The Baseball Notebook

March 25, 2010 11:31 AM

Philadelphia Phillies Preview

In a short period of time, the Philadelphia Philles have transformed themselves into one of the true powerhouses of baseball. Two straight National League pennants, including a World Series title in 2008 mark their resume, and their financial situation is strong. They were able to swing a deal to get Roy Halladay in, and their wealth is sufficient that it was able to be rumored that they would trade Ryan Howard for Albert Pujols—on the grounds that the Phils could handle inking Pujols to the A-Rod type of contract he will surely command.

In spite of all that, the Phils aren’t at Yankee-type levels of resources, though they are probably on a financial par with teams like the Red Sox, Cubs, Mets, Angels and Dodgers in the upper middle class. Philly still had to choose between keeping Cliff Lee or acquiring Halladay this past offseason. Given Lee’s success in the latter half of last season and his two wins over the Yanks in the Series, I was surprised they didn’t keep him. But Halladay is still one of the game’s top pitchers. As a flyball pitcher working in a hitter’s park, that will hurt him—but he also will be dealing with NL lineups now, a change that proved to be a boon the last two years for Lee and C.C. Sabathia. And the Phillies’ outfield defense is very good.

Halladay is at the top of a good rotation. Cole Hamels slipped last year, but remains a lefty with ace-type stuff. Joe Blanton is a good innings-eater, and J.A. Happ is a potential star in his own right. To win a 100 games, they would need one more arm and in that light I thought they might hold on to Pedro Martinez, but I was again wrong in guessing their intentions. My judgment of what the Phils’ front office is about as good as my picks on the NCAA Tournament (which leads me into the segueway of inviting you to visit The College Basketball Notebook where regional previews are going in preparation for tonight’s games).

The offense is never a worry in Philadelphia. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are potent bats that lead it all up, and Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez are complete offensive threats themselves. Then we look at Shane Victorino, who’d be a star on most other teams, plus Jimmy Rollins who is a good, albeit overrated threat. Philly’s picked up Placido Polanco to play third after spending his career at Detroit’s second basemen. Prior to a bad year last season, Polanco had been good with the bat.

Bottom line—Philadelphia isn’t going to have any trouble getting leads and keeping them going through seven innings. It’s what happens after that which will decide their 2010 fate. The pen wasn’t good last year and it ultimately cost them the World Series. It doesn’t look much better this year, with the health of Brad Lidge and J.C. Romero up in the air. Philly is talented enough to be a contender and make the playoffs on the strength of their starters and offense. But they need the relief pitching to come through to prevail against the best.

Up Next: Red Sox tomorrow, Cubs on Saturday, Yankees on Sunday.
Final NL East Picks & Preview: March 29.

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