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2013 Preview: Philadelphia Phillies

Mar 13, 2013, 12:00 PM EDT

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2013 season. Today: the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Big Question: Will the Phillies defy age and injury concerns?

The Phillies had the oldest offense and the fourth-oldest pitching staff last year, according to Baseball Reference. Bringing most of the cast back for another season, and with the addition of the 36-year-old Michael Young, the team isn’t getting any younger. Furthermore, the entire roster seems to be a ticking time bomb in terms of injuries.

Roy Halladay (shoulder), Utley (knees), Howard (Achilles), Carlos Ruiz (plantar fasciitis), Mike Adams (thoracic outlet syndrome), Delmon Young (ankle), Freddy Galvis (back), Michael Stutes (shoulder), Justin De Fratus (elbow). Those are most of the key players, but even players like Young, who has had a clean bill of health throughout most of his career, can go down with a moment’s notice. Jimmy Rollins, too, even though he is going on three years removed from multiple leg injuries.

Concerns over age and injuries don’t simply encompass the time a player is off the roster, however. They can still play a big factor in limiting a player’s abilities and subsequent production and you need look no further than Ryan Howard after returning from an Achillies injury in July last season. It was painful watching him run the bases and he clearly couldn’t put weight on his left foot. As a result, everything about his game was worse: strikeouts way up (+7.2% from 2011), walks way down (-3%), isolated power way down (-.031), overall value way down (-2.7 FanGraphs WAR). So the Phillies not only have to worry about a player missing time, but being unproductive when he is in the lineup.

Halladay is probably the biggest question mark. He had an uncharacteristically awful season due to a right shoulder injury. He declined in every conceivable way: fastball velocity was down 2 MPH, strikeouts were down (-3%), walks were up (+2%), ground balls were down (-6%), home runs per fly ball were up (+7%). He hasn’t looked any better thus far in spring training as scouts  say his velocity still hangs in the mid-80’s and reaches the upper 80’s at best.

With a barren farm system – Keith Law ranked the Phillies 27th of 30 in his organizational rankings – the Phillies don’t have any contingency plans, either. If anything goes wrong, it all goes wrong.

What else is going on? 

  • All-Star Carlos Ruiz will miss the first 25 games of the season after testing positive for amphetamines (Adderall) in November. Among all catchers with at least 400 PA last season, Ruiz ranked third in FanGraphs WAR at 5.5, trailing only Buster Posey (8.0) and Yadier Molina (6.5). He will be replaced by Erik Kratz who, while he had an incredibly good showing in limited playing time last season, is not nearly as good. Steven LeRud will likely be the back-up. Ruiz is arguably the best player on the team. Losing him, and having to play replacement-level players in his stead, limits the Phillies’ already-limited room for mistakes.
  • Cole Hamels should be really good again. The lefty posted a 3.05 ERA last season, finishing eighth in NL Cy Young voting. Competing in the same league as Stephen Strasburg and Clayton Kershaw, it will be tough for him to go home with some hardware at the end of the season, but it is possible. Cliff Lee, despite a lousy won-lost record that made a lot of Phillies fans bonkers last year, is still elite and should be considered a Cy Young contender as well.
  • Thanks to a strong spring showing, Domonic Brown should get one of the two vacant corner outfield jobs. Brown is finally fully recovered from a broken hamate bone that sapped him of his power. Further, he has impressed defensively after looking completely and utterly lost in August and September last year. At the end of the season, Brown could very well wind up being the Phillies’ most valuable weapon.
  • The Phillies’ offense isn’t expected to blow anyone’s doors off, so expect them to play a lot of low-scoring nail-biters. With a back end that includes closer Jonathan Papelbon, as well as Mike Adams and Antonio Bastardo, expect the Phillies to nail down a lot of close games.

Though the Phillies are hoping to enjoy full seasons from players finally recovered from injuries (Utley, Howard, Halladay), there are just way too many question marks. When you look 135 miles south to Washington, D.C., the Nationals are looking better and have fewer nagging problems. The new and improved Braves appear as if they will be a thorn in the Phillies’ side as well. 

PREDICTION: Third place, National League East.

  1. alang3131982 - Mar 13, 2013 at 12:02 PM

    homer

  2. illcomm - Mar 13, 2013 at 12:03 PM

    Phils are taking the division this year!!! bill u must be cohabitating with Craig n his bad attitude is rubbing off on you.

    • Jeremy T - Mar 13, 2013 at 12:15 PM

      I mean, I guess anything is possible…

      • captainwisdom8888 - Mar 13, 2013 at 4:14 PM

        im a phils fan and i thought this article could not have been any more spot on. Looking at atlanta and washingtons rosters, they are poised for great years. If Halladay can hone in his inner greg maddux and compete with his reduced velocity, the only other question mark for the phillies is the run support.

        This team has struggled mightily with “small ball” for quite some time now. The team needs to generate runs. If we can do that, then we will have an outside chance at the division title.

        Howard/Utley/Rollins/Young….the old men need to get it done this year or its the basement of the NL East for the phils

  3. spudchukar - Mar 13, 2013 at 12:11 PM

    This is not a good team. There are 6 teams in the NL who will be fighting for 5 playoff spots, and Philadelphia isn’t one of them. They are in the same class as the Pirates, Brewers, and Arizona, teams that will have to play very well to win more than they lose, and come October will be polishing their golf clubs.

    • Jeremy T - Mar 13, 2013 at 12:21 PM

      There are still a lot of big names, so I guess it’s theoretically possible that they turn it around from last year. Seems pretty incredibly unlikely, though, given their ages.

    • Ben - Mar 13, 2013 at 1:28 PM

      Spot on about Philadelphia, but you’re underrating Arizona. That’s a damn good rotation, and while their off-season moves were decried, rightfully, at worst they were lateral moves for 2013.

      • paperlions - Mar 13, 2013 at 2:34 PM

        I agree. I think AZ will be fine….they did make a bunch of questionable trades and clearly have less talent in the system (MLB and MiLB combined) now than before….but they had a LOT of talent to begin with…IMO there isn’t an elite team in the NL west, the Giants should still be the team to beat out there, the Dodgers are a nice list of names, but most haven’t played to their name in a while….SD is meh and CO is horrible….AZ should be in the hunt for the division/WC all year.

      • Ben - Mar 13, 2013 at 2:54 PM

        I’d bet they’re the second-place team and looking for a wild card spot, but people are just assuming because they made unpopular moves over the off-season that they’re going to perform poorly. Seems short-sighted

  4. joejaws75 - Mar 13, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    Wow another negadelphia review. Keep it up and kiss our liberty bell ass

    • carbydrash - Mar 13, 2013 at 12:30 PM

      Wouldn’t Bill be kissing his own “liberty bell ass”?

      Are you just unaware that Bill Baer has spent the last six years running the most well known Phillies Blog around?: http://crashburnalley.com/about/

    • nolanwiffle - Mar 13, 2013 at 12:35 PM

      Where do you have them finishing? Frankly, I thought he went easy on them.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Mar 13, 2013 at 1:09 PM

        3rd place is “going easy” on them? I’m not saying he is wrong, just trying to get you on record if you are trying to say 4th or 5th

      • nategearhart - Mar 13, 2013 at 2:23 PM

        I’m with nolan…reading this post, then seeing it finish up with a 3rd place prediction, really drives home how awful most people think the Marlins and Mets are going to be.

      • paperlions - Mar 13, 2013 at 2:36 PM

        With the Braves losing the 2012 versions Chipper, Bourn, and Prado, and adding the Uptons and a healthy Simmons….at best, they are the same team they were last year…and that is if all 3 “new” guys play very very well.

    • nategearhart - Mar 13, 2013 at 2:24 PM

      You seem to think they’ll finish higher. Please take a minute to explain why rather than just bitching.

  5. jam11163 - Mar 13, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    if they stay healthy they will win.

  6. hisgirlgotburrelled - Mar 13, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    I’d predict them to be 3rd, too, but it will be close with Atlanta. I wouldn’t call replacing Prado and Bourn with the Uptons as being improved.

  7. eagles512 - Mar 13, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    If healthy at all, they top the braves.

  8. albertmn - Mar 13, 2013 at 12:51 PM

    Not a single reference to the new CF, Ben Revere? I’m a little disappointed. This Twins’ fan hopes that Revere has a great year at the top of their lineup and continues to make great plays in the field. I predict that Revere will be the underrated spark plug on that team (.290+ BA, .340+ OBP, 45+ steals).

    • Bill Baer - Mar 13, 2013 at 12:56 PM

      You’re right, I should have included him. I loved the acquisition and am already a big fan.

  9. bricktop02 - Mar 13, 2013 at 1:09 PM

    If healthy I think they can finish 2nd.

    • blabidibla - Mar 13, 2013 at 1:11 PM

      No way they remain healthy, they aren’t healthy now with Halladay already struggling.

  10. The Baseball Gods - Mar 13, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    The Phillies finished 81-81 last season. They had 13 blown 8th inning leads in 2012 and fixed that by signing Mike Adams as the set up man to Papelbon. They also didn’t have their #3(Utley) or #4(Howard) hitters for half of the season. If you don’t think this team is good enough to win more than 90 games you are crazy. They will be right there in the mix if they don’t get hurt too badly by injuries, which you can’t just assume will happen.

    • paperlions - Mar 13, 2013 at 2:47 PM

      You are using the “some things went wrong last year but they won’t go wrong this year” logic. You could be right, but something nearly always goes wrong, especially with old teams….and the Phillies have no room for error as they have no one in the minors ready to step in and be MLB average or better for either the pitching staff or position players.

      During a perfect season, Philly could win 90 games, but it probably won’t be a perfect season.

      • evanwins - Mar 14, 2013 at 11:54 PM

        Well paperlions, you are not taking into account that everything went right for the Nats and the Braves, are you?

        How’s this for logic and/or reasoning: The Phillies won the most games in baseball one injury plagued season ago.

        How about this: No team except the Yankees have won more games than the Phillies over the past 6 years.

        Want more? If the Phillies won half of the 12 games they lost in the eight inning (winning in the 7th, then losing in the ninth) they would have made the playoffs.

        Stat and logic not enough for you? How about the fact that this team knows how to win and has proven it when they are together for the last 6 years? They. Know. How. To. Win. (That’s just an extra intangible for ya).

      • paperlions - Mar 15, 2013 at 10:04 AM

        Ancient history. Young teams tend to get better, old teams tend to get worse. Everything didn’t go right for the Nats, just not as much went wrong for them as for Philly….but again, old players get hurt more and take longer to recover.

        There is no such thing as “knowing how to win”, you are either good enough to win, or you are not.

    • kinggw - Mar 13, 2013 at 4:42 PM

      I think your crazy for believing the Phillies could win 90 games.

      For that to happen everything would have to go right and then some. The Phillies have three quality starters, you might get 20 wins from one of them maybe two if your lucky. After those three, there is a big dropoff in the rotation. You mentioned that Howard and Utley were gone for a good part of the season, they are back but at 33 and 34 years old respectively, their production isnt going to be what it was. The Phillies are on the onset of decline, face it. They may duplicate what they did last season, but I wouldn’t expect much more than that.

  11. liamj55 - Mar 13, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    Braves are overrated. Too many Ks in that lineup, lost there best player (Chipper Jones), lost there best av g hitter (Martin Prado), Kris Medlen will not duplicate that same success he had last year and Fredi Gonzalez is a horrendous manager that is destroying his bullpen arms. Phills finish second behind the Nationals (they have a nasty team) and take a wild card spot. Book it.

    • Jonny 5 - Mar 13, 2013 at 8:15 PM

      /\

  12. ryanrockzzz - Mar 13, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    I think it’s trendy to say the Phillies finish third this year in the N.L. East. Although they still may land there, I believe the Phillis will finish second behind the Braves, with the Nationals actually finishing third. All of these teams are close. People can pile onto the Phillies, which is the easy thing to do after they had two of their best players out for extended periods of time last year. Once they got them back, they played good baseball from August to the end of the season.

    There are concerns with the age of players, however I think in baseball it matters less how old you are, but more how productive you are. Granted most of the time age and performance go together, but not always. The Braves added B.J/Justin Upton, both of whom are young, but not exactly overly productive players. There is just as big of a risk there to think they will magically meet all projections as there is to think Howard/Utley will come back to form. At least players on the Phillies have won, which I think will help them this year.
    With the Nationals they are relying on a pitcher who has had Tommy John surgery and another (Dan Haren) who scared off the Cubs in the off season. They also have a third baseman who can’t stay healthy at a young age. Span is a good additon to man center, but that does not exactly make this team world beaters. Especially with everyone knowing who they are this year, and coming after them.

    I think when the dust settles this race will be great between the Phillies, Nats, and Braves. Odds are the Phillies time has past, but it is not the certainty many people have made it out to be this year.

    • chadjones27 - Mar 13, 2013 at 2:01 PM

      It is trendy for a reason. The Phils have more question marks than the Braves or Nats.

      • ryanrockzzz - Mar 13, 2013 at 3:18 PM

        The Nationals I would certainly agree, the question marks there are more about how they can follow up last season. Can they do it when everyone is gunning for them?

        The Braves however have about the same amount of question marks. Who will play third base for the Braves at a high level this year? Can B.j./Juston both finally get it together? Medlen should be good again, but he’s had one string of success, can he find that again? The strength of the rotation as a whole is also a question mark for the Braves. Also, no one talks about Beachy still needing to rebound a bit from his injury and pitch an entire year and the No. 5 spot looks promising with the prospects the Braves have, but that to is up for grabs. If Medlen dosen’t perform at a high level this year, then that would certainly be a question mark.

  13. dawglb - Mar 13, 2013 at 1:32 PM

    The Phils will show Washington that last year was a fluke.

    • nategearhart - Mar 13, 2013 at 2:25 PM

      What exactly is fluky about a bunch of injury-prone guys getting injured at the same time?

      • ryanrockzzz - Mar 13, 2013 at 3:23 PM

        Well if your talking about Utely nothing. If your talking about Howard however, from 2006-2011 he has played in at least 143 games per year. The year before he played in 88 games splitting time with Thome.

        Also another key piece that was hurt was Placido Polanco, and he’s no longer on the team.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Mar 13, 2013 at 3:42 PM

        Though I am not dawglb’s spokesman, I believe you have his assertion backwards. Fluke has a positive contentation – I believe he is saying the fluke was Washington’s play

  14. historiophiliac - Mar 13, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    Is it Friday night and I didn’t notice?

  15. vicvega422 - Mar 13, 2013 at 4:33 PM

    Bottom line last year anything that could happen did happen and they still finished .500… Let The season play out and we’ll see where they are in the end.

  16. fhuizar - Mar 13, 2013 at 4:46 PM

    AL East

    Nats
    Braves
    Phils
    Mets
    Miami

    Deja Vu

    • fanofevilempire - Mar 13, 2013 at 7:52 PM

      Dude, that’s not the AL East, that’s the NL East.,

      • fhuizar - Mar 14, 2013 at 11:22 AM

        Dude……

        Obviously i made a typo….

        Divisional police

      • 18thstreet - Mar 15, 2013 at 12:32 PM

        On my keyboard, the N and the A are very far apart. You were sloppy and made a mistake. A typo is when a person types msitake, like I did BEFORE PROOF-READING.

  17. dwdive - Mar 13, 2013 at 8:47 PM

    Poorly written article. It seems like the writers and the media love to hate the Phillies at this point. “Doom and Gloom” for years to come? Not true at all. No mention of Rivere. Calling the farm system garbage with no quality whatsoever. I guess if Brown finally turns out to be the stud he’s been projected to be, added to Rivere, Stutes, Bastardo, Galvis, is not making the roster younger? They have 2 really good catchers in the minors (Joseph is hitting almost .500 in spring training), they have Ashe coming up soon, the still have some really good starting pitching in the minors (including Jesse Biddle), they will have a ton of money to spend after next season as well. I’m very optimistic going into this season, and they will have some tough decisions moving forward after this season depending on how everything works out. They will be fine in the long run just for the fact that they will still have a few stud starting pitchers (Hamels, Lee, and possibly Biddle coming in 2014), they have a really good defensive replacement for 3B in Galvis, Rivere will be here for years to come, it looks like Brown is finally coming around, they have 2 good catchers coming up to replace Ruiz, and a ton of money to spend in free agency. Come on Bill, do a little better for your home squad..

    • dwdive - Mar 13, 2013 at 8:50 PM

      oh yeah, and Ruf broke Howards HR records in the minors, I know he’s having a tough spring, but I think he will contribute to this team as an above average power hitter for the next 4-6 years as well.

  18. Jonny 5 - Mar 13, 2013 at 9:39 PM

    This article was not written to be an insult, it was an objective observation by a guy who rarely sugar coats anything he writes about HIS favorite team. As a matter of fact while it’s quite accurate and true what he wrote. I feel the Braves are a bit overrated maybe, and the Phills are being underrated ( for very good reason). Plus I feel we may not be looking at the entire OF for 2013 yet. I honestly think (hope) the Phillies can snag second place as long as Halladay, Lee, Utley, Howard, and Rollins can stay healthy. At their age it is exactly what Bill said, a question mark, too many of them. Add the question marks of Brown showing up or going home and whatever lands in left field. This could either be a big year for them or a complete bust. I tend to lean towards a big year for my guys. Maybe it’s because I’m a fanboy at heart? Maybe these guys still have plenty of life in their tanks and everyone is counting them out a bit prematurely? We won’t know for a bit and until then it’s ok to look at things objectively. I liked the preview myself.

  19. thebadguyswon - Mar 13, 2013 at 11:13 PM

    Third seems right. Though I could see second if they get really strong seasons from Lee and Hamels and a Dom Brown breakout.

  20. misterj167 - Mar 14, 2013 at 8:25 AM

    Both the Nats and the Braves are going to win 95+ games this year, and with everyone else in the NL East in a rebuilding mode these two YOUNG teams look to be fighting for the division for the next three or four years at least. The Phillies will need a lot of help from the baseball gods to win 85 games, hard to see that happening with one of the oldest teams in the game, no depth, and a depleted farm system.

  21. kunztown - Mar 14, 2013 at 11:39 AM

    I think the phillies will win 90 games. They have some back up plans in place. If Michael Young gets injured, Kevin Frandsen is decent. If Rollins or Utley get injured, galvis is suitable. If Howard gets Injured, Ruf is suitable. The outfield is my concern… Mayberry is inconsistent, Brown is inconsistent, and we don’t know about Ben Revere, and Young will be the next Jim Thome, and who can step in? Ruf and Nix I suppose. Pitching will be challenging for Doc this year, but Cole and Lee will be fine. Kendrick has shades of being good, and Lannan pretty much sucks. At Least the Bullpen has Improved. Look for defratus to step up as bastardo is inconsistent. Stutes might step up too. I predict a 2nd Place Finish, and Wild Card Berth with a Run to the NL Championship.

  22. gmfw7 - Mar 14, 2013 at 1:20 PM

    i think the phillies finish 2nd and secure one of the two wild card spots. now don’t get me wrong, the nationals are the most talented team in the division and should win it as long as they don’t have any major injuries. i see the same things other people see, and i have just as many concerns about age and health, but people are focusing a lot on negatives and refusing to see some very positive things this team has going for them.
    1. people keep talking about the team’s lack of run production. after the all-star break last year the phillies got howard and utley back, and even though neither was anywhere near 100% the team was among league leaders in runs and win/loss record. having the two start the season fully healthy will be huge.
    2. adding michael young will also be an upgrade over polanco who completely lost the abaility to hit for average last year and had absolutely 0 power.
    3. dominic brown finally seems to be coming into his own this spring. and although you can’t depend too much on ST numbers to predict the type of season he’ll have, if he is able to produce offensively and defensively the way he is right now, he will be a major upgrade in right field as well. ben revere is basically the same as victorino defensively, with a weaker arm. but he also will hit for about 40 points higher in average and still more bases than shane. left field will admitately be a weak spot with a mayberry/nix platoon, but when delmon gets healthy he can easily hit .270-.280 with 25 homeruns in CBP.
    4. the phillies were among the worst teams last year as far as giving up leads in the 7th and 8th innings. adding mike adams, getting stutes back healthy, having phillipe aumont finally show why we traded cliff lee for a package that he highlighted and having bastardo return to form towards the end of last season almost guarantees the bull-pen will be much better, and a strangth instead of a weakness. 5. we won’t have chooch the first month, but krats hit very well last season, and threw out base-runners at an extremely high rate. and something that people haven’t mentioned yet is that the phillies schedule the 1st month is extremely weak. with a hot start, i wouldn’t be surprised to see the phillies in 1st place in the division at the beginning of may.
    now with all that said, Doc’s struggles scare me a lot. at this point if you told me he would go 14-7 with a 3.6 ERA (numbers which are a pretty bad season for him) i would be thrilled. let’s hope he can be somehwere near that effective. also, there’s no denying the braves added some talent, but they lost prado and chipper jones, which will hurt. they added 150-170 strike outs in bj upton, who is probably the most over rated OF in baseball. if he hits .250 that’ll be a surprise. and there’s no guarantee chris young will stick as an every day 3rd baseman. add that to the fact that other than kris medlen (who is a horse) and a declining tim hudson, the braves rotation isn’t anything to fear. that kid tehran is a prospect with a lot of hope, but the phillies ripped his head off when he made his first start againts us, and he didn’t really show anything to wow me. i can easily see the braves finishing behind the nats and phillies. anyway i look forward to talking baseball with all of you throughout the season. should be an exciting year and the NL East should once again prove to be one of the toughest divisions in baseball.

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