallback in the closer role.

- Depth is a concern.   I like the Phillies’ strategy of loading up on stars and hoping for the best, but they’re going to have problems if injuries strikes.   The assumption is that Joe Blanton will be jettisoned to free up some cash for the Lee signing, leaving Kyle Kendrick as the probable fifth starter and Vance Worley next in line for a rotation spot.    Besides Brown and maybe reliever Scott Mathieson, no one else figures to graduate from the minor league system and play a role next year.

So, yeah, the Phillies have to be the favorites on paper.   A four-man rotation projected to finish with an ERA right around 3.00 guarantees that.   But I’d like to see a couple of shrewd moves from GM Ruben Amaro before I’d be confident making the pick.  Bringing in a live bullpen arm for Blanton and finding a cost effective replacement for Ibanez would be a nice start.  If he’s forced to simply give both away, then the 2011 Phillies will have merely traded Werth for Lee and seen a bunch of 30- to 33-year-old players get a year older.

  1. flyerscup2010 - Dec 14, 2010 at 1:49 AM

    grasping for straws to place reasonable doubt here? nice try. i’ll thank the rest of the league in advance for participating this year, but we got this one guys.

    • christianduffy - Dec 14, 2010 at 2:00 AM

      You had it last year, too. Right?

      • iamthedoublestandard - Dec 14, 2010 at 2:07 AM

        Good one Duff.

    • citifieldurinal - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:25 AM

      Bold statement to make before Christmas.

      I thought they had it this year, but the Phillies’ offense likes to wilt for stretches of games. They certainly have a good rotation but there’s no guarantee.

    • horaceclark - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:01 PM

      So remind me just how many championship rings the Atlanta Braves won with their unbeatable starting rotation back in the ’90s?

  2. tomemos - Dec 14, 2010 at 3:26 AM

    “Write down the exact date and time you said that.” Toby Ziegler, _The West Wing_

    • dasher521 - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:18 AM

      Love any reference to The West Wing, even in the Hardball section! Nice!

  3. sdelmonte - Dec 14, 2010 at 4:23 AM

    World Series? No, you are right. The Giants showed that they are a match for both Halladay and Lee. (And a rematch between these teams sounds tantalizing today.)

    But the NL East seems like a shoo-in, unless the Braves make an unexpected move for pitching (Greinke?). The Phils’ issues are minor compared to those of the other four clubs right now.

  4. Brian - Dec 14, 2010 at 7:34 AM

    Actually I think the Phillies are in place to improve upon last year, pretty significantly. Pitching is improved (obviously), including the pen by the subtraction of Romero, but the additions of Reyes and keeping Contreras are huge. Offensively, the entire team had a sub-average year and all of them battled injuries. If the the offense reverts to merely “average” then they will make up for the absence of Jayson Werth, who, in my opinion, looks even more like a greedy money hungry whore than usual, considering Cliff “Show Me The Money” Lee did an about-face and left cash on the table. It’s hard not to be considered a World Series shoo-in with the best rotation in the entire history of baseball.

    And let’s face it, The Giants caught lightning in a bottle. With the exception of their starting rotation, they all performed above their heads. The Reds could be scary but they lack pitching, and who knows if Votto can maintain his pace.

    The Phillies are the team to beat in all of baseball now. Rube’s a genius.

    • baseballtowntom - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:13 AM

      Maybe the Phillies just caught lightning in a bottle in 2008? Can’t really say for sure since it’s only happened 1 other time in the past 130+ years.

      • Brian - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:33 AM

        I don’t consider them in a flash in the pan. They won a World Series, went to another and finished last season with the best record in baseball. Add 4 straight division titles to that and you’re a legitimately elite team.

    • cintiphil - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:27 AM

      Yea, it is the Philthy’s all right. Please do not diminish the loss of Werth. He was more of a driving force than the great H-R hitter on first base. I think the offense will suffer greatly, however do not underrate the pitching of the Reds. They have a lot of young arms with good experience under the belt. As soon as the Philthy’s falter fold, you might want to rethink your comments. Let the booing begin now. Why wait until they fold?

  5. macjacmccoy - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:26 AM

    I think the Phillies offensive demise is greatly over exagerrated and believe there bullpen will be fine especially with all the rest they will be getting due to the there rotations ability to pitch complete games.

    But there is 1 thing I agree with you on you should not pencil the Phillies into the World Series. They play in the same league as the Champs and Im from the school of thought that you have to beat the Champs to be the Champs. Its not fair to knock the Giants off there pedistool before they have even gotten over the hang overs.

    I still think the Phillies will represent the NL in the World Series (And might be the only team pitching for them in then Allstar game) but as of right the Giants are the Favorites.

  6. rick1922 - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:30 AM

    They had the best pitching last year too o no that was the GIANTS.THE PHILLIES NOW HAVE 3 STARTERS OVER THE AGE 32 WITH HIGH PRICED LONG TERM CONTRACTS AND TWO OF THEM HAVE BACK PROBLEMS. GOOD LUCK YOU;LL NEED IT.

  7. joepags - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:40 AM

    i read all the philly haters, then i read some joker who thinks the giants will even make it to a rematch with the phils!!(giants wont make playoffs next year). not saying the phils will win the WS next year, but their chances of doing it are 95%. and 100% chance of making it back!! i love the fact he didnt sign with the skank-ees who treated his family like garbage, hmmm they were treated better in philly, geez the media must hate that one!!! GO PHILS!!!!!! the rest are gum on the bottom of our shoes!!

  8. mikethefreak87 - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:04 AM

    i love the envy up on this board….bad backs? 30 somethings too old to play? face it people the phils have the best 4 man rotation and if justin worley realizes what hes worth make that a 5 man rotation Mr. Amaro is obviously a genius in fitting all these amazing players together on his payroll.also keep in mind granted the giants did win it all but they will not make it back next year furthermore what team had the most wins in the MLB? and they also have a cy young winner in Roy Halladay..it sucks to see Jason Werth leave but look at the 2 prospects waiting in the wings that have the potential to be better players..and what is 30 something the new 40 in baseball?..oh yeah live it up san fran because its going to be a long time until you see another. and for you yanks fans out there might as well get nice and cozy with the mets fans way down at the bottom.

    • mikethefreak87 - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:12 AM

      and im going to add to this…so if the detriot lions won the superbowl that would make them the best team in the NFL? its all about who plays great at the right time and what players come together and show up to play.being the best team doesnt really mean winning a championship its about how you got there.

    • cintiphil - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:32 AM

      Prospects and rookies NEVER can replace an established star in the league. Don’t count too much on rookies to replace a star like Werth. Maybe in a year or two or three, they may perform up to Werth, but don’t count on it. That is why G-M’s will trade 2 or 3 “prospects” for a star player.

  9. henryd3rd - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:13 AM

    The last time I looked in a dictionary at the definition a baseball closer there was a picture of Mariano Rivera. Albert Pujols’ moon shot is still orbiting the Earth. Until the Phillies get a reliable closer who’s last name is not spelled Lidge the Giants are still the team to beat in the National league. How must the Cardinals be feeling seeing these monstrosities called baseball contracts being offered to less then super players with Big Albert’s contract about to expire? They should have wrapped him up when they had the chance. Bud Selig are you awake yet? Can you spell work stoppage?

  10. dasher521 - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:22 AM

    With Lee’s signing, it only adds to what they already have. Ibanez at $11.5 million isn’t going anywhere this year. Dom Brown needs more seasoning. He can take over left field for Ibanez in 2012. An unproven Jason Werth didn’t do too badly when he came into this lineup. Maybe Ben Francisco can as well. He deserves a chance.

    Nothing is guaranteed! I say what I always say at the beginning of the year, “If they can stay healthy . . .”

  11. mikethefreak87 - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:24 AM

    “The last time I looked in a dictionary at the definition a baseball closer there was a picture of Mariano Rivera”……what team does he play for?? face it homeboy and meet your new neighbors down at the bottom..as for pooholes hes stuck on a pretty bad team because of his contract. well ill be commenting this time next year hopefully i dont have to eat my words when i say this but i smell a championship with good ol’ cliff lee raising it nice and high GO PHILS!!!!

  12. nps6724 - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:27 AM

    Philly looks quite formidable today. But all the concerns listed in the article are legit. Specifically with their offense. Losing Werth without a real MLB-ready replacement (which I don’t think Brown is for ’11) is going to hurt quite a bit. Not only was he consistently their 3rd-best bat, but he gave them right-handed pop. Their lineup looks to be very lefty-heavy (obviously why the Braves bulked up on lefty relievers). Their lineup is far less deep than it was in last season. Can Lee make up for that? And can Oswalt and Hamels repeat their years? Both valid questions. Can’t wait for April.

  13. PanchoHerreraFanClub - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:38 AM

    The Phillies made the move to stay competitive with Nats after their signing of Jason Werth.

    • joepags - Dec 15, 2010 at 8:18 AM

      baaahahahahahahha! you dont build a team around a outfielder, especially by over paying for one!!hahahahhahaha!! your funny

  14. mattthebat - Dec 14, 2010 at 10:42 AM

    The addition of Lee and the subtraction of Werth might net the Phillies two wins next year, all else being equal. They’re certainly the favorites to win the division again, and will be stronger in the playoffs, but nothing’s a given- as we saw this year surprises do happen.

    I don’t blame Phillies fans for being excited but come on- 95% likely to win the World Series? Get a grip.

  15. beantownsports247 - Dec 14, 2010 at 11:14 AM

    If the phillies pitchers all stay healthy , it is a shoo in Red Sox vs Phillies world series , red sox offensive has a huge edge on the phillies , but the phillies do have a better rotation , going to be a good year of baseball .

  16. smokehouse56 - Dec 14, 2010 at 2:34 PM

    I love rooting for this team with “issues.” Four straight NL East titles, two world series with one winner and now this pitching staff. You can find “issues” with all teams. Just a story in order to earn your salary. Nothing new here but a made up story line. Move on.

  17. whomecare - Dec 14, 2010 at 4:29 PM

    looks like the phillies can be taught afterall, they had a great teacher in 2010 … the giants showed them how to win it all … top pitching and timely and productive hitting. the phillies will need to improve on their timely and productive hitting in 2011 if they want it all. they do have a real shot but not a lock. i’d love to see giants and phillies again in 2011 nlcs, not sure they won’t get out managed again though.

  18. uyf1950 - Dec 14, 2010 at 7:29 PM

    News Bulletin – This Just In.
    MLB has canceled the 2011 MLB Regular Season, LDS & LCS. They have awarded the World Series to the Philadelphia Phillies & Boston Red Sox. The Owners and Management of the other 28 teams have conceded the upcoming season to those teams. Seriously, a lot can happen during a 162 games regular season you might want to wait until at least the All Star break before you crown the Phillies 2011 World Series Champions. Just ask the Red Sox about all the unlikely injuries to their team in 2010.

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