Three straight National League East titles, two consecutive NL pennants, and a World Series championship. Those are the credentials for this Philadelphia Phillies ball club. A couple of former MVPs, a few Gold Glovers, countless All Stars, a formerly perfect closer, and a former Cy Young award winner, who are all in the prime of their careers. For this Phillies team, the time to win is now. And winning is what they’ve done lately.
This off season, the Phillies lost a trio of starting pitchers, their starting 3rd baseman, some pieces of their bullpen, and a few bench players. Of course, the biggest loss this off season was new fan favorite, Cliff Lee. A former Cy Young winner himself, Lee was shipped to Seattle in the three team deal that netted the Phillies 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay and some nice prospects to help replenish the farm. Pedro Feliz is no longer starting at the hot corner for Philly, and was replaced with a former Phillie Placido Polanco. Long time Phillies starter Brett Myers was a free agent after the 2009 season, and the Phillies had no interest in bringing him back, either. Myers would eventually sign with the Houston Astros, where former Philly GM Ed Wade seems to be trying to assemble an entire roster of former Phillies. The most noticeable missing piece from the Phillies bullpen will be Chan Ho Park. Park was signed before last season as a starter, but didn’t pan out. Coming out of the ‘pen, however, did. Park was key to the Phillies late inning staff in 2009, but again wanted a chance to start despite being most effective in late innings. Pedro Martinez, who was signed mid-season by Philadelphia is still a free agent, and will likely sign somewhere later in the season. He was an effective back of the rotation guy for Philly, and could do the same for the latter half of the 2010 season for somebody.
Of course, when it comes to additions, the biggest acquisition the Phillies made was going out and getting Doc Halladay and signing him to an extension at a discount. Halladay has been arguably the best pitcher in baseball over the last 6 years or so, and is a true work horse who will save the Phillies bullpen. Halladay should rack up a substantial win total (not that wins are a good way to judge a pitcher) while pitching in front of this high scoring team. Halladay will leave the best division in baseball, but will come to a park known more as a hitters park. I put him just ahead of New York’s Johan Santana as the best pitcher in the division.
When it comes to the change at the hot corner, Polanco is an upgrade offensively, but a step back defensively from Pedro Feliz. This is a move that I don’t fully understand. With the offense that Philly already had, they could afford for Feliz and his solid defense and below average offense. With Polanco coming on board, he will likely bat in the second hole and will bump Shane Victorino down the the seventh hole. Victorino will give the bottom third of the order some speed as well as a little pop, but some of his speed could be wasted. Batting behind Howard-Werth-Ibanez should give him plenty of RBI opportunities, however.
The 2010 Phillies batting order should look like this:
1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
2. Placido Polanco, 3B
3. Chase Utley, 2B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Jayson Werth, RF
6. Raul Ibanez, LF
7. Shane Victorino, CF
8. Carlos Ruiz, C
The starting rotation will look like this:
Roy Halladay, RHP
Cole Hamels, LHP
Joe Blanton, RHP
JA Happ, LHP
Jamie Moyer, LHP
The fifth spot in the rotation is 47 year old Jamie Moyer’s to lose, however if injuries happen or Moyer struggles, look for Kyle Kendrick or Antonio Bastardo to get a crack, assuming the Phillies don’t add another starting pitcher to their roster.
In the bullpen, Brad Lidge, assuming he’s healthy, will once again be the closer. Lidge is coming off of a disastrous ’09 season, which followed a masterful perfect ’08 season. The big question: Will Philadelphia get “Lights Out” Lidge, or will the lights be on? If Lidge isn’t healthy or struggles, expect set-up man Ryan Madson to take his place. Madson is a righty with a fastball in the upper 90’s and owner of one of the most unhittable change ups in baseball. Madson, however, has struggled when closing throughout his career, so we could be looking at a closer by committee scenario until the right piece is found.
All in all, the Phillies have improved once again during the off season, and remain not only the favorites in the NL East, but in the National League. While divisional opponents such as the Atlanta Braves have improved, I don’t believe it was enough to put Atlanta ahead of the reigning NL champs. I’m looking for about 97 wins for this Philly team, which will put them about 4 games ahead of the Braves by the end of the year. Halladay should continue his dominance, Howard will hit 45 HRs and knock in 140+ runs, Utley should be close to a .300 hitter with a solid 30 HRs and 100 RBIs, and Jayson Werth should have another big year in what may be his last in a Philly uniform.