Sunday, April 01, 2007

Phillies Meander Apace Part 3

The good folks over at Beerleaguer have put together a nice collection of the major guides- and their selections for the Phillies this season. I look at them and feel so disconnected, disheartened. Because I look at the Phillies and think “third place”- which means around .500, firings and disappointment.

I can’t find the rational argument that says the Phillies have closed the twelve game gap on the Mets. Maybe the Phils are better somewhat rotation-wise, but New York is loaded offensively (just like us!) and their bullpen is not horrid. The Braves are like the Phillies in one respect- they enter the season as a product everyone knows requires adjustments. Which franchise do you trust more to manage the roster and the season? To make the right trade? To play the right guys? To get young players contributing quickly? Charlie had Howard batting sixth, seventh last year until June- which is all you need to know about that institutional inteligence question. And one thing the Braves don’t share with the Phillies- their bullpen didn’t sport an ERA over eight for most of the spring.

You know what? Let’s just gloss over the ‘pen woes and the fact the manager is widely considered a game day liability. Let’s look past it.

Let’s start with the position players. They got real great years out of Utley and Howard- but outside of the right side of the infield, just who is a certain above average major league player? I guess Rollins- but the Phillies have manages to turn that plus into a minus. The lead-off spot is a problem with Rollins there. He simply doesn’t get on enough. Period. Every outfield spot is a question of health or performance- plus add several guys who don’t have the right aptitude to hit where they do in the line-up: do Burrell or Rowand have the big RBI bat and health to consider their line-up spots a positive?

Third base and catcher are a total prayer.

We know the bench and bullpen must be terrible- this seemingly 12-13 pitcher collection that should appear north at some point in April is sign of either a problematic bullpen construction or a lack of quality bench players- or more likely: both!

The NY Post polled general mangers around the Major Leagues asking them what current roster players are in decline- and the Phillies had three of the top ten: Rowand, Garcia and Gordon. How can you argue with any of that? Those who read this blog know I think Aaron Rowand is the most overrated Phillies player in a long time. He hustles but won't we all be content to trade him in June for a quality middle relief arm?- run Victorino out there and not lose much (like last year!)- and he’s an important, quality player? The White Sox dumped Garcia because the risk-reward is all wrong with that guy: he makes good money, he doesn’t throw hard anymore and his shoulder is worn. The less said about Flash, the better. Wing and a prayer people every time Flash gets up this year- and worse, what are the options?

The rotation is encouraging. There is still no top guy- but there are several candidates to win 12-15 games- and one could have a career 18-win year, as the Phillies will score runs- which is all you can ask.

Again, they are the third best outfit in the division- which normally means .500 or work and luck to flirt with better: 84-85 wins. I’m not sold on the Marlins renaissance- and the Nats are 115-loss bad- so there may be your luck. So that is my number: 84-85, third place.

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