2010 NL East Preview: Phillies Should Win Third Straight Pennant

March 31, 2010 by Jeffrey Brown  
Filed under Fan News

The Phillies made a valiant attempt to defend their championship last season, but came up shy as they eventually fell to the Yankees in the World Series. Nonetheless, the loss to the Bronx Bombers should not diminish the club’s accomplishments during the season—an NL East title (with a 93-69 record) and a second straight National League pennant.

General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. went into the offseason hoping to build a team that would return to the World Series again in 2010, while simultaneously creating a roster that would allow the team to remain competitive for the next few years.

With that in mind, he traded star left-hander Cliff Lee in a three-team deal that netted his club star right-hander Roy Halladay. Lee was a free-agent-to-be who was determined to test free agency at the end of the season while Halladay was a free-agent-to-be who was willing to negotiate an extension (which the team and player later finalized).

By virtue of that trade alone, the Phillies have virtually guaranteed they’ll field a championship caliber club for at least the next two or three seasons (assuming good health).

Key Additions: P Danys Baez, P Jose Contreras, UT Ross Gload, P Roy Halladay, 3B Placido Polanco, C Brian Schneider

Key Subtractions: C Paul Bako, 3B Pedro Feliz, P Cliff Lee, P Pedro Martinez, P Brett Myers, P Chan Ho Park, OF Matt Stairs

Key Performer, 2010: P Cole Hamels

Starting Rotation

Halladay (17-10, 2.79) immediately becomes the staff ace. Rescued from a stagnant Blue Jays team and the hyper-competitive AL East, he figures to post 20 wins and win the NL Cy Young Award if he remains healthy. Lefty Cole Hamels (10-11, 4.32) is coming off a disappointing 2009 campaign and is positioned for a strong rebound season. LHP J. A. Happ (12-4, 2.93) performed well in his first season in the rotation (23 starts) and could provide the Phils with the same kind of 1-2-3 punch the Red Sox and Yankees have atop of their respective rotations. RHP Joe Blanton (12-8, 4.05) is unspectacular, but solid. He’ll eat innings, win in double digits, and post a decent ERA and WHIP… just don’t expect him to do anything more. Southpaw Jamie Moyer (12-10, 4.94) will be playing in his 24th season this year. He was bad in 2007, good in 2008, and bad again last year… so he’s due to have another good season in 2010.

Bullpen

The Phillies are hoping that Brad Lidge (0-8, 7.21, 31 saves) will re-discover the form that made him 41-for-41 in saves back in 2008. While they don’t need him to be perfect, they need him to at least resemble the pitcher he was in their world championship season. RHP Ryan Madson (5-5, 3.26) will be Lidge’s primary setup man and could close if Lidge struggles again. LHP J C Romero will be called on to get big outs in both the 7th and 8th innings. RHP Contreras will replace Park and should prove capable of pitching lots of meaningful innings to bridge the gap to the late innings. RHPs Chad Durbin and Danys Baez fill out the rest of the relief corps.

Lineup

The Phillies lineup is the deepest in the National League. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins (.250, 21 HR, 77 RBI, 31 SB) will lead off in spite of the fact that he sported just a .296 OBP last season. There are others in the lineup who are more capable of filling the role effectively (Shane Victorino), but skipper Charlie Manuel apparently doesn’t want to upset one of his key contributors. Polanco is one of the best 2-hole hitters in the game and will assume that role in Philly.

2B Chase Utley (.282/31/93), 1B Ryan Howard (.279/45/141), and RF Jayson Werth (.268/36/99) form one of the best 3-4-5 combinations in all of baseball—They will cause opposing pitchers to have many a sleepless night after charting games.

LF Raul Ibanez (.272/34/93) and CF Victorino (.292/10/62) ensure pitchers can’t take a breather once they get past Werth. C Carlos Ruiz (.255/9/43 in 322 AB) will hit eighth.

Outlook

The Phillies will be improved in 2010. Putting Halladay atop the rotation for the entire season adds four or five wins. A rebound season from Hamels should do likewise.

The lineup is formidible from top to bottom. Polanco won’t hit as many home runs as Feliz, but he will prove invaluable behind Rollins at the top of the order. Ruiz will post better numbers with more playing time and help make up for the marginal decline in power from Feliz to Polanco.

The Phillies will win the NL East and likely cruise into the World Series yet again, awaiting the Red Sox—who will beat the Yankees in the ALCS.

SOX1Forecast: 102-60, 1st place.

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Philadelphia Phillies — Top Five Prospects

1. OF Domonic Brown
2. OF Tyson Gillies
3. P Phillippe Aumont
4. OF Anthony Gose
5. P Jarred Cosart

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Why Chan Ho Park Is a Bigger Loss for the Phillies Than Cliff Lee

March 31, 2010 by Pat Egan  
Filed under Fan News

Upon reading the headline of this article, you are sitting there saying to yourself that I’m an idiot.

I’m sure most are only reading this to merely find out how stupid I possibly could be that I would have the audacity to say a middle reliever leaving is going to have more impact than the loss of a former Cy Young winner.

Just hear me out on this.

Cliff Lee was, and is, great. The guy had a low-three ERA last season and posted a 1.56 postseason ERA. Phillies fans quickly fell in love with him and quickly forgot about the man they originally wanted, Roy Halladay.

Lee's dominance came with a price, of course. The elephant in the room was the fact that Lee would be entering 2010 on the final year of his contract and was likely to command a big contract, one the Phillies could not afford.

Now whether or not you believe the Phillies could afford him, the fact is the Phillies shipped Lee off to Seattle in a deal that saw them acquire three prospects and also Halladay.

Many fans screamed in outrage that the player that had become so many fans' new favorite player was shown the door so quickly, and for what? A few prospects no one has ever heard of? "Absolutely ridiculous," said most fans. "You could have kept both," said some.

Look, the fact is that the people who complained about the deal are flat-out ignorant. I’m not trying to be mean, but you were scared of the uncertain and wanted your favorite player.

You will surely thank Ruben Amaro for this trade after Lee has signed with god only knows, Brad Lidge has signed to be the closer of the Rangers, and Raul Ibanez retires, and in their places you will have Roy Halladay, Phillippe Aumont, and Tyson Gillies.

The fact is the Phillies have made three big trades in the past two years (Joe Blanton, Lee, and Halladay), and that wrecks your farm system. The Cliff Lee deal gave the Phillies replacements for both Lidge and Ibanez, who are most likely on their way out when their contracts are over.

Do a little research, and you will realize that Aumont projects as a future closer and Gillies had the second highest batting average among all minor league hitters last year and also has 40-plus SB speed.

For those who say, "Yeah, but that’s the minors," I respond by asking you if you were the guy saying they should trade Ryan Howard and Chase Utley because, while their minor league numbers were great, they were in the minors.

I could debate about this all night, but I will look to move on.

Now you put Lee in the Phillies rotation and it’s obviously better, but they replaced Lee with possibly the best pitcher in all of baseball. Those who knew nothing about baseball were asking for Halladay last July, and when they got him they just focused on the loss and not the gain.

Roy Halladay is a guy whose work ethic is already showing dividends (see Kyle Kendrick for an example) and immediately becomes a favorite for the NL Cy Young. Have you ever seen a 10-inning complete game? Neither have I, but Blue Jays fans have seen a few from Halladay these past few seasons as he does what he does best: Eat innings and do it effectively.

Posting an ERA in the twos in arguably the best division in baseball with the DH, you can only imagine what he will do in the weak NL East.

Lee, on the other hand, is reminding me more and more of Freddy Garcia. Look, I could be dead wrong on this, but so far the similarities are frightening.

Both went from one league to another (Lee from the NL to the AL again and Garcia from the NL to the AL). Both were expected to be the aces for their teams, and both were expected to be the difference-makers that would get their respected teams back in the playoffs. Both were on the last year of their contracts, and both cost a lot of money (Lee $9 million, Garcia $10 million).

Like Garcia, Lee has had one rocky start in his new city. After getting suspended for five games (one start) he has been sidelined with an abdomen injury. Granted, Garcia's was shoulder, arm, leg, you name it, but so far the season is young, and Lee has the abdomen and is coming off foot surgery.

Once again, I’m going to have people tell me I’m crazy, but nothing has gone right for Lee in Seattle, much like nothing went right for Garcia in Philly.

Okay, so let’s look at that middle reliever Chan Ho Park. Park won the Phillies' fifth starter spot out of spring training last season but then ended up pitching terribly in seven starts and was allocated to the bullpen. Out of the bullpen he had a 2.52 ERA while allowing no balls to leave the yard.

He was arguably the best pitcher out of the bullpen last season for the Phillies, and this year, instead of wearing red pinstripes, he will be donning the Yankee blue.

Lee was replaced by the best pitcher in the game. Park, however, was replaced by Jose Contreras. Contreras pitched in just 17 innings last season for the Colorado Rockies. He did have an ERA of 1.59, primarily out of the bullpen, but I’m just not convinced that 17 innings pitched is enough to judge a guy, especially when you consider his paltry 5.42 ERA with the White Sox.

The Phillies' weak point right now is the bullpen, not the rotation. Brad Lidge is coming off an awful year and will start the season on the DL with fellow reliever J.C. Romero. Scott Eyre and his 1.50 ERA have retired, and in steps rookie Antonio Bastardo. Ryan Madson is the mainstay who is a lock for an ERA in the low threes, but he will start the season as the Phillies' closer, a role he has never had success in.

Replacing Park's 2.52 ERA this season will be a tough thing to do, much tougher then replacing Cliff Lee's ERA, because the guy replacing Lee is probably going to post a better ERA than Lee, while the guy replacing Park would have to have a great season to duplicate Park's 2009.

For a more detailed look at the Phillies' weak bullpen, check out my other article.

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The ‘Key’ Player For Each National League East Team

March 29, 2010 by Adam Bernacchio  
Filed under Fan News

Last year I started a series that featured the 'Key' player for each team. A 'Key' player is someone who was injured or had a down year the year before and if they can come back to form, their respective team would be vastly improved.

This year I thought I would continue this series and go division by division to identify the 'Key' player for each team.

Here is the 'Key' player for each National League East team:

 

Philadelphia Phillies: Cole Hamels

I am sure many of you thought I would have picked Brad Lidge in this spot, but the Phillies can win the World Series without Lidge, they can’t win the World Series without Cole Hamels being right. As we saw last year in the World Series, the Phillies couldn’t match up with the New York Yankees outside of Cliff Lee.

Hamels can be that solid No. 2/1A starter the Phillies need. Remember, Roy Halladay transformed AJ Burnett’s career and if he can do the same with Hamels, the Phillies will win the NL East by 10 games and be back in the World Series yet again.

 

Atlanta Braves: Billy Wagner

I was torn between Wagner or Troy Glaus, but I think Glaus will be fine at first. However, the Braves need Wagner to be the pitcher they think he can be and more importantly, stay healthy. If Wagner goes down for a significant period of time with an injury, the Braves’ bullpen becomes a clown show.

That is why Wagner is so important to the Braves’ success.

 

Florida Marlins: Cameron Maybin

The Marlins thought Maybin was ready to take over the starting job in center last year, but quickly realized that was not the case. The Marlins will bring back a lineup that includes Hanley Ramirez, Jorge Cantu, Dan Uggla, Chris Coghlan, and Cody Ross.

That is a good lineup, but if Maybin becomes the player they thought he was when they traded Miguel Cabrera for him, then the Marlins will have a lineup in 2010.

 

New York Mets: Mike Pelfrey

The Mets have about eight candidates for this title, but I feel Pelfrey is the biggest key. The Mets desperately need someone to step up behind staff ace Johan Santana and Pelfrey needs to be that guy.

For whatever reason Pelfrey regressed and developed a case of the yips last year. If the Mets want to have any chance of winning in 2010, then Pelfrey needs to have a bounce back season.

 

Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg

It’s hard to believe the 'Key' to the Nationals won’t be on the team’s Opening Day roster, but that is just how important Strasburg is to the Nationals’ franchise. He is perhaps the most hyped prospect in the history of the game, but more importantly, he represents hope.

Strasburg will be with the Nationals at some point this season, most likely in May. If Strasburg delivers when he is called up, he will give the Nationals hope for the future.

 

Tomorrow, I will look at the 'Key' player for each National League Central team.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

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Philadelphia Phillies: Checking In On the Five Keys to the 2010 Season

March 29, 2010 by Gary Suess  
Filed under Fan News

As spring training draws to a close, we have more insight and information to assess the Phillies' prospects for the 2010 season. Live game action, rehab progress, and commentary from coaches and players provide additional assurance or in some cases further doubt. Over the past month, I have detailed what I believe to be the five keys to a successful Phillies season. If you missed them, here they are: 1. How will the fifth starting pitcher fare? 2. Can Cole Hamels go back to the future? 3. Which Raul Ibanez will show up this season? 4. Will the bullpen sink or swim? 5. Which Brad Lidge shows up? It is my belief that these five factors will largely determine whether the Phillies will win a fourth consecutive National League East title, a third consecutive National League Pennant, and/or another World Series Championship. Most baseball pundits rate the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies as the favorites heading into the season. Those same experts vary in their ranking order of those two teams -- but a large percentage see them colliding once again in the 2010 World Series. The 2010 Phillies have an all-star laden team led by Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino. The harsh reality, though, is that the weakest links have a chance to cause the team's vast potential to go unfulfilled. Armed with new insight and some of the blanks at least penciled in, let's take a pulse check on each of the five keys to see if the situation has improved, regressed or simply remained status quo.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

2010 MLB Predictions: Why the Phillies Will Dominate April-May in 2010

March 27, 2010 by Jamie Ambler  
Filed under Fan News

It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.

The Phillies have certainly proven that cliché true in recent seasons.

But is this the year the Fightins finally look like a championship-caliber club from April through the end of Autumn? The answer is yes, because the Phillies are just that complete of a team in 2010.

Once again, the offense is the least of the Phils’ concerns. This team will hit.

Placido Polanco’s replacement of Pedro Feliz at third base should slightly weaken the Phillies’ perennial air-tight defense, but marginally strengthen their consistently talent-packed lineup. Unlike previous seasons, the Phils’ pitching staff should be reliable, too. 

From top to bottom, the Phillies’ starting rotation is one of the finest they’ve ever had. Of course, it doesn’t hurt having a guy named Roy Halladay as the ace.

On June 9 last year, the Toronto Blue Jays were just 1 1/2 games out of first in the AL East, largely because of Halladay.

He was 10-1 with a 2.52 ERA in his first 13 starts. He pitched at least seven innings in every one of those 13 starts. Every…single…one. Halladay might not pitch as many innings this season as he did during his hay-day with Toronto, but we sure can expect him to dominate the offensively-challenged National League.

Halladay should also benefit from the run production provided by the undisputed best lineup in the senior circuit…not like he’ll actually need five or six runs to win most games.

How about the man following Halladay in the rotation? Well, Cole Hamels has struggled in his two most recent Grapefruit League starts.

But there’s a good chance he’ll start the season well, since it’s very likely his first two starts of 2010 will come against the Washington Nationals.  Hamels might have struggled against the Rockies and Yankees under the pressure of the postseason, but he’s always been able to rise to the occasion against the Nats.

He’s 7-3 with a 2.30 ERA in 15 lifetime starts against Washington. Last year, the media speculated that Cole’s lack of confidence was a cause for his struggles. If that actually were true, then two quick starts against Washington might be just the trick Hamels needs to begin repairing his bruised psyche.

So, six of the Phils’ first nine games in 2010 will come against a Nationals team they defeated in 15 of their 18 meetings last season.

Actually, the Phillies’ entire April schedule shakes out pretty well. Their season-opening six-game road trip from Washington to Houston isn’t too intimidating and neither is the Washington-Florida homestand that follows.

Late April’s 10-game trip from Atlanta to Phoenix to San Francisco isn’t all that tough either, at least not for a Phillies club that tied last year for the ML-lead with 48 road wins in ’09.

May’s calendar greets the Phils with a 10-game homestand against the Mets, Cardinals, and Braves: a golden opportunity for the Phillies to get an early leg up on some potentially stiff NL competition.

Of course, Philly’s bullpen has question marks. Somehow, the Phils won 93 games last year despite losing 10 games they led entering the ninth inning (a ML high). Both J.C. Romero and Brad Lidge are recovering from offseason surgery and neither is likely to be healthy by Opening Day.

Without Romero, the Phils don't have a dependable bullpen lefty. And who will be the closer if Lidge struggles like he did last year? Ryan Madson (again)? Or newly-acquired Danys Baez? The end of the pen is still a concern.

But in conclusion, there’s no reason why these Phillies shouldn’t be the best team in the NL East by mid-May.

The Phils are now the oldest team in the majors, with an average age of 29.  But these Phils have tons of invaluable playoff experience to go along with talent that’s unparalleled in the NL. So the Phillies’ collective age is a clear strength—not a detriment.

All these reasons make early-season optimism justifiable—but that’s nothing new during this Golden Age of Phillies baseball.

 

Phillies’ Month-By-Month Record Since 2005 (Regular Season)

March/April                     57- 64              .471

May                               81- 60             .567

June                              62- 72             .463

July                               78- 51             .605

August                           82- 58             .586

September/October          87- 58             .600

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Cole Hamels Looking for a Fresh Start in 2010

March 27, 2010 by Danny Flynn  
Filed under Fan News

 "I can't wait for it to end."

With one simple comment, Cole Hamels sparked a searing firestorm of questions from his team, baseball fans, and the nationwide sports media alike.

Was he quitting on his team at the most crucial point in the season?

The Phillies were on the brink of elimination at the hands of the mighty New York Yankees in last season's World Series. Times were tough and here was a young man, who just one season ago helped guide them to the promised land, ready now to hang up his cleats and put the glove away for the winter.

It may not have been condoned, but it was surely understandable with context and reasoning.

The 2009 postseason had turned out to be a far cry from the lavish run of a year before, which saw the pitcher win MVP honors in both the NLCS and World Series.

In 2008, he was the toast of the town.

Hamels was the face of a Phillies team which had brought a championship back to the title-starved city of Philadelphia. He was a key figure in the city's vindication. He was riding the ultimate high that every baseball player dreams of.

Parades, commercials, headlines, and front pages were all new homes for the breakout star.

His postseason accomplishments gave the organization the incentive to award the young stud with a brand new three-year, $20 million contract.

Everything looked to be going smoothly.

With the pay raise would also come added pressure and expectations. He was now the team's ace and one of the faces of the franchise. Everyone was now under the assumption that he would continue to match the feats of his terrific postseason.

However, times change and success fades.

The 2009 season would prove rocky from the start.

Hamels dealt with lingering elbow problems that would cause him to miss the beginning of the season. It seemed like just a precursor of things to come as he never seemed to get on track. The year would prove to be one that was marred by inconsistencies and struggles.

Cole ended the daunting season with a disappointing 10-11 record while his ERA ballooned to 4.32. He was far from the ace pitcher that the team envisioned him becoming at the start of the year.

He had fallen so far from grace that the Phillies felt the need to bring in Cliff Lee to help right the ship. Lee had taken on the role that Hamels had filled in the 2008 season as the team's go-to pitcher during its World Series stretch run.

Hamels looked like yesterday's news.

Compared to his 2008 exploits, the year had the look of a disaster. It was one that saw him give up a career-high in both hits and earned runs while managing to strike out just 168 batters.

Something seemed amiss, and sadly his fortunes would not change once the postseason began.

He would end up managing just one win in his four starts while accumulating a head-scratching 7.58 ERA. It was evident why he would he prefer to put such a rough season behind him.

Nonetheless, putting that disappointment into words may not have been the wisest choice for him at the time. Now he must overcome the stigma that he quit on his team during the most important stretch of the season.

He must now put 2009 behind him.

So begins a fresh start and a new beginning for Cole Hamels. Throughout the majority of spring training, he has looked like his old self, and the type of player that the Phillies and the city of Philadelphia fell in love with.

He is gaining comfort back in his pitches, while at the same time working on regaining his confidence. His fastball is coming back and his curveball is coming around. All things look to be a go when the 2010 season finally gets underway.

The addition of Roy Halladay should ease the burden and allow Cole to pitch without abandon. He no longer has to deal with the burden of being the team's ace. Having one of the better lineups in all of baseball on his side shouldn't hurt his cause much either.

The mound now looks to be his sanctuary once again and the 2010 season looks to be one filled with promise for both Cole and the Phillies.

It is with the same level of anticipation that Cole Hamels couldn't wait for the previous season to end that he now anxiously awaits the 2010 season to finally begin.

 

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Philadelphia Phillies Key No. 5: Which Brad Lidge Shows Up?

March 26, 2010 by Gary Suess  
Filed under Fan News

Rarely does a player experience such extremes from one year to the next, but Phillies closer Brad Lidge has lived that way since coming to the team in a trade two years ago. 

 

In 2008, it was a year of perfection that culminated with teammates jubilantly piling on him when he recorded a strikeout to secure the Phillies' second World Series championship. The journey through the following season moved to the opposite end of the spectrum with a dismal season that landed him on the surgeon's table in the offseason.

 

Ruben Amaro and the Phillies organization have assembled a marvelous group of everyday players and a solid starting rotation for the 2010 season. As detailed previously, the potential chink in the armor appears to be the bullpen.

 

And, the most important component of any bullpen is it's closer. Considering Lidge's body of work last season and his two offseason surgeries, there is little argument that the team's biggest question mark and greatest risk point concerns the reliever's ability to bounce back this year.

 

A 7.21 ERA and 11 blown saves will tend to arouse anxieties throughout the clubhouse, media, and fan base. The hope is that the medical procedures to repair damage in Lidge's knee and elbow will go a long way towards bringing back the 2008 "Lights Out" version of the player.

 

At this stage, with spring training winding down, there is little evidence to acquiesce concerns about the team's closer. Lidge is still in a rehabbing mode and will break camp without making an appearance in any "Grapefruit League" games.

 

Yesterday, he threw 25 pitches off the mound to live hitters, but is still a considerable distance from being able to participate in real game action. His fastball topped out at a pedestrian 89 mph, approximately 6 mph below his normal velocity.

 

All pitchers need to build up arm strength in spring training and early in the regular season; however, Lidge has the added hurdle of having been totally shut down throughout the winter. Current estimates for Lidge's return to the active roster are mid-April if everything goes off like clockwork, but it is very conceivable that the date could slip towards May.

 

Last season, the Phillies closer struggled with his command all season long. He was wild in and out of the strike zone—and often was forced to groove a straight fastball because he was behind in the count.

 

In the Phillies championship season, Lidge achieved a great deal of success by working backwards. Simply put, he was able to throw his devastating slider for strikes in fastball counts which led to an abundance of futile swings.

 

A return to form will surely require much better command of both his fastball and slider. The prevailing sentiment amongst pitching coach Rich Dubee, manager Charlie Manuel, and the pitcher himself is that his mechanics went awry due to the pain and weakness in his knee and elbow.

 

Although much more subtle, another contributing factor to the pitcher's struggles last season related to his inability to hold runners on. Essentially, singles and walks turned into doubles and triples by virtue of Lidge's almost total lack of attention towards base runners.

 

This meant that opponents were consistently in scoring position almost every time he entered the game. Besides ramping up the drama, this is surely not a formula to be a successful closer.

 

This weakness has been recognized by the club and has made it an area of focus this spring. It is doubtful that the pitcher will suddenly develop a good pick-off move or much quicker delivery to home, but it is essential that he significantly improves from where he was a year ago.

 

In addition to the pitcher's physical health, Lidge's confidence sagged significantly throughout last season. The air of dominance that propelled him to record 48 saves in as many attempts in 2008 was often noticeably missing when he toed the rubber in 2009.

 

As anyone from a casual observer to a sports psychologist will attest, confidence is a key element to attaining success in any sport. Of course, this is especially true for a major-league pitcher that carries the weight of his team on his shoulders through the pressure packed final moments of a game.

 

Considering the importance of having Lidge mentally right, it is probably advisable to delay his return to action until he is physically ready to successfully compete against major league hitters. Bringing him back too soon with mediocre stuff could very well lead to poor outings and a further damaged psyche.

 

Waiting too long would seem far superior to jumping the gun. An accumulation of successful outings upon his return will be invaluable towards Lidge regaining his "mojo."

 

The reliever's large remaining contract gave Amaro little flexibility to do anything other than hand the closer job back to Lidge for the 2010 season and hope for the best. That notwithstanding, though, the fortunes of the Philadelphia Phillies are largely riding on the back of the pitcher who triumphantly dropped to his knees to close the 2008 World Series.

 

The team is universally recognized as a juggernaut throughout the baseball world, but it is no secret that this is the potential Achilles' heel. Needless to say, all eyes will be keenly focused on Lidge when he rejoins the club and Charlie summons him from the pen.

 

The butterflies that the closer will have in the pit of his stomach will likely be shared by everyone else around him. Fans and the team know very well that a return to glory in 2010 is largely dependent upon a return to glory for Lidge.

 

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Philadelphia Phillies Pitchers Who Also Rocked at the Plate (Since 1971)

March 26, 2010 by scott eisenlohr  
Filed under Fan News

As Phillies fans, we all remember Joe Blanton going yard against the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2008 World Series. Looking at the batting averages, however, Blanton is only a .111 lifetime hitter, so he musta been feed a real juicy fastball to hit. Most Phillies historians remember that Hall of Fame pitcher Steve Carlton was traded for Rick Wise. Both however, were pretty good hitting pitchers. In his presentation, I will pick the top Phillies pitching hitters. Criteria includes that they played for more than one season for the Phillies and unless they had an awesome display of power one game, they don't make the list unless they hit for a lifetime .200 average. I ain't going back to the Whiz Kids, only as far as Rick Wise in 1971. Let's face it: pitchers hit in the National League and it is what makes the National League great in terms of stragegy. When you got a guy who has a two in ten chance of knocking the ball for a hit, that is a pretty good average in my book.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

2010 Fantasy Baseball Watch: Is J.A. Happ Worth a No. 1 Pick?

March 25, 2010 by Ray Tannock  
Filed under Fan News

Picking players in the first round is always a hot topic. And while your first round selections WILL NOT make your team, it is those players who are on the cusp of being first rounders that could significantly impact your team’s performance.

J.A. Happ is one of those players.

Last year Happ enjoyed a very promising season going 12-4 for "Dem Phightin Phils" while posting a 2.93 ERA.

But what is noteworthy is the fact that Happ has already pitched 8 1/3 scoreless innings this year in Spring Training, and if this keeps up, one has to imagine his value will sky rocket.

Happ is already surrounded by some of the best that MLB has to offer in just about every position, not to mention the Phillies penchant for winning games that they look like they aren’t; a situation that bodes well for any pitcher.

But for Happ to ever be considered an elite arm, worthy of first round status, he will need another year behind him.

In addition to the experience there is a small matter of his average career 6.7 K/9 rate that really need to elevate if he is to be seen as one of the best in fantasy.

Still, Happ is a guy you could target early and reap the benefits later on.

I think the kid will lower that ERA to about 2.53; he will increase his K/9 rate to about 7.5; and provide 4 complete games with at the very least 4 shutouts.

Will Happ be a first round consideration? No.

Does he have the tools to perform as a first rounder in 2010? Absolutely.

For more insight on other first rounders that could be, check out my piece on Nelson Cruz.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Why Fantasy Baseball Owners Should Be Blah on Phillies’ Joe Blanton

March 25, 2010 by Eric Stashin  
Filed under Fan News

Joe Blanton had a renaissance of sorts in 2009, though it’s impossible for me to say that he was impressive.

He was solid, but is that enough to make him relevant to fantasy owners?  Before we answer that we have to take a closer look at his results.

It was his first full year in the National League, leading to his third-best ERA of his five-year career. The stats:

  • 12 wins
  • 195.1 innings
  • 4.05 ERA
  • 1.32 WHIP
  • 163 strikeouts (7.51 Ks/9 IP)
  • 59 Walks (2.72 BBs/99 IP)
  • .302 BABIP

 

The strikeouts are the first number that leaps out at me, as it was his career high.  Just look at his strikeouts per nine innings for his first four full seasons:

  • 2005: 5.19
  • 2006: 4.96
  • 2007: 5.48
  • 2008: 5.05

 

Granted, a move to the NL should generate an increase in strikeouts thanks to the weaker lineups and the pitchers hitting, but that significant of a jump? I just don’t see it. This is a pitcher who had struck out more than seven in a game just once prior to 2009, yet managed to put up games of 9, 10, and 11 last season.

It’s just not possible.  He’s not some spring chicken who is just trying to make a name for himself. He is 29. The idea of him being able to maintain this type of rate is just not feasible, given what he has already proven.

He also benefited from an above average strand rate of 78.9 percent. That placed him ninth in the league, after posting marks of 68.9, 68.0 and 68.4 percent the prior three seasons. Again, given his track record, why should we believe that he can maintain this rate?

Blanton’s always allowed a lot of hits, with hitters batting .271 against him in his career (last season he was at .264). That’s just not going to suddenly change. Neither is his walk rate, which is solid but not elite.

So let me get this straight. You have a pitcher: a) who is going to give up his fair share of hits; b) who is going to limit the walks, but by no means is an elite control artist, and c) whose strikeout rate is likely to fall, meaning that he’s going to have to depend on luck to keep his WHIP where it was.

That sounds like a perfect package, doesn’t it? The moral of the story is that his WHIP is likely to take a big hit, and it was just average at best last season.

You couple an increased WHIP with a decreased strand rate? That just has disaster written all over it.

He was much better in the second half, which also says a lot to me:

  • First half: 4.44 ERA over 103.1 innings
  • Second half: 3.62 ERA over 92.0 innings

 

In fact, he was bad in September, posting a 4.91 ERA. That means he had a stellar July and August, but that’s about it. Given his track record, is that enough to hang your hat on?

Before I give my ultimate answer, let’s look at my 2010 projection:

  • 195.0 IP
  • 10 wins
  • 4.20 ERA
  • 1.39 WHIP
  • 125 Ks (5.77 Ks/9 IP)
  • 61 BBs (2.82 BBs/9 IP)

 

Obviously, he’s a pitcher I have no interest in, even playing for one of the best teams in the NL. He plays in a bandbox (1.38 HRs/9 IP), has little chance of repeating his strikeout rate, and really could take a hit in the ERA and WHIP departments.

He also has proven the type of pitcher he is, meaning that he has no real upside. Why would I want to select him in the late rounds instead of a young pitcher who could excel?  I’ll pass outside of the deepest formats or NL-only leagues, considering I should be able to find a similar option on the waiver wire.

What about you? Would you ever consider drafting Blanton? How do you see him performing in 2010?

If you would like to see a free preview of the Rotoprofessor 2010 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide (available for just $5) now including a Top 50 Prospects for 2010 List, click here .

For some 2010 projections, click here .  Among those we’ve already covered include:

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