Sunday, April 04, 2010

Jusssst a bit outside: the Philadelphia Phillies

Duty calls to preview the MLB season, providing up to 30 things somewhat about each of the 30 teams, even the sucky ones. At bat: the Philadelphia Phillies.
  1. Philibustering: The question is really what would keep the Roy Halladay-reinforced Phils from being the first team to win three consecutive NL pennants since 1942-44 Cardinals, who did it when the high-end talent of the day was fighting in World War II.

  2. What can stop Halladay? Nothing, apparently. Every projection forecasts a big season for him. The last seven AL Cy Young winners to switch leagues combined for a 2.91 ERA after going to the National.

  3. On borrowed time (not really): They have had a great run of good fortune with player health, plus their bullpen and bench strength are dodgy. They punted on getting power from at least one infield corner by placing Placido Polanco at third base (Chase Utley hits a like a third baseman anyways). And so on.

    That's pretty thin gruel if you're arguing why they won't be back in the Series. That said, three regular pitchers are already on the disabled list, which feeds the fear-mongering even if one of them is Brad Lidge.

  4. Over-under: 92½ wins.

  5. Take the ... Over, just to be on the sunny side of the majority.

  6. All your bills come due: They already have $113 million committed to 17 players for next season (Bill Baer, The Hardball Times), so the party could be coming to an end.

  7. Howard's end: First baseman Ryan Howard puts up ill-ish home run and RBI totals every season, although there's some argument the Phillies should sell high on him.

  8. Bounce-back candidate: Shortstop Jimmy Rollins' sub-.300 on-base percentage last season raised the question of whether he was simply hit-unlucky (.251 batting average on balls in play). His line-drive rate was about the same as it was in his 2007 MVP season.

  9. The secret: The Phillies are smart-aggressive at running the bases, which helps optimize their production.

  10. Captain Obvious point: Much depends on whether No. 2 starter Cole Hamels recovers his 2008 form, meaning five out of seven starts in a post-season series will be accounted for. People get too hung up on the third, fourth and fifth starter slots, since 80% of teams just tread water with those roles.

  11. Revving up the revisionism (in case of Phail): Are people forgetting they only won the division by a game in both 2007 and '08, or that those two five-game series wins over the L.A. Dodgers both involved a Game 4 comeback against Jonathan Broxton?

  12. No one would believe it, but: Since 2005, The Beep has lefty-swinging second baseman Chase Utley as the second-best player in the game after that Pujols fellow on St. Louis.

  13. For what it's Werth: Rightfielder Jayson Werth, who hit .268/.373/.506 last season with 36 home runs, will get his chance to hit higher in the lineup once he goes free agent.

  14. CanCon: The Cliff Lee trade netted both centrefielder Tyson Gillies (a B.C. native to ballyhoo) and budding closer Phillippe Aumont (a Hull, Que., product to hyperbolize).

    Don't get too caught up in the numbers with Gillies, since he's going from the California League (everyone hits there) to the stingy Double-A Eastern League. He'll earn his keep as a defensive centrefielder.

  15. Seriously: Does Utley get visitation rights with Howard's and Rollins' MVP plaques?

  16. Fair or foul: Is joking, "Bet he wishes he was on steroids now" allowed if veteran leftfielder Raúl Ibáñez's tanks this season?

  17. Major downer: Former Phillies outfielder Doug Glanville has proven incisive and insightful as an op-ed columnist for The New York Times, so cross your fingers that he won't get dumbed-down by ESPN.

  18. Get ready to hear this 1,000 times come October: Howard struck out 13 times in 23 plate appearances in the '09 World Series.

  19. Who says there are no good nicknames: Between Whole Camels and the Flyin' Hawaiian (Shane Victorino in centrefield), the Phillies put the lie to that crusty sportswriting trope.

  20. Mike Schmidt's number!

  21. Keep an eye on: How well Canadian reliever Scott Mathieson (two years out from Tommy John surgery) progresses this season in the farm system.

  22. No sense of history: Jamie Moyer, the 47-year-old lefty, beat the Phillies and Hall of Famer Steve Carlton in his major-league debut 24 seasons ago. It would have been more theatrical if that had been Carlton's last start for the Phils, but he had to make one more before getting released.

  23. Pre-emptive anger: You already know that when Halladay comes to Toronto with the Phillies in June, someone at Rogers Centre will wonder aloud why he's wearing No. 34 instead of the 32 he wore with the Jays. And you will try not to link such ignorance to why Doc left.

  24. Blogospheric whipping boy: That would be righty Kyle Kendrick.

  25. Fun bet: Who has more strikeouts at the end of the season, Halladay or Howard.

  26. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Conway Twitty: The legendary country singer was scouted by the Phillies in the 1950s.

  27. PECOTA says: 90-72, first NL East, 774 runs scored, 682 against.

  28. In English, please: It's enough to make you cheer for Atlanta.

  29. Why 29? In honour of former first baseman John Kruk, who took those digits after giving up No. 28 at the behest of Mitch Williams, whose significant other had a bunch of No. 28 jewelry. Williams' relationship fell apart and as Joe Carter could tell you, his mechanics did not long after.

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