Pennant Is Phils’ To Lose

February 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

Despite losing the best pitcher of last year’s postseason, the Philadelphia Phillies remain the odds-on favorite to win the National League.

It has been debated for months, and the Cliff Lee-Roy Halladay trade is undoubtedly the most controversial trade in the club’s history.  Cliff Lee was everything the team had hoped for:  a leader, a winner, and a fan favorite.  But, the meeting Amaro had with Lee’s agent was apparently discouraging enough to pull the trigger for the better pitcher.

But is Halladay truly better than Lee?  Well, he is by the numbers.  Since his premiere season in 1998, ‘Doc’ has maintained a 3.43 ERA.  Compare that to Lee’s 3.97 ERA since 2002, and the better pitcher is clearly Halladay.  Not to mention the fact that Halladay has pitched in the winningest division in baseball since his rookie year, making it hard not to imagine a scenario in which he can be a great pitcher with Philadelphia.

I also cannot help but look at the slump Lee went through during the second part of his stay in the regular season.  There were four games during August and September where he gave up four earned runs or more (with 3 of the four games giving up 6 or more). Some of those games —which included some lowly opponents such as the Astros and Nationals —he looked lost, and his best pitches lacked the movement they usually have.

Another cause for concern with Lee is the surgery he had on his foot a few weeks ago. The thought lingers in my mind whether or not the Phils knew about the foot problem before trading him.  Granted, the foot problem wouldn’t have been enough on its own to trade him, but it might have helped put Amaro’s decision over the hump.  If the foot remains a problem for Lee, Amaro’s decision can only look better.

The shock value of the trade had the biggest impact on the fans, who weeks earlier were calling him the savior of the season.  But they must understand that in order to get Halladay, the organization had to ensure that they would not deplete their farm system entirely of its core pieces.  The last thing the fans need is another gap of thirteen years between playoff appearances.  

Lee was a great pitcher while he was here.  But if I was faced with the question Amaro faced in the offseason, Lee for one year or Halladay for four, I’d take the latter in a heartbeat.

Overlooked by the blockbuster trade is the signing of Placido Polanco.  

Polanco, having not played third base since his last stint with the Phils, is more than likely a defensive downgrade from Pedro Feliz.  

But offensively, it is a much different story.  

The Fightins are hoping that Polanco can provide stability to a lineup prone to the familiar formula of home run or strikout.  Polanco’s career OBP is .348.  This is a sizable improvement from Feliz’s OBP of .293, a considerably low number caused by his lack of plate discipline.

As far as batting averages go, Feliz has a career BA of .254, compared to Polanco’s steller BA of .303.  

Polanco will most likely bat second, pushing Shane Victorino back to the seventh spot. Being that Victorino has a historical tendency of not striking out or grounding into double plays, his presence will definitely be felt in the lower third of the lineup.

Where else have the Phillies improved?  After reviewing the roster, there are definately more potential threats on the bench than there were last year.

Matt Stairs will always be a hero in the city of Philadelphia for what he did in Game 4 of the NLCS in 2008.  But his middle of the season slump in 2009 was almost unbearable to watch.  But who else was there to go for Charlie Manuel?  Paul Bako or Eric Bruntlett?

Something had to be done about the bench, and luckily for Charlie Manuel, he’ll have more than one option to go to.  Joining Greg Dobbs and Ben Francisco on the bench will be Ross Gload, Brian Schneider, and Juan Castro.  

Listed below are their career OPS:


  • Ross Gload:  .736
  • Brian Schneider:  .679
  • Juan Castro:  .601

The most impressive new addition is Ross Gload who also carries a career .283 BA with him.  Although he played first base last year, he will probably end up playing in the outfield when he isn’t pitch hitting, maybe giving Jayson Werth an occasional rest against righties.  

The one area the Phils have not improved is the bullpen.  There will be no Chan Ho Park, Clay Condrey, or Scott Eyre.  Although they have signed Jose Contreras and Danys Baez, not much has been done for the bullpen which had the most blown saves in the NL last year.  

But, it is almost impossible to imagine a scenario in which Brad Lidge can do worse than he did last year.  And as bad as he was, the team still made it to the World Series.  If Lidge can perform even a little bit like he did in 2008, he should be alright.

If not, I don’t think anyone knows what will happen.  Ryan Madson hasn’t showed he can fill the void, and J.C. Romero might not be fully healed.  If a trade isn’t made, someone will have to step up from within the organization.  This scenario however, is something that the Phils are hopeful they will never had to address this season.

Despite the flaws in the bullpen, the Phils have managed to improve slightly from their 2009 form.  

If Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge can rebound and the fifth starter performs adequately, the sky’s the limit.  No team in the National League has made any major game changing moves, and as of now, the only teams that can threaten the Phils path to a third World Series appearance are the Dodgers, Cardinals, and possibly the Braves.  

And after watching how the Phils have handled business over the past couple of years, these threats don’t look very intimidating.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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