Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Friday, February 22, 2008

Philadelphia Phillies 2008 Preview: Score and Score Again

2007...the year that sucked/was groovy

The 2007 Phillies held first place for only four days. But the only one that mattered was September 30, when Jamie Moyer beat Washington, 6-1, while the Mets completed a stunning collapse with an 8-1 loss at home to last place Florida. The Phillies had been seven games back on September 12 and thought that they had a chance only at the wild card. The magic didn't last as they ran into the buzz saw from Colorado and went out 0-3 in the NLDS. Management shuffled a few of the chairs over the winter, losing Aaron Rowand as a free agent, trading for Brad Lidge, and signing Pedro Feliz and Geoff Jenkins.

They can put it on the board, yes! no! maybe!

Playing in a bandbox helped the Phillies' bats a bit in 2007, but not as much as you'd think. They led the NL in runs with 892, and scored the most runs on the road of any NL team. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are just flat out great hitters, and "MVP" Jimmy Rollins, Rowand, and the much maligned Pat Burrell had terrific years.

SS Jimmy Rollins
CF Shane Victorino
2B Chase Utley
1B Ryan Howard
LF Pat Burrell
RF Geoff Jenkins/Jayson Werth
3B Pedro Feliz
C Carlos Ruiz

That's a lineup that should continue to score runs a-plenty. Rollins isn't the great leadoff hitter many in the media make him out to be; his .344 OBP is good, but five others in the Phillies lineup had better ones. Utley and Howard are the true stars in the lineup, tying each other for seventh in the league in OPS. Burrell is booed mercilessly in Philly, but he slugged .502 with a .400 OBP last year. Sorry he's not Stan Musial or something. The number eight hitter, Ruiz, had a .340 OBP.

Pitchers, or belly itchers?

Phillies pitchers weren't all that great in 2007. Injuries and a hitter's park hurt to some degree, but some of it was just plain ineffectiveness. Cole Hamels broke through with an outstanding season, 15-5, 3.39. Brett Myers, expected to be the staff ace, switched to the bullpen to cover an injury to Tom Gordon, leaving a hole in the lineup. The loss of both Freddie Garcia and Jon Leiber in June opened two more. Rookie Kyle Kendrick stepped in and filled one, Kyle Lohse gave the Phils league average innings in August and September to close the other. The bullpen was a struggle all year long.

SP Cole Hamels
SP Brett Myers
SP Kyle Kendrick
SP Jamie Moyer
SP Adam Eaton

CL Brad Lidge
RP Tom Gordon
RP J.C. Romero

With good health, Hamels and Myers can be as good a frontline tandem as any in the league. Kendrick isn't going to Japan after all, but unless he increased his strikeout rate his ERA may head south. Moyer is still capable of holding down a rotation spot, his strikeout rate is still above average. Eaton was all kinds of awful and needs a replacement. Lidge was vilified in Houston but was actually pretty effective in 2007. The rest of the bullpen remains unsettled.

Witnesses for the defense

The defense was average in 2007; the Phillies didn't make a lot of errors, but didn't cover a lot of ground, either. I'm probably in the minority here, but I don't think that the Feliz signing is a bad one for the Phillies. He's a much better glove at third than anyone the Phillies had been playing there, and batting seventh his lack of OBP is less of a liability, while his power is a plus. Burrell is a really bad outfielder, there's no denying that. Utley is a terrific glove at second, while Rollins is average or a little above at short.

Farm aid

There is no one at the upper levels of the farm system who can be expected to be of much help in 2007. The two who are closest are pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Josh Outman (what an awesome name for a pitcher) but both will be in double A to start the season and shouldn't be moved to the majors before September, if then. There is s a pretty deep group of good prospects deeper in the organization; some may be moved in trades if the Phillies have a shot at winning this year.

Watch out for that tree!

Any time you have a 45 year old pitcher whose fastball can't dent bread, you have to be a bit nervous. Jamie Moyer gives up a lot of hits and homers, but he still struck out 6.01 batters per nine innings. I think he can continue his game of cat and also cat with NL hitters for another year. I'd honestly be more concerned about Kendrick, who fanned only 3.64 per nine. Jenkins' OBP fell way off last year, which is a bit surprising. If it happens again he can't hold his job.

I can make a hat, or a broach...

Right now the Phillies are engaged in a war of words with the Mets over who is the team to beat in the NL East. Of course, we're only a week into spring training, and talk is cheap. These two teams are clearly the top two in the division. I don't see either breaking away from the other and making the race into a runaway unless one has a run of either really bad or incredibly good luck. One thing that the Phillies don't have is a lot of depth. One or two untimely injuries could derail the entire season.

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