Saturday, March 31, 2012

Philadelphia Phillies Preview/Prediction

Our next post takes us to the city of Brotherly Love, where injuries have decimated the infield and the bullpen has some questions, but the outfield and the starting rotation have very few holes.  Let's take an in depth look.

Infield: Carlos Ruiz at catcher, Ty Wigginton at first base, Chase Utley at second base, Jimmy Rollins at shortstop, and Placido Polanco at third base.

Carlos Ruiz has hit .292 the last two seasons and has been one of the most important players in the postseason for the Phillies.  He commands the pitching staff very well and has very few holes defensively.  He also isn't a liability offensively and that is always a bonus for a catcher.  While Ryan Howard gets healthy, Wigginton will get the majority of at-bats with Jim Thome getting some too.  With Wigginton being a .265 career hitter, the Phillies can't wait for Ryan Howard to get healthy.  Speaking of health Chase Utley is battling injuries, which should surprise absolutely no one.  When healthy Utley is the best second baseman in the National League, but the issue with him is always health.  I just don't see him staying healthy for the entire season, which is a shame.  Jimmy Rollins hit 16 home runs, stole 30 bases, and scored 87 runs last year.  The former National League Most Valuable Player is on the back half of his career but is still a very good option at shortstop.  He will get some time hitting third in the order and that should increase his RBI chances as well.  Polanco has always been known for hitting for a high average since he came in the league in 1998.  He is a career .301 hitter who plummeted to .277 last year.  Since he doesn't bring much else to the table other than a high batting average, he needs to at least stay at the .275 mark or the Phillies will be looking elsewhere at the hot corner.

Who will have the best season of these guys? Normally I would say Chase Utley but I do not think he is going to stay healthy all year long. That is the main reason why I am going with Rollins.  I expect Rollins to have 15 home runs, 30 stolen bases, 90 runs scored, and a bump up from 63 to 80 runs batted in because of the move to the three-hole.  Those numbers will mean that Rollins will have the best season of this talented yet oft-injured infield.

Outfield: John Mayberry Jr. in left field, Shane Victorino in center field, and Hunter Pence in right field.

John Mayberry gets first chance to win the job in left field, and he won that on the strength of his finish last season.  In limited action last year he hit a respectable .273 with 15 home runs.  Not bad numbers at all for someone getting his first extensive action in the major leagues.  I think he makes another jump this year, hits around .285 and gets to 25 home runs.  Victorino is a perfect lead off guy for this team.  He can run as evidenced by his 16 triples last year, and he gets on base a lot as well  I think that he will get to 100 runs scored this year and increase his stolen bases back up in the 30-35 range.  Hunter Pence will be hitting cleanup while Ryan Howard is injured, and with the three people in front of him all on-base machines Pence should have no problem getting to 100 RBI's. This is the year Hunter Pence makes the jump to elite status, as he will be one of the best outfielders in the National league.

Who will have the best season of these guys? Hunter Pence will have the best season for the reasons I mentioned above.  He will also get double digit stolen bases, and will be great in the clean up role until Howard comes back.  I think a career high in home runs, runs batted in, and runs scored are in the card for Pence.

Starting Pitching: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, and Vance Worley.

This is the strength of this team.  Anyone of the first three starters would be aces on almost any other team, and they team up very well together.  In the last 5 years Halladay is the major league leader in ERA, complete games, and shutouts.  The man knows how to pitch.  This year will be another year of around 20 wins, 200 + strikeouts, and an ERA under 2.5.  He is a perennial Cy Young candidate and this year will be no different.  Last year Cliff Lee had 238 strike outs and 42 walks.  Those numbers are absurd.  The man pounds the strike zone like no other pitcher in baseball today, and that will also continue this year.  The result of pounding the zone will lead to another 17-20 wins and an ERA under 3.  Lee will also be in the Cy Young running this year.  Cole Hamels already had a devastating change up, and when he added a cutter two years ago become even tougher to hit.  The result of adding that cutter was lowering his ERA by a full run and a half in two seasons, and increasing his strikeout numbers as well.  The fact that he is #3 starter is the reason that the Phillies will once again be a World Series contender.  Joe Blanton has been part of trade rumors for the last few years and yet he still comes out and pitches well.  He isn't going to be confused with the three mentioned above, but you can do a lot worse for a #4 starter.  Vance Worley came out of nowhere last year to go 12-4 with an ERA of 2.86.  His main combination of pitches is cutter-slider, as he doesn't have a lot of velocity on his fastball.  Vance pitches to contact, and with a pretty good defense behind him, should be able to have a good year.  I expect a little bit of a regression in terms of ERA, but the wins will still be there.  

Who will have the best season of these guys?  This was the toughest decision of all the blogs I have written so far.  With three options that would make sense to pick, I am going to say Halladay will have the best season.  I think he will win the Cy Young again, and he will do it in dominating fashion.  I also predict he will throw another no hitter this year.

Bullpen:  Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo, Jose Contreras, and Chad Qualls.

Here is a prediction that won't be that hard to believe.  Jonathan Papelbon was the worst free agent signing all year long in baseball.  Papelbon got 50 million dollars from the Phillies, and he is a head case who I wouldn't trust to close out a high school game.  I know he got a lot of saves for the Red Sox the last few years, but I still think he is the most overrated closer in all of baseball.  They could have gotten someone better for much cheaper, like former Phillies closer Brad Lidge.  Instead they went all in on Papelbon and I think they will regret that.  They probably could have given the job to Bastardo, who struck out 70 hitters in 58 innings last year and had 8 saves himself.  The most amazing stat about Bastardo is he only allowed 28 hits in 64 appearances.  That is an outstanding number on any level, but in the Major Leagues it is almost unheard of.  It seems like Jose Contreras has been pitching since the Reagan administration and I think this will be the last year he will be on a Major League roster.  The Phillies have a bunch of kids in the minors that throw at least as well as Contreras and they are younger and cheaper.  Chad Qualls is another pitcher who I wouldn't trust late in games, but with the way the Phillies rotation is set up they probably don't think they will have to worry about the bullpen that much.  When you have Halladay, Lee, and Hamels pitching 8 or 9 innings every game, the bullpen doesn't need to be that deep to be successful..

Who will have the best season of these guys?  Bastardo will have the best season.  He will once again average more than a strike out per inning and will continue to frustrate hitters in the late innings.  Unfortunately Papelbon will come in the next inning and frustrate everyone else.  I give it until July when the Phillies will realize they made a mistake and should have had Bastardo close even though Papelbon will keep the job because he is making 12 million dollars a year.

Record: 96-66, first in the National League East

Next up:  Pittsburgh Pirates

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