In 2011, the Philadelphia Phillies finished with the best record in the Major Leagues for the second season in a row.
I’m only half-joking when I call the Phillies losers, since just about everyone considers last year a disappointment after Philadelphia entered Spring Training as the consensus as favorite to win the World Series. People were touting their rotation as the greatest of all time and Philly seemed like a juggernaut in the National League.
And they were. They won 102 games and wrecked shop in the regular season. But for the third-straight season, the Phillies have ended their season worse than the year before. After winning the World Series in 2008, they lost in the Fall Classic in 2009. They followed that up with an NLCS loss in 2010. And then last year they didn’t win a single postseason series, falling to St. Louis in the NLDS.
Philadelphia enters the 2012 season with one of the oldest rosters in baseball. They still have a potentially devastating crop of starting pitchers and most of the primary performers from their exceptional five-year run. But everyone is a year older and the pressure is mounting on this aging team to reach its potential and cash in on the championship dreams that everyone harbors for this squad.
Here is Doc’s Sports 2012 Philadelphia Phillies predictions and MLB futures odds:
2011 Record: 102-60
2012 Wins Over/Under: 93.5
Odds To Win 2012 NL East: 1/2.3
Odds To Win 2012 NL Pennant: 2/1
Odds To Win 2012 World Series: 5/1
No problems here. They let Roy Oswalt walk, but I guess they will have to settle for going with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels as their top trio. Yeah, that will work.
Rookie Vance Worley was a stud last year with 11 wins and 3.01 ERA, and he will have a chance to build on that success.
After the top four slots, the Phillies have a question mark. But they also have a lot of options: Joe Blanton is attempting to come back from an elbow issue that cut short his 2011. If he’s healthy, the slot is his. If not, they still have unheralded Kyle Kendrick and a potential bounce-back candidate Joel Pineiro waiting in the wings.
The biggest move of the offseason was bringing in Jonathan Papelbon from Boston to close. I think Papelbon will benefit from a move to the N.L., where opponents either haven’t seen him or haven’t seen much of him. But his velocity is down and I think he’s moved well past his prime.
Philly has cobbled together a decent pen—which dropped from 18th in 2010 to eighth in 2011—and the team benefits from the big innings its starters log.
Philadelphia’s hitting obviously let them down last year. They had finished in the top three in scoring in the National League for seven years before tumbling all the way to seventh in the league last year.
They were mediocre in all aspects, and things could only get harder this year without Ryan Howard, who blew out his Achilles on the last play of their postseason last fall. Howard is already back taking swings, but the Phils likely won’t get him back until late May or early June.
Without him, the pressure will be on aging anchors Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco and Chase Utley. None of them had great years in 2011, and Utley and Polanco battled injury most of the season.
Mid-season acquisition Hunter Pence will be called on to continue his awkward-but-effective style of play. He has averaged 24 home runs and 86 RBI the last four years and they need the 28-year-old to continue to achieve.
They also need someone to step up in left field, where someone (or two) needs to emerge from the crop of Laynce Nix, Dominic Brown and John Mayberry. And I think that pickup Ty Wigginton, who is a proven veteran, will end up being a great fill-in for Howard, and then as a utility man for this team.
2012 Philadelphia Phillies Predictions
The Phillies are usually at their best when facing adversity or playing with lowered expectations. They haven’t exactly been written off, but they aren’t getting one-tenth of the buzz that they received last year. I think that will be good for them.
And they are still the best team in the East. The Mets are a mess, Miami is a paper tiger and Atlanta is a team waiting for a regression. So Philadelphia is going to go back to the postseason and I think that they will make one more good run at it.
2012 Philadelphia Phillies MLB Season Win Totals Predictions
Take ‘under’ 93.5.
This isn’t a number that I would even consider going near, because you don’t really know about Howard and you can’t be sure how their lineup will bounce back.
They won 102 games last year, but don’t head into this season with nearly the same attitude. And their old roster is getting to the point where they are more dangerous in a postseason series than they are for 162 games.
Also, if these guys are in the driver’s seat late in the year—which I expect them to be—I can see Charlie Manuel resting a lot of his arms and his starters’ legs. Philadelphia has won 97 and 102 games the last two years, but prior to that they had topped 94 wins just once in 30 years.
The value is always on the under when you’re looking at the high-profile teams, and that is the way I would recommend playing this one—if you absolutely had to.
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