Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Let's Get It On: Phillies Preview

I must admit; I find the Phillies a little boring to prognosticate. What on earth is there to de-construct? Frankly, it is the exact same team as last year- a team that turned out a pretty significant five wins better than I thought. They won 89 games- and it is hard to see them being anywhere north or south of that number by two-three wins this campaign.

Rotation of Myers, Hamels, Moyers, Eaton- check. Same galaxy of stars in the infield with serious questions at catcher and third base- check. Flash still closin’- double check.

They’ll be hard pressed to match last year’s outfield production. Aaron Rowand had to go- but they’ll miss him. I was Pat Burrell’s last supporter left in Philadelphia- but even I’m hard pressed to think he’ll be as productive as he was the last sixty or so games last year. Maybe the bullpen will be better with Lidge- and they probably won’t stagger out of the gate ten games under .500- but they are what they are. They don’t stink. They’ll score a ton of runs- struggle to find outs in the ‘pen. Same infield plus same rotation plus same bullpen minus Rowand plus Lidge equals same total as last year: 89 wins.

Will that get it done? Well, just like last year, the Phillies will need help. The Phillies deserve credit or seizing their chance- but let’s face it, a huge part of that chance was that an uninspiring 89 wins was enough.

On paper, the Phillies today are probably the best team in the division. Unfortunately, they are a finished product. The farm system is bereft of immediate trade-able talent- and they ain’t spending. The Mets obviously can spend and no one manages in-season acquisitions like the Braves; I imagine both will close the gap.

The Phillies will play 162 games hard; the Braves will play 162 games right. I don’t know what the Mets will do for 162 games: populate the disabled list? struggle to score runs?- but I have bad vibe for that team. If you wanted to design a team for total disappointment- old, bad offense in a ball park designed to punish team with bad offenses, prone to injury, a manager with a bull’s eye on him- it could look a lot like New York. The Mets didn’t play .500 ball after August last year. Let’s just say it would behoove them to run away and hide by late summer this year.

I imagine all three will be around at the end- a true blanket finish. Like most tight competitive races between equal teams, it comes down to who is healthy and can get their actual ball-players on the field. Candidly, in that scenario again, you can’t like New York- already struggling with that issue and have health bombs waiting to go off everywhere on the roster.

You’re getting 3-1 on Atlanta to win the East on William Hill; I like that value- and I like them to win narrowly win the division from the Phillies. The Mets to finish a banged up, bloated, disappointing third.