The Phillies are an old team. Everyone in the lineup will be 30 or older, save Ben Francisco who is a ripe 29. What does that mean? Increased chance of injury, more rest needed, prime years faded. Two major cogs are missing in the form of Chase Utley (out until the All-Star break, possibly longer) and Jayson Werth (struck it rich in DC). Francisco will not make up for the loss of Werth, and any combination of Wilson Valdez and Player X won't even scratch the surface of what Utley brings to the field. In other words, they're screwed. Carlos Ruiz had a career year with the bat in 2010, don't look for him to come close to that this year. Shane Victorino might bounce back with the stick, but other than that this lineup is stagnant. Ryan Howard will likely produce about the same. Placido Polanco will be lucky to avoid the DL and not clock in with a sub .700 OPS. Raul Ibanez might bat .250ish this year. I just don't see where the runs are going to come from. Honestly, this offense might end up in the bottom third in the NL in 2011.
Brian Schneider is a capable backup catcher, no complaints there. Ross Gload is a good pinch hitter. John Mayberry, if used properly (ie- against lefties), should be a valuable asset off the bench. Wilson Valdez is going to be leaned on far too much again this year because of the brittle bones of the starting infield. Not sure which of Pete Orr, Delwyn Young, or Michael Martinez makes the club, but none of them are worth much. Young is a decent pinch hitter, but isn't as versatile as Boat Orr of Mini-Mart.
Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, and Joe Blanton should be great. They might end up being great like Felix Hernandez though, whereas they have great ERA/WHIP, but the won/loss record is shit due to lack of run support. Phillies fans want to be cocky now with this false bravado like the team is untouchable because of the 4 aces. Guess again, and reevaluate that. Fans keep saying all the offense needs to do is score 2 or 3 runs a night and the Phils win. Bullshit. Ask Hamels if that gets the job done. He won 12, loss 11 last year with a itty-bitty 3.06 ERA. You need run support!
With the loss of Brad Lidge (3 weeks or more, likely until All-Star break) the bullpen is stretched thin with Jose Contreras bumped to closer and Ryan Madson remaining in the 8th inning setup role. Who pitches the 7th? Oh, that's right we're pompous Phillies fans and the 7th inning belongs to the starting pitcher, unless it's Blanton's turn. C'mon, get real! Average innings per start: Halladay- 7.2, Lee- 7.2, Oswalt- 6.2, Hamels- 6.1, Blanton- 6.1. Doc and Cliff are straight up beasts, but even as good as the rest are the 7th inning remains a crucial swing inning for relief. Is the answer the erratic JC Romero, the catastrophic Cuban Baez Sucks, the unproven Antonio Bastardo? Yeah, not so arrogant now are we? Wait, there's Kyle Kendrick. Sorry, had to throw a funny in there for some levity.
Philadelphia loves Charlie and Charlie loves Philadelphia. He's grown on us. Hell, he's grown on me. His once nail-to-the-chalkboard hickish delivery has turned into one of his endearing traits. He knows how to handle the men that are the players. Lets not be foolish and anoint this man a super strategist though. His in-game management will really be tested this year, as he'll have to mix-and-match with both the lineup and the bullpen. He does have the comfort of an excellent rotation, but as discussed above, that alone is not enough.
Prognosis- true to form I once again play the role of Debbie Downer and highlight the flaws rather than focus on the positives. I call it realistic, others call it masochistic. Whatever. I think this team is good, playoff worthy. However, I went from expectations of a 100+ win season to a high 80's/low 90's campaign with the injury report. I'm saying 91 wins and the NL Wild Card. The Braves are the better team in all aspects aside from starting rotation, and theirs ain't too shabby either.