Opening day is in our sights, in fact today is the last Grapefruit League game and Roy Halladay (gulp) is taking the mound. If you have been staying current with The Hitter’s Count Blog you know that there is no shortage of storylines when it comes to the Phillies this season. The problem is; we as fans really do not have much of a clue as to how the season is going to turn out. If spring training is any indicator, the Phillies should at the very least be in for an interesting season.
I know that I have seen the book “What to Expect When You Are Expecting” multiple times. Well, I’m not expecting that kind of bundle of joy, but we’re going to take a bit of a twist on that premise for this blog entry. “What to Expect When You Are a Phils’ Fan” will be the MO of this update. Of course, this will all be from my point of view so feel free to let me have it in the comments section, or corroborate my prognostications. Either way is fine by me. Just know that I’m going to get pretty specific with my predictions because who wants vague generalizations about what to expect. Let’s get started!
The Phillies: 89-73 – Wild Card winner. The Phillies have too many “guys that know how to get it done” for me to believe that this year can’t still lead to a postseason berth. The competition in the division is probably the stiffest it has ever been with the current division alignment. Regardless of how Roy Halladay pitches the Phillies should still have two aces up their sleeves and a lineup that should be able to produce more runs than it did last year. A healthy Chase Utley and Ryan Howard should go a long way in making them better than last year. If the bullpen does not self-destruct, and there are more reliable arms there than there were last year, then the playoffs should be well within reach.
The Nationals: 94-66 – Division winner. The Nationals remind me of the Phillies in 2007 with younger talent. This is not good for the Phillies. They have two top tier starters in Steven Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. Their lineup is solid and they have a catalyst in superstar in the making Bryce Harper. Harper will begin his first full season in the majors coming off a spring training where he basically ripped the cover off the ball for a month straight. They will be tough to beat.
The Braves: 87-75 – 3rd place NL East. This might just be wishful thinking on my part but Tim Hudson has to get old one of these days right? They added the brothers Upton. Justin will certainly be an upgrade in the infield but BJ seems to not care too much of the time for me to think he’ll be great. He’s also replacing Michael Bourn, who may not have the power BJ has, but he certainly could hit and steal bases better than most. The Braves have possibly the best bullpen in the NL so it will be tough to come from behind against them and their closer Craig Kimbrel.
The above three teams will beat up on each other and possibly scuffle with the Mets a bit. The Marlins could set a record for most losses in a season this year.
Wait the Marlins still have a team? Yup! Uniforms and everything. Placido Polanco and Juan Pierre will be starting for the fish in South Beach. Good luck!
Cole Hamels: 21-7 – 2.73 ERA – 222 strikeouts. Hamels signed his massive contract last year. He’s starting on opening day ahead of two guys that have won Cy Young awards. He has proven postseason chops. Having said all that, it is time for Hamels to step his game up a notch and become that pitcher you don’t worry about. He needs to be that guy where you’re thinking, “Oh, Cole is on the hill tonight. We’re gonna win.” He will come into his own this season and really start to cement his legacy as one of the best Phillies of all time. Enough said.
Cliff Lee: 15-9 – 3.45 ERA – 196 strikeouts. Cliff remains an enigma to me. He can be the most dominant pitcher in the game, as we saw in June 2011 when he threw 4 complete game shut outs in a month. He can also miss his spots and get roughed up more than you would think is possible. My prediction is that he will have periods of brilliance coupled with periods of getting knocked around. I guess I’m fine with this scenario, but it would be nice for him to keep the getting knocked around to a minimum considering he’s making $20+ million this year. His control will be the key to this.
Roy Halladay: 13-10 – 3.92 ERA – 147 strikeouts*. Well, here’s to hoping spring training means nothing. From all reports I’ve read or heard, Doc is borderline washed up. If I have to hear about his velocity being down one more time I might throw up. He should be the best third starter in the game, but he’s going to have to get by more on guile then he ever did before. Think Pedro Martinez as a Met, hopefully not Pedro Martinez as a Phillie.
*These stats are assuming he makes 30+ starts which sounds like an “if” at this point.
If the Phillies can squeeze 49 wins out of these three starters then the playoffs can happen.
Ryan Howard: .277 – 43 HRs – 139 RBI – Top 3 MVP voting – The Big Piece is back baby! I’m throwing last season out the window, why? Because I can. He was garbage last year and it showed. He couldn’t hit righties, he couldn’t even see the ball against lefties. I’m putting stock into the fact that he was still hurt and out of shape. He currently leads spring training in home runs and several were off of left handed pitching. He will be the anchor in the cleanup spot like has been for so long. Count it.
Chase Utley: .291 – 19 HRs – 86 RBI – 145 games played. If we’re anywhere close to those numbers I will not be surprised. Once again, I’m going on what I have heard and read but apparently Chase is locked in at the plate and feeling better then he has in years. We know he only has one gear so this is the year he sheds that Andrew Bynum disease and gets back on the horse for the Phils.
Jimmy Rollins: .255 – 14 HRs - .310 OB – I can’t see Jimmy getting it done in the leadoff spot any more. In order for Utley and Howard to have a better chance at being productive, then Jimmy needs to be getting on base. He did not do it enough last year and he was healthy all season. Why is he going to do it this year?
Domonic Brown: 150 games - .252 – 17 HRs – 68 RBI – Well, here’s to hoping spring training means a lot. Ha! Dom Brown has been possibly the best player on the Phillies for the entire spring. He’s been hitting for average and power and making plays in the field. I’m of the opinion that he will be very frustrating to Phillies fans this season. He has the tools and the power to open some eyes but he has also had enough exposure at the Major League level for me to believe that he will never be more than an average everyday player. He will be sure to make some mental mistakes and have clutch hits in the same game. He will be infuriating and brilliant at the same time but hopefully we no longer have to question if he belongs in starting lineup every day.
These seven players will have by far the largest impact on the Phils’ chances for success this year, so we are going to stop the predictions here. Instead of in depth analysis I’m going to list the rest of the players on the roster in their order of importance according to me.
Jonathan Papelbon – Closer
Ben Revere – Centerfielder
Michael Young – 3rd base
Carlos Ruiz – Suspended Catcher
Kyle Kendrick – 4th Starting Pitcher
John Lannan – 5th Starting Pitcher
Mike Adams – Set-up man
Antonio Bastardo – Set-up man
Delmon Young – Platoon Outfielder
Darin Ruf – Platoon Outfielder
John Mayberry Jr – Platoon Outfielder
There will certainly be other names and faces that contribute to whether or not the Phillies are any good this season, but I have now at least equipped you with the integral pieces that will make or break the 2013 season. Let’s goooo!