Thursday, February 19, 2009

Phillies Preview with Balls, Sticks & Stuff

Continuing my tour around the blogs of the NL East, today we're chatting about the World Champion Phillies with Tom from the excellent Phillies blog Balls, Sticks & Stuff.

Finish the following statement: The Phillies will be better than expected if...
...Everyone plays the way they are capable of playing. Take a look and you'll see that outside of Brad Lidge and maaaaybe Jayson Werth, not too many players had career years. Certainly Howard, Utley and Jimmy Rollins, the core of the team, didn't. That says something that the team won the World Series and there were very few "career years."

And, The Phillies will be worse than expected if...
...The pitching falters. Last year's success was all about the pitching living up to the standards the offense had been setting for years. If the pitching reverts back to 2006 or 2007 form, there could be some problems.

Why would the Phillies be willing to pay Raul Ibanez more than Pat Burrell?
Beats me. Does anyone know? If they do, I would love to know the answer. My only guess is that during the summer, Burrell had turned down a deal from the Phillies that was bigger than what Ibanez signed for early in the winter. Then, the bottom fell out of the market and Burrell had to settle for even less from the Rays. I think this is a case where both the player and the team misjudged the market.

Don't misunderstand me, I think Ibanez is a fine player and probably more consistent than Burrell, who would rake for a month and then whiff for the next month, but I think the Phillies could have done better in that area.

How worried are you about Cole Hamels's health following last season's workload?
Pretty worried actually. If you told me right now he'd pitch 175 innings this year, I'd go down on bended knee and thank you profusely. To be fair, he does have a very strict workout and treatment routine that kept him very healthy last year, but still, that was a huge increase in workload when you consider the regular season and the post-season.

Who will and who should win the fifth spot in the rotation? Kyle Kendrick, J.A. Happ, or someone else?
Adam Eaton and Chan Ho Park are long-shots at best and I think the Phillies think Carlos Carrasco needs a bit more seasoning at AAA Lehigh Valley before getting a shot later in the summer. That leaves Kendrick and Happ and I think will get the nod, but don't be surprised if Kendrick gets at least two or three starts this summer in some fashion.

How will the Phillies get by if Chase Utley isn't ready for a significant period of time to start the season? And would you have any interest in Ron Belliard?
Given that Belliard has a physique reminiscent of Pat Burrell's bulldog Elvis, we'll pass. The word right now is that Utley will be ready for Game 1, so it probably won't be a problem. If he misses, say, the first week, I think utility-man Eric Bruntlett will just fill in. On the other hand, if there is a setback and he misses a month, then we're probably looking at comeback-candidate Marcus Giles or prospect Jason Donald.

What else should we watch for when the Phillies come to town this year?
The huge smiles on the faces of their fans. It was a long wait.

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