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“The View from the Philly Pressbox” – Royals Series 2 Recap

In Philadelphia Phillies on April 8, 2013 at 9:46 am

Fransden Walkoff

In the second of our season long series “The View from the Philly Pressbox” takes a look at the Kansas City Royals series. The Phils blew 2 games that they had leads in and won the one game they trailed the entire game, finishing with 1-2 weekend.

Oh, where to start?

  • The Phils spotted Kyle Kendrick a 4 run lead in Game 1 of the series. Kendrick was cruising along with 4 shutout innings before running in to trouble in the 5th. He gave up 2 in the 5th but the Phils still held a 4-2 lead. Things fell apart in the 6th for Kendrick and Jeremy Horst. Horst couldn’t get outs in relief and before the inning was over the Phils trailed 5-4. Horst, Chad Durbin and Raul Valdes got beat up the rest of the way allowing a 4-0 Phils lead to turn in to a 13-4 Royals blowout in which they got 19 hits.
  • In spite of the 4-3 win in Game 2 of the series, the Phils managed just 3 hits.
  • The Phils spotted Cole Hamels a 4-run 1st inning lead only to watch him get bombed for 9 hits and 8 runs with 4 walks in just 5.2 innings of work. Hamels has had two miserable starts to open the season and now has an ERA of 10.97.
  • The bullpen has been awful! They have inherited 11 runners so far this season and 10 have scored.
  • 5 members of the pitching staff have ERA’s over 10, Hamels, Roy Halladay, Chad Durbin, Horst and Raul Valdes.
  • Ryan Howard continues his slow start. He was 3-12 in the series and 4-24 on the season, a .167 average.
  • Phils hitters have struck out 53 times in 6 games, an average of 8.8 strike outs per game.
  • Howard has struck out 8 times on the season, Jimmy Rollins 7 and Erik Kratz 7 after just 6 games.
  • The Phils are getting just .143 and .174 production out of the 7th and 8th spots in the lineup and one of those hits was from Kevin Frandsen as a pinch hitter. Add that to Howard at .167 in the 4th spot.

 In spite of the disappointing weekend there were a few positives.

  • John Lannan was outstanding in his first stat as a Phillie. Lannan went 7 innings allowing 5 hits, 3 runs, 0 walks and 5 K’s. Mike Adams pitched a 1 hit 8th and Antonio Bastardo a 1 walk 9th for the win. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.
  • Kevin Frandsen came up big with his pitch 3-run walk off double for the win in Game 2.
  • Chase Utley continues to swing a hot bat. Utley was 4-12 in the series. His team leading batting average is now .391.
  • Michael Young had 4 hits in the series finale, going 6-12 on the weekend raising his average to .333.
  • Rollins is off to a good start. JRoll is hitting .308 from the 2nd spot in the order.
  • Rollins and Ben Revere each stole another base in the series, giving them each 3 for the season.

 Next Up:

The New York Mets come to Citizens Bank Park. The Phils will throw Halladay, Cliff Lee and Kendrick. The key game in this series will be Game 1 with Hallady. It’s time to see what Doc can do!

 Looking forward:

Update: We didn’t fair too well in our prediction of 2 out of 3 from the Royals, instead losing 2 out of 3. The Phils will need to pick up a game against either the Mets or Marlins this week. They can not afford to fall too far behind.

 The Fightin’s play a total of 27 games in the month of April. This includes 3 at home against the Mets, 3 in Florida, 3 in Cincinnati, 4 back home against the Cardinals, 4 more at home against the Pirates, 3 at New York and the first game of a series against the Indians in Cleveland on the last day of the month. Here’s what we see from the Philly Pressbox, 16-11 or 15-12 at the end of the month. How did we get there? 1-2 Braves, 2-1 Royals, 2-1 Mets, 2-1 Marlins, 1-2 Reds, 2-2 Cardinals, 3-1 Pirates, 2-1 Mets, 1-0 Indians. Losing an extra game to the Cardinals or Pirates wouldn’t be unreasonable. Either way 15 or 16 wins.

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“View from the Philly Pressbox” – 2013 Phillies

In Philadelphia Phillies on April 2, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Phillies

What can we expect from the 2013 Philadelphia Phillies? Can the Phils get to the 88-92 wins it will take to make the playoffs? Here’s how we see the keys to the season from The Philly Pressbox. Lets start out by saying we think they can win 88 games, however, we don’t think they can win 96-100 that it will take to beat the Nationals. They must get off to a quick start when the schedule is in their favor.

 Here’s what has to happen:

  • ·        A combined 50 wins from Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee whether it’s 18, 16 and 16 doesn’t matter.
  • ·        A combined 22 wins from Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan. Again, whether it’s 12 and 10 or 14 and 8, they need to get to 22.

That gives 72 wins from the starting rotation. Are we asking too much? It should be safe to say that Hamels will have another solid season and should win 18 games. It should also be safe to say that Halladay and Lee will improve on the 17-17 record they posted in 2012. That brings us to Kendrick. Last year Kyle posted an 11-12 record with a respectable 3.90 ERA. Can he improve upon that as the #4 starter? We’ll take the 11 wins if he can cut down on the losses. Some run support will help. The #5 starter is lefty newcomer Lannan. Last year with the Nationals he finished 4-1 with a 4.13 ERA in just 6 starts. Basically the Nats gave up on the big man after 6 seasons in the big leagues and a 42-52 record. Can Lannan win 10 games for The Fightins? We think so. He will have to!

 The down side to this thought process is, as always, injuries. Last year the Phils had some depth with Kendrick as the 6th starter but that luxury is gone with the present big league roster.

 Mark this down, the bullpen will be better! Jonathan Papelbon will be solid as the closer. The addition of Chad Durbin and Mike Adams is huge. Add Antonio Bastardo, Jeremy Horst, Phillippe Aumont and Raul Valdes. I like this bunch. They are capable of grabbing 16-18 wins and more importantly not blowing leads late in games that seemed to be the norm in 2012. It will be up to Charlie Manuel and Rich Dubee not to overwork them so they’re ready in the stretch run of late summer.

 Lets talk position players. This is where it gets dicey. I like the infield regardless of its age if they stay healthy. We know what to expect from Jimmy Rollins. We will get 25-30 HR’s and 110 RBI’s from Ryan Howard if he plays 130 games. Michael Young at 3rd base will have to play 120 games, at least, if this lineup will be successful. Young is a good player and has been for a long time but it’s a long season playing every day and not just being a DH. Young contributing in the 5 hole will be huge. Chase Utley has got to have a big year. Watching Utley in the spring was fun again as he finally looks healthy. Chase has averaged just 100 games each of the last 3 seasons contributing 38 HR’s and 154 RBI’s. A healthy Utley playing 130+ games means 25 HR’s and 90 RBI’s in 2013.

 The infield depth could be a real question mark. Kevin Frandsen did a nice job in 2012 and deserved to be on the roster. Frandsen will be solid resting Young, however his lack of pop, his career 9 HR’s changes the dynamics of the lineup if he has to play an extended period of time. Freddy Galvis rounds out the infield. We are not big on Galvis and stand behind what we said last season, “he can’t hit big league pitching” and that was before he was suspended for performance enhancing drugs.

 The outfield is full of questions marks. Ben Revere will be a solid young player that will hit for average and steal bases. Hopefully he will be the leadoff hitter. Dominic Brown had a real good spring but the jury is still out on him. He has a lot to prove at the big league level. Lance Nix is not a starting everyday outfielder. John Mayberry has never earned a full time job. Delmon Young hasn’t shown much interest in playing and starts the season on the disabled list. The last spot currently belongs to Ezequiel Carrera. Who? Overall this outfield is not very strong.

 The catching position is also in flux. Erik Kratz will be the man for the first 25 games due to the suspension of Carlos Ruiz. Kratz played in only 50 games last season, a career high, and hit .248. Kratz will hold down the fort until Ruiz returns. Chooch will need another strong season. Humberto Quintero will back up Kratz.

 The summary is, can the pitching win without a strong lineup? That’s what it will take to make the playoffs. Can the Phils stay healthy? That’s what it will take to make the playoffs. There is no depth! Can Utley and Howard return to years past? That’s what it will take to make the playoffs. Can Chooch have as good a year as he did in 2012? That’s what it will take to make the playoffs. As important as anything can Halladay and Lee return to years past? That’s what it will take to make the playoffs.

 The Philly Pressbox prediction is 88 wins, 74 loses, 3rd in the East and the #5 playoff spot. Once you get to “The Party” the pitching takes over and The Fightins could surprise people in a short series.

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Phillies Profile – Ryan Howard

In Philadelphia Phillies on March 17, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Over the next 28 days Philly Pressbox (https://phillypressbox.wordpress.com) (@phillypressbox) will be doing a review and analysis of each Phillies player, Manager Charlie Manuel and the coaching staff leading up to Opening Day 2012.  On Day 9, we preview Ryan Howard.

Ryan Howard – “The Big Piece” is the key to the middle of the Phillies line up and the key to The Fightins reaching the World Series in 2012. Howard has hit home runs at a greater pace than any Phillie in history, including Michael Jack Schmidt. In his 6 seasons as the Phils regular 1st baseman Ryan has hit 58, 47, 48, 45, 31 and 33 home runs, leading the league twice. He’s also driven in over 108 runs every year while leading the league in RBI’s three times with over 141 each of those years. Howard won the Rookie of the Year award in 2005, won the MVP Award in 2006, finished 2nd in the MVP voting in 2008 and is a 3 – time all star selection. Interestingly enough if you take a close look at Howards statistics his best seasons came when the #3 hitter, Chase Utley, in the lineup had his best seasons and the #5 hitter, Jayson Werth, had his best seasons. It all works together for Howard. When Utley has been injured and missed games or not been up to his best, which means not on base as much, Howard doesn’t get the good pitches he used to get. The same can be said for the 5 hole in the lineup when Werth signed with the Nationals and Hunter Pence was not yet a Phillie. Look for yourself. Utley over the last 5 seasons has hit .332, .292, .282, .275, and .259. Howards RBI totals have been 136, 146, 141, 108, and 116 during the same period. These numbers are still awful good for any player, but not what we’ve come to expect from “The Big Piece.” With that said, it’s pretty clear that Ryan has developed some bad habits at the plate. He’s not getting the pitch selection he used to get. He’s seeing constant breaking balls away and is chasing them and striking out too much. The habits are bad, but the fact the table isn’t set by the top of the lineup results in Howard not seeing as many fastballs as he used to. A healthy Utley and the everyday presence of Pence in the 5 hole will help Howard in 2012.

Defensively, Howard continues to get better each season. After leading the league in errors 3 years in a row Howard finished with a career best .993 fielding percentage in 2011 with only 9 errors. This is down considerably from his career low numbers of .988 and 19 errors in 2008.

Personal Analysis:

The news out of Clearwater seems to be getting worse. The latest projection is that Ryan won’t be ready to play until late May or early June. GM Ruben Amaro said When (the wound) gets healed over and we feel comfortable he can take the boot off, that’s what we’ll do, but he’s doing some more activities now, he’s doing some cardio stuff, he’s taking ground balls on the bucket. “I think he’s going to take throws … he’s doing stuff he can do when he’s in the boot that aren’t ridiculous, but things that will help him so he’s not too far removed from doing baseball stuff.” With that said the Phillies will err on the side of caution and not bring Howard back too early and risk not having him for the second half of the season. The Phillies will need to hold down the fort with their solid pitching, get good contributions from whatever combination of players they decide to use at 1st base and Pence will have to be solid in the #4 spot. None of that matters if the combination of Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Placido Polanco and Utley don’t set the table for Pence. We know Pence won’t hit the home runs that Howard hits but he could drive in the runs. Once Howard returns, we expect 18-24 home runs and 60 RBI’s down the stretch. The Phils will need “The Big Piece” to be healthy for the second half of the season to win the 2012 World Series.

Tomorrow we will preview Chase Utley.

The series: Day 1, Charlie Manuel. Day 2, The Coaching Staff. Day 3, Roy Halladay. Day 4, Cliff Lee. Day 5, Cole Hamels. Day 6, Vance Worley. Day 7, Joe Blanton. Day 7, Carlos “Chooch” Ruiz.

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HOW DO WE PICK OUR FAVORITE PLAYERS?

In Misc Philly Sports on February 28, 2012 at 10:22 am

Have you ever given any thought to how you pick the players or coaches that become your favorites? My Father says if they wear our colors they’re my favorite. I’ve thought about this for some time but two events took place this past week that forced me to dig in to the books and do some research on the subject. Those two things were the reevaluation of Ryan Howard’s achilles tendon that seemed to bring out the “haters”. There are a lot of doubters out there about Ryan. The second one was the trade of Jeff Carter from Columbus to LA. Let’s start with these and we’ll go from there. Recently we did a poll on http://phillypressbox.com and on our Facebook page at Philly Pressbox and not one person selected Ryan Howard as their favorite Phillie. We also did a separate poll of who were your 5 favorite Phillies of all time and only one person mentioned Ryan. Honestly, he’s not my favorite either but he’s a really good player. I did some comparisons to the greatest home run hitter and greatest player in Phillies history to see how they match up. Howard is 31 years old so that was the bench mark to compare Howard’s stats to Schmidt’s when he was 31. Schmidt played in 1336 games and Howard in 1027 games. Schmidt had 4581 at bats and Howard 3794. Schmidt hit 314 HR’s, Howard 286. That’s 28 less homers in 309 less games and 787 less at bats. Schmidt led the league in Home Runs 5 times and Howard twice. Schmidt had 1216 hits and Howard has 1043 hits. Schmitty’s batting average was .265 and Ryan’s is .275. Now for the big stat against Ryan Howard – Strikeouts!!! Howard has struck out 1207 times and has led the league once while Schmidt struck out 1148 times and led the league 3 times. Obviously in the field there’s no one like Mike Schmidt. This isn’t meant to compare Ryan Howard to Mike Schmidt but to compare Ryan Howard to greatness. His numbers match up pretty well against the Greatest Player in Phillies history. Besides that, have you ever heard a bad word off the field about Howard? He’s a genuine nice guy!!!

That brings us to Carter. Why is it that people don’t like Carter? I keep hearing that he and Mike Richards liked the night life of Philly too much. Really? They were in their 20’s, single, millionaires that are out having a good time. Do you think players from other teams sit in the house at night? More importantly why do we care what they do outside their uniform unless it’s David Akers and many others trying to raise money for charities or their foundations? Do you really care about the 76ers player that had 8 children with 3 different women and 2 of the children outside his marriage while he was married to his wife? Who cares, it’s his business so why do we care about Carter? In Carter’s Flyers career he scored 181 goals and had 162 assists scoring 46 goals in one season and topping 30 in two others. Yet, many people were happy to see him traded by the Flyers and seemed it was funny that he was traded to LA to play again with Richards. Why don’t we like Jeff Carter?

Moving along to a few others that I find interesting. We love Dick Vermeil but we hate Andy Reid. Vermeil is still on billboards in town after leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl and losing, ummm 32 years ago. Vermeil coached the Eagles for 6 ½ seasons and had a record of 54-47. The Eagles finished first in the NFC East 1 time and 2nd – 3 times under Vermeil. Everybody seems to want a shot at Reid, although I’m not one of them. Reid has been with the Eagles for 13 seasons. His record is 126-81-1. The Eagles have been to one Super Bowl and lost. They have won 6 NFC East titles and have finished 2nd – 4 other times. Why don’t we like Andy Reid?

Andre Iguodala is next on the list. At the start of the season everybody said this guy had to go. Here we are at mid-season and he’s selected for his first all star game. Iggy is the best player on the team but we have no love for him. He’s a hard worker on both ends of the court and is a fantastic defensive player. He’s in his 7th season with the 76ers and it’s surely not his fault there hasn’t been anyone to play around him. He’s averaged 79 games a year up to this year, they only play 82, and he’s averaing15.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg and 4.8 apg over his career. These aren’t superstar numbers but solid none the less. Why don’t fans like Iggy?

Then we have Jimmy Rollins, he calls out the Philly fans but we love him. Even Jason Avant called out the fans and for some reason we still like him. DeSean Jackson quit on his team, the fans and the City of Philadelphia but we seem to still like him. Shane Victorino has a great smile so we love him. Jayson Werth strikes out too much we don’t like him. Cole Hamels is borderline. A couple bad game and we don’t like him. Mike Schmidt wasn’t a beloved player for most of his career but Larry Bowa was. What about Brett Myers? We loved Harry the K and Whitey but don’t think much of Wheels and Sarge. Donovan McNabb, we’re not sure what to think about him. There’s no in the middle with him, you’re either in or you’re out. The same can be said for Randall Cunningham. Did we really have Ron Jaworski fans in town when he played? Jeff Garcia was a fan favorite. We love Reggie White and I have no idea why. We’ll talk more about him in a future post. Bill Bergey, Vince Papale, Brian Dawkins and Brian Westbrook are in, TO and Freddie Mitchell are out. What about Eric Lindros? Is he in or out? Scott Hartnell is in this year but out last year. How about Mark Recchi who won rings everywhere but here? Rick Tocchett is in. How about Lappy, Ian Laperriere? Do we really love any Flyers goalies besides Bernie Parent and maybe Ron Hextall. Brad Lidge made us nervous but we love the Tugger and even Mitch Williams, talk about two guys that could make you nervous. We love John Kruk but don’t like Ryan Howard.  What about Aaron Rowand and Lenny Dykstra? We even love Darren Daulton but don’t like Scott Rolen and Curt Schilling. Gregg Jefferies, Danny Jackson, Jamie Moyer? What about Dick, don’t call me Richie, Allen and what do we think about Charles Barkley and Allen (It’s only practice) Iverson? How about George McGinnis?

Of course there has to be a separate love/hate category for Pete Rose, Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Ricky Watters, Peter Forsberg, and Jaromir Jagr.  Superstar outsiders that we hated before they got here but cheered for like crazy once they were here. Only Forsberg really let us down.

We’ve thrown out a lot of names and missed a lot as well but what we haven’t figured out is why we like or don’t like players or coaches when in almost every case we’ve never met them. Is it whether they brought a championship to town or if they’re the best players on their particular team? Is it the effort we feel they put in while they’re playing? Is it the way they come across on TV? Is it the way the media presents them or is it because you did see them and got or didn’t get an autograph?

Let us know?

As Andy would say “TIME’S YOURS”

Pick Your Favorite All Time Phillie

In Philadelphia Phillies on February 11, 2012 at 11:00 am

After watching a disappointing 1 point 76ers lose to the Clippers last night we woke up to several inches of snow on the ground and it’s still snowing. It made me think that we’re only a week from Pitchers and Catchers reporting to Spring Training in Clearwater. Opening day of April 5 is not far away!!!

 What a great time to look back at our favorite Phillies of all time.

 Depending on how old you are there are different groups of Phils that you would probably consider your favorites. I’m sure you have your own list but here are a few to jog your memory. Remember you only get to pick 5. It makes it a lot tougher.

1950’s – Richie Ashburn, Robin Roberts, Del Ennis, Andy Seminick, Jim Konstanty, Willie “Puddin Head” Jones

1960’s – Jim Bunning, Johnny Callison, Richie Allen, Tony Taylor, Cookie Rojas

1970’s & 80’s – Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Pete Rose, Gary Maddox, Larry Bowa, Bob Boone, Tug McGraw, Greg Luzinski

1990’s – John Kruk, Darren Daulton, Lenny Dykstra, Curt Shilling, Dave Hollins, Jim Eisenreich, Mitch Williams

2000’s – Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Roy Halliday, Cole Hamels, Brad Lidge, “Chooch” Ruiz

Here are my 5 favorites Phillies of all time:

  1. Mike Schmidt – I could switch 1 and 2 with no problem. Schmitty played every day, hit 548 Home Runs, won 10 Gold Gloves and 3 MVP’s.
  2. Steve Carlton – There was no one better. Lefty won 329 games with 4,136 strikeouts. He won 4 Cy Young Awards. To put his career in perspective he has 141 more wins and over 1,200 more strikeouts than Halliday who’s arguably the best pitcher of this era.
  3. Brad Lidge – His perfect season in engrained in my head. In 2008 he was 2-0, 1.95 ERA, and 41 saves in 41 opportunities in the regular season and added 7 more saves in the playoffs. This is possibly the greatest season ever by a Phillie at any position. In 4 seasons with the Phils he had 41, 31, 27 and 1 save for 100 regular season saves and 12 post-season saves.
  4. Johnny Callison – My first favorite Phillie as a kid. He played for the Phils from 1960-1969 and hit 185 Home Runs. He was a runner up MVP in 1964 and the All Star game MVP.
  5. Chase Utley – Although it doesn’t look like Chase is going to get the Hall of Fame numbers I thought he was I still just like everything about the way he plays. He’s fundamentally sound player you love to coach and have on your team. As “Harry The K” would say “Chase Utley you are The Man”!!!

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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