WSBGM's has gathered some of the phinest minds in the phlogsphere for a Phillies roundtable discussion about the upcoming season. There will also be an All-Star break and Postseason edition.
Purple= Jason Weitzel of BeerLeaguer
Orange= Meech.one of The Fightins
Black= Carson of WSBGM's
Red = Doc of Balls, Sticks, & Stuff
Blue= Corey of WSBGM's
Green= Erik Grissom of Phillies Flow
1. Who is the single most important offensive player?
JW- I'm tempted to list Jimmy Rollins here, but I'm going with the bigman. Power is at such a premium, and as we saw last season with the huge gap in home run and RBI totals, Ryan Howard stands alone in this department. Certainly J-Roll and Chase Utley are vital components and supply way more offense than is expected out of their positions, but Howard, as cleanup hitter in a World Championship lineup, is obviously very special.
Meech- Not to completely bitch out on answering the question, but I really don't think there is *one* offensive Phillie who is more important than the rest. Last year, they all went through their fair share of slumping (including Utley's 0-for-24 funk in mid July) and there was always someone else to pick up the slack. BUT, gun to my head, I'm gonna go with Big Brown.
Carson- Jimmy Rollins. Ryan Howard can be a one man juggernaut at times, but if the Phils want to have a consistent offensive attack, then it starts with the man atop the lineup, which is J-Roll. There's a saying, "As Jimmy goes, so do the Phillies", and from my observations over the past decade I believe this to be true. He has pop in his bat, is great on the base paths, and seems to jump start the offense.
Doc- Jimmy Rollins. When he's got his quick bat going and running the bases well, he sets up the big guys later in the lineup. His off year last year was one reason the offense was down slightly. It's amazing to think that he had an off year, yet they won the World Series anyway.
Corey- If I have to pick one, I would say Ryan Howard. No one can replace his power potential and he can carry the team for weeks at a time during his hot streaks.
EG- Jimmy Rollins. Coming off a weak 2008, the Phils need him getting the offense going again at the top of the lineup. Werth is a strong second, though, given how left-handed the Phils will be in '09.
2. Who means more to the Phillies- Cole Hamels or Brad Lidge?
JW- On the whole, I'd say Lidge meant more to the season than Hamels did, but in the post-season, obviously you see what an ace like Hamels can do for you. This is a very difficult choice. I know what happens to teams when they don't have a good closer; they go nowhere. So for this exercise, and realizing Lidge probably won't replicate 2008, I'm still going to go with Lidge's saves over Hamels' wins, realizing Hamels was screwed out of a number of wins because of an ineffective offense.
Meech- Cole Hamels, and it's not even close. No disrespect to Lidge, but I think closers are overrated in general. Besides, I'll always take the guy who is capable of pitching 250+ innings with a sub-3.00 ERA over the guy who does similar in 80 innings.
Carson- Hollywood Hamels. Hamels has truly become the staff ace and is primed for a huge season. He always sets his goal at 20 wins, and if healthy I believe he can achieve that this season. However, just imagine if Lights Out Lidge would have blown 4-5 saves like a typical closer does over the course of a season, and suddenly we're not even in the playoffs let alone World Series champs.
Doc- As the roster is presently composed, I would say King Cole. If Lidge were to go down, you could use Ryan Madson, closer by committee, or some other way of patching it together. But if Hamels were to go down, where else are you going to get someone to fill all of his innings at a 3.30 ERA or so? You're not. As a matter of fact, Hamels is my biggest concern going into the year, given all the innings he pitched last season and post-season.
Corey- Hamels. A number one starter is extremely more valuable than a number one closer. It's not even close.
EG- The Phils wouldn't have won the World Series last year without either of them, but Hamels is more important just because he gives them so many more innings.
3. What player can we expect bigger things from this season?
JW- How about Chooch? He was a pathetic hitter last season, so one can only hope for some improvement there. Ruiz is a guy who needs to sit once in a while. That's why they brought in Paulino. Hopefully they can give him occasional breaks to keep him fresh. He fell into several miserable slumps last season, and had they had a better backup, Manuel would have been able to sit him more.
Meech- I'd have to go with Young James. I think he suffered through a little bit of MVP hangover last year and never really got going. I wouldn't be surprised if his run total of 76 last year is almost doubled.
Carson- Carlos Ruiz. The man hit at every level of the minors (.275 avg/.750 OPS), so I'm counting on a return to the .250ish area with an OPS around .700. This would been a boon to the bottom of the lineup.
Doc- A lot of players. One of the interesting thing about last year's team was that a lot of the position players had off years and yet they still won the World Series. The case could be made that the big three of Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard all had down years and I expect all of them to bounce back a bit.
Corey- Pedro Feliz. Most people want to talk about how Chase Utley's hip affected his numbers, but Pedro's back injury limited him as well. I'm not expecting an average over .260, but I am expecting 20-25 homers and 70-80 RBIs.
EG- Joe Blanton. Aside from giving the Phillies more than 13 starts in 2009, I think the starts will also be better.
4. What player is most likely to disappoint?
JW- This doesn't jive from what everyone has come to expect from a contract year, but doesn't Brett Myers always figure out a way to disappoint us? He was good for a month and a half last and the rest of the time he was wretched. He hasn't won back the trust of this individual. Offensively, I'd go with Raul Ibanez because of his age and the way veterans seem to struggle, especially coming from low-pressure situations. Also have to figure that if Ibanez bats sixth, those RBI chances will not be there.
Meech- Unfortunately, I'm going with Jamie Moyer. As much as it pains me to say it, he's the one guy where I get the feeling things could fall apart at any minute. He's old, man. And everyone just takes it for granted that he's gonna win 15 games and show up every fifth day.
Carson- Scott Eyre. With JC out, Eyre becomes the "reliable" lefty, but the problem is he hasn't been all that reliable over his career. Lefthanded batters have a lifetime .242 avgerage and .723 OPS against him. He was fine in his limited role late last season, but for the first 50 games of the season he's going to be handling more crucial situations, and that scares me.
Doc- Carlos Ruiz. His defensive skills will be fine, he'll do just as well in that regard as last year. However, I think he has a really, really slow bat and I honestly think his offense will be similar to last year's, which is a disappointment.
Corey- Raul Ibanez. Not having Burrell around is already a disappointment. This guy can go .285-25-90 and I'm still going to be disappointed that Burrell is in Tampa.
EG- Lidge and Durbin, but mostly just the bullpen in general. Lidge and Durbin were unbelievable last year, Lidge especially. I don't think it's reasonable to expect near perfection from them again.
5. Predict the biggest surprise of the 2009 season.
JW- Ryan Howard will bat over .300 again and actually start hot for once.
Meech- Joe Blanton. I'm gonna go ahead and pencil him in for 16 wins and 35 homers.
Carson- Jayson Werth hits righties enough to remain in the everyday lineup to collect 500+ at bats and a 30-30 season (homeruns/steals).
Doc- Nationally, the biggest surprise will be that the Phillies will outpace the Mets again. Once again, everyone seems to be picking the Mets ahead of the Phillies. I just don't buy it.
Corey- Charlie Manuel's secret life as a transvestite hooker is uncovered when Howard Eskin is arrested trying to pick him up from a corner somewhere in Kensington.
EG- Jamie Moyer retires before the end of the year.
6. Biggest concern heading into the 2009 season.
JW- The lefty situation in the bullpen, since Scott Eyre is the only one. Eyre was called on for one or two outs last season, but now it's possible that's he'll be asked to work complete innings or even two innings depending on the situation. There will be a domino effect from that. Guys like Chan Ho Park or Clay Condrey will be asked to handle jobs they probably shouldn't handle. I'm not expecting the 2007-2008version of J.C. Romero when he returns, either.
Meech- I'm concerned about the 3-4-5 hitters all being left-handed, but even more so the lack of left-handers in the bullpen. Scott Eyre? Eh. He's okay I guess, but game #51 can't come soon enough.
Carson- Health. Utley's hip, Feliz's back, Ruiz's neck, Werth's many minor dings, Lidge's sore arm, Hamel's ridiculous amount of innings logged arm/elbow, Rollins' back, Durbin's forearm tightness, Moyer's age...very worrisome.
Doc- I already mentioned it above, but it's Cole Hamels health. His innings jumped quite a bit from 2007 to 2008. Honestly, if you told me we'd get 180 innings out of him this year I'd take it. I also think that is about what we will get.
Corey- I have two. 1) Hips. In particular, Utley's healing in time for opening day and Moyer's not breaking at some point during the season. 2) Charlie Manuel. He was more than competent last season and I'm worried it may be a "Flowers for Algernon" type of progression.
EG- I don't think the bullpen can repeat its amazing performance from last year. I don't think it's a question of if they come down this season, only a question of by how much. I think the Phils are going to need to score more runs in 2009 if they're going to overcome it.
7. Honest opinion of how Raul Ibanez will fill Pat Burrell's void.
JW- They'll cancel each other out. Ibanez will be a better defender and runner and hit for higher average, while the power numbers and production against lefthanders will suffer.
Meech- I will completely ignore your asterisk because it's impossible for me to set my heterosexual love for Pat aside. Raul Ibanez couldn't fill Pat Burrell's void unless he impregnates 1/3 of all Philadelphia women under the age of 25 while simultaneously swatting 30 homers and driving in 100 runs. And that ain't happening.
Carson- There will be plenty of fans that simply won't be able to let Pat Burrell go, and therefore will be unable to fully appreciate what Ibanez brings to the team. I see him being a consistent bat in the middle of the lineup that will help the offense and be able to remain in games and not be lifted for pinch runners and defensive replacements.
Doc- Overall, Ibanez is a more complete and more consistent player. I think he'll do well. I also think that just a little too much is made about how left-handed heavy he makes the Phillies lineup. Sure, it theoretically makes the team weaker against lefties, but right-handed pitchers make up 75% or so of the league.
Corey- How will Ibanez replace the younger, cheaper, righthandeder, World Series winninger, Philly legend Pat Burrell? Not very well.
EG- I think he'll be significantly worse offensively and significantly better defensively. The Phillies are going to miss Burrell's big bat from the right-hand side of the plate. I'd be thrilled if Ibanez can match his AL home run and RBI numbers from the past few years, but I'd guess he will be off that pace. I think we will notice a big improvement defensively and Ibanez will get to far more balls than Burrell did (and play the whole game, which will be nice to see).
8. What prospect will mean the most to the Phils by season's end?
JW- Probably Happ, since he's the only one with an unobstructed path to the majors. It's too tough to forecast any of the other openings that may occur between now and the end of the season. Happ is the closest to the majors. Frankly, the fifth starter position could have easily been billed as his job to lose headed into spring training.
Meech- I have no friggin idea. Although it wouldn't shock me if they move Carlos Carrasco if the offer is sweet enough. It probably won't be anyone major, though. The team isn't really in the position to be taking on any more salary.
Carson- JA Happ. He's a strikeout pitcher (minors: 528.2 ip/545 k), so even in trouble he has the ability to miss bats. If awarded the 5th starter spot, I think we can expect 10-12 wins and an era between 4-4.25.
Doc- If you still consider J.A. Happ a prospect I would think he'll contribute in a big way. Otherwise, Lou Marson. I wouldn't be surprised if he starts around 30 to 40 games this year.
Corey- Carlos Carrasco. I've been listening to hype on this guy for years and the Phils have an open rotation spot. He needs to fill that spot at some point this year.
EG- John Mayberry. I think the problems the Phillies have with so few quality right-handed hitters won't take long to expose. It could be a disaster if Werth gets hurt, but even if he doesn't I think Mayberry will get a chance to contribute before the end of the year.
9. Predict the Phils record, NL East finish, and playoffs (if they make it in).
JW- Nah. I'll save this for Beerleaguer.
Meech- I'll say the Phillies finish 94-68 and win the NL East by a good 5 games. Then they'll lose to the wild card Marlins in the NLCS. Hey, I don't like the sound of it either, but the Marlins win the World Series every six years. It's cosmic, there's nothing you or I can do about it.
Carson- 95-67, lose in the World Series (repeating is so difficult). I think the offense has the ability to produce much better this season, and the pitching will remain solid.
Doc- 90-72, good for first in the division and a decent run in the playoffs. The odds are against them that they will repeat as World Champs, but then again, there aren't many World F. Champions that bring back such a good core group of players the next year.
Corey- 92-70, first in NL East, lose in NLCS to the Pirates.
EG- 89-73. Win the NL East. Lose the NLCS to the Cubs.