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The Phils, Hamels and Spring Training

In Philadelphia Phillies on January 18, 2012 at 10:29 am

I woke up this morning to the great news that Cole Hamels is back in the fold for another year. As I’m looking out the window watching the snow fall on this frigid January day the Hamels signing makes me think about getting started in sunny Clearwater Florida. I can see Doc Halladay working out at the Carpenter Complex as I’m typing. As far as Hamels $15 million is nothing to sneeze at but I’d sure like to see a long term deal, 3 -4 years, made to keep Hamels through his prime years. It seems hard to believe that Cole is just 28 years old since he’s been in the big leagues with the Phils since 2006. I think he was the most consistent of the starters last season, including Halliday. The offense just didn’t score runs for him. His 2011 stats of 14-9 with a 2.79 ERA and 0.99 WHIP (walks, hits per innings pitched) were career bests. He could have easily won 4 more games with a little more offense.

That brings us to the 2012 season. Is this a better team than the 2011 team? As it stands today I don’t think so. It’s safe to say that the offense hasn’t improved at all. We have lost Raul Ibanez, it was probably time to go, and plan to replace him on a full time basis with former part timer John Mayberry. Mayberry deserves a chance after having a nice 2011 as a reserve. He hit .273 with 15 HR’s and 49 RBI’s. The problem is that Mayberry has never had more than 8 RBI’s in a season before that and he’s 28 years old. To be safe there needs to be a backup plan. At this point the outfield reserves are Lance Nix and Dom Brown. I’m not comfortable there. Obviously there’s a lot expected from Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence in the other outfield spots. Pence will have his hands full early in the season with Ryan Howard on the disabled list. Pence will likely be asked to bat in the clean-up spot.

The infield hasn’t changed except that it got a year older and hopefully gets healthier. This is the year for Chase Utley. Utley is still a solid player but has fallen out of the elite group over the last couple years. Most of that has been blamed on health issues, which may be true; however it’s time to get back to the old Chase. Over the last 5 seasons his batting average has been .332, .292, .282, .275, and .259. His HR numbers have also declined over that period, 22, 33, 31, 16, and 11, and with that comes RBI reductions, 103, 104, 93, 65 and 44. Chase turns 32 years old this Spring. As stated earlier this is a critical year for both Chase and the Phillies success. Placido Polanco had an outstanding first half of the season. It was obvious he fought through injuries for a good part of the season. He was still selected to the All Star game and won the Gold Glove at 3rd base. Polly is 36 years old. He needs a healthy 2012. It’s good to have Jimmy Rollins back. I like JRoll but didn’t want to over pay him or sign him for too long. He’s been the leader of the line-up but has obviously tailed off since his MVP year of 2007. His average from 2007-2011 has been .296, .277, .250, .243 and .268 although his On Base Percentage has stayed pretty much level. Jimmy needs to get on base and be the guy that drives this offense. JRoll is now 33 years old. That brings us to Ryan Howard and his health. The Phils need a healthy Ryan Howard and they need him soon. Howard still strikes out way too much but there are only a few players that can say they’ve driven in over 100 runs 6 years in a row while hitting between 31 and 58 HR’s over those years. Howard is also 32 years old and won’t be able to keep producing these numbers forever. The infield bench doesn’t look much different. We’ve added future Hall of Famer and 1st class guy in Jim Thome and his 604 career home runs and Ty Wiggington as reserves. Thome is expected to be the left handed and Wiggington the right handed reserves/pinch hitters off the bench.  Wouldn’t it be great if Thome can be ready to start while Howard is injured and produce great numbers? The other infield reserves are Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez. They both are adequate reserves. One of these two likely won’t be around when camp breaks. Overall I don’t see any improvement in the infield.

The catchers are still Carlos Ruiz and Brian Schneider. Chooch had a nice season last year and has become a top notch catcher in the National League. He caught 132 games last year and turns 33 years old before Spring Training. Schneider does a nice job as a backup but it’s time to be getting someone ready to take over the catcher spot in the near future.

The starting pitching will still be strong with Halladay, Hamels, Cliff Lee, and 2 of the 3, Vance Worley, Joe Blanton or Kyle Kendrick. Whoever loses out on the 5th starter spot will move to the bullpen unless a trade is made. I like Worley and Blanton in those spots but Kendrick pitched well at the end of last season.

I’m having real problems with the bullpen. I’m okay with the signing of Jonathan Papelbon. In the last 6 seasons he’s recorded 35, 37, 41, 38, 37 and 31 saves. He’s a proven guy that can get it done. With that said I’d like to have seen Ryan Madson stay. Obviously something went wrong whether it was the Phillies, Madson or agent Scott Boras. Either way, Madson didn’t get the free agent deal he was expecting, 1 year – $8.5m with Cincinnati, and will not be back. It would’ve been nice to have Papelbon and Madson if it was possible. The rest of the bullpen looks like Antonio Bastardo as the lefty, Michael Stutes as the righty. Both of these guys had outstanding rookie years before running low in the gas tank toward the end of the season. That leaves just 2 spots left, assuming that either Valdez or Martinez is not with the club clearing out a spot, those choices are Jose Contrares, coming off an injury, David Herndon, Michael Schwimer, Joe Savery and Justin De Fratus. I don’t know about you but that bullpen doesn’t scare me. The key could be Savery, a former 1st round draft pick that seems to finally be coming in to his own as a left handed reliever. He needs time to prove he can pitch at the big league level.

It’s time to get started. I think I can hear bats and balls as I’m looking through the snow. It’s time to make another run to a World Championship!

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  1. Bill,

    We need to find you a paying sponsor for your wealth of information and deep analysis.

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