Sunday, January 20, 2008

What's Missing: Philadelphia Phillies Edition

Philadelphia Phillies - RH Bat, Starter not named Adam Eaton. Relief Pitching

And I'm back in reality. The 2007 NL East Champs (it pains me to say that) should have no problems scoring runs in the coming season. They led the National League in runs scored (2nd in MLB) and the lineup remains largely intact. While there is no such thing as a sure thing, the big three of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and (ahem) MVP Jimmy Rollins come close. And Pat Burrell will continue to be denied his just praise by the Phillies fan base. The only real change in the lineup comes in the form of Geoff Jenkins, who will most likely get the bulk of the time in RF, while Shane Victorino moves to Center to replace the departed Aaron Rowand. I was a bit surprised by the Jenkins deal, as I thought that the Phils were already loaded with hitters capable of hitting from the left side. Howard, Utley, Greg Dobbs, Rollins, Victorino, and now Jenkins are all either lefty or switch hitters, leaving only Carlos Ruiz and Pat Burrell hitting from the right side during most games. Jayson Werth should see some time in lieu of Jenkins against lefty pitching, but I do wonder if they should get an additional rightly capable of swinging the bat.

I do have to admire the Phillies for obtaining Brad Lidge from Houston on the cheap. This has of course allowed the team to move Brett Myers back into the rotation, and he and Cole Hamels should be a formidable duo atop the rotation. However, much like Atlanta, the rest of the rotation needs work. There are mixed feelings on Kyle Kendrick. So far in his brief MLB career, he hasn't induced nearly enough ground balls (1.55 GB/FB ratio) to make up for the fact that he strikes out far too few (3.8 K/9 IP. 3.8!!!) . His peripheral stats project him as someone who should have an ERA in the mid-to-high-fours. I do expect Jamie Moyer to be slightly better than he was in 2007, but this does assume that his magic anti-aging powder was not discontinued. Plus, Moyer had an ERA over 5 last year, so “slightly better” in this context doesn't have much weight. But compared to Adam Eaton, I'll take Kendrick and Moyer any day. Here’s a general rule of thumb: bringing an extreme fly ball pitcher into an extreme home run hitters’ park is generally a bad idea. Just think Philly fans, only two more years and $16.135 million to go! At this point, Chad Durbin would most likely be the safer option.

While I still have faith that Brad Lidge can be a fine closer, I do wonder about this team’s bullpen. Tom Gordon (can we stop calling him Flash now?) is no longer reliable, and they have no viable lefty option after J.C. Romero. Will someone step up?