Philadelphia Phillies: Comparing the Current Lineup to the 1983 'Wheeze Kids'

Marilee GallagherContributor IIJanuary 29, 2013

Philadelphia Phillies: Comparing the Current Lineup to the 1983 'Wheeze Kids'

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    Let's go back a couple of years to remember a certain Philadelphia Phillies team that will always live in the minds and hearts of the fans.

    Ah yes, the year was 2008 and the team was coming off of a glorious and spirited World Championship run, one that won't quickly be forgotten. The year following, the expectations didn't at all waiver, yet, ultimately, the team came up short.

    As the core that brought the city of Philadelphia a championship got older, the Phillies failed time and time again, coming up short in a run at another championship. The players got older and the expectations lessened.

    So was the story of the post 2008 Phillies, a team that...

    Wait... Stop me if you've heard this one before.

    I'm willing to bet most of you have because that is exactly what is going on with the Phillies now. The 2013 team is in the same situation as a team from not too long ago; 30 years to be exact.

    The year was 1983 and the Phillies were just three seasons removed from winning the first ever championship in franchise history. That said, in both '81, much like the '09, '10 and '11 Phillies teams, there were playoffs but nothing further. In '82, the team didn't even sniff the postseason, much like the 2012 Phillies, who missed out on winning an NL wildcard.

    Besides a lack of playoff success, yet another similarity between both teams is age. The '83 team, whose average age topped out at over 32 (slightly older than the 2013 Phillies at 30 plus), was named the "Wheeze Kids." It was a team that consisted of an aging Mike Schmidt and a Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez reunited, yet all in the twilight of their careers. Not much was expected, but much was received.

    That '83 Phillies team pulled off a minor miracle, doing something that the 2013 Phillies team hopes to repeat. They made it to the World Series, and although, they were easily ousted by the Baltimore Orioles, they really did prove that age is just a number.

    So in the spirit of that team's 30th anniversary and the similarities between the two squads, let's take a look at how the players compare position by position.

    The window may be basically closed shut, but if history means anything (and in baseball it often means everything), then the 2013 Phillies should not be counted out.

1B: Pete Rose/Ryan Howard

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    Pete Rose

    In 1983, Pete Rose was hanging on to baseball by a thin thread. At 41 years old, he was playing in what would be the final year of his five year career with the Philadelphia Phillies, although he did go on to play for three more seasons, retiring in 1986 at the age of 44. In staying around the league for such a long time, Rose put up incredible numbers including his major league hits record which still stands.

    In 1982, the 40-year-old Rose played in all 162 games, amassing 634 at-bats. He scored 80 runs, had 54 RBI and finished the season with 172 hits. His average was well below his career mark of .301 as he hit just .272 that year. 

    He followed up that season with stats that slipped a bit in production. Rose played in 151 games and collected 493 at-bats. He had just 121 hits and scored only 52 runs. His average was also much lower as it hit a career low .245.

    Yet still with Rose's diminished production, the 1983 Phillies reached the World Series.

    To the inverse of that, current first baseman Ryan Howard is expected to have a bounce back year, now that he is fully recovered from an injury that kept him out of half of the 2012 season.

     

    Ryan Howard

    Hailed as the best Phillies first baseman since Rose, Ryan Howard took the baseball world by storm with his pure power. In his rookie year when he played in just 88 games, Howard hit 22 home runs. In his sophomore season, he came close to challenging Roger Maris' mark as Howard bashed 58 home runs, a career high. He continually hits 30-plus home runs, missing that mark just twice in his eight year career, both times a result of diminished playing time.

    In 2012, the 33-year-old Howard played in just 71 games as he rehabbed an Achilles injury. He recorded 57 hits in 260 at-bats, finishing with career lows in home runs, runs and RBI. He hit just .219 as well, but still managed to strike out 99 times.

    Howard will enter into the 2013 season more prepared. He should play in most of the 162 games and could be primed to once again top 30 home runs and 100 RBI. Unlike Rose, however, Howard doesn't have the luxury of slumping. If he struggles, it is going to be a long season for Phils fans. 

2B: Joe Morgan/Chase Utley

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    Joe Morgan

    It was more than just a Cincinnati Reds reunion when Hall of Fame great and one of the best second basemen of all time,Joe Morgan, joined Rose and fellow Red Tony Perez to help bring the Philadelphia Phillies a World Championship. The goal was ultimately not accomplished and the 39-year-old Morgan did not have a great year either.

    In 1982, Morgan, a member of the San Francisco Giants, played in 134 games and recorded 463 at-bats. He scored 68 runs, had 134 hits and 14 home runs to go along with 61 RBI. His average was right around his career mark as he finished the season at a clip of .289.

    Upon joining the Phillies, Morgan became the team's every day second baseman. In this role he played in 123 games, recorded 404 at-bats and added just 93 hits. He managed to hit 16 home runs, making him the only player other than Mike Schmidt to have double digits in that category. His .230 average was a career low.

     

    Chase Utley

    Considered one of the best second basemen of 2000's, Chase Utley made a name for himself by doing everything and being committed to improvement. He was never afraid to get his uniform dirty or to be aggressive on the diamond. In a small ballpark, he became a power hitter, taking line drives and shooting them right over the right field fence. His best asset, however, has always been his intelligence. Combined with slightly above average speed, Utley has been caught stealing just 14 times in 135 attempts.

    In 2012, the then 33-year-old Utley, like Howard, spent a good portion of the season on the DL. He was able to play in just 83 games and recorded just over 300 at-bats. He scored 48 runs and 45 RBI while solidly hitting 11 home runs. He finished with a .256 average.

    Unlike Howard, however, Utley's injury has been a chronic problem and there is no guarantee that at 34 years old, he will be able to get his body back into the shape it was in during his best years. As a key cog in the line-up, however, it is hard to see the Phillies doing much if Utley misses significant time or can't get on base regularly. 

SS: Ivan De Jesus/Jimmy Rollins

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    Ivan De Jesus

    After spending the majority of his career playing for the LA Dodgers and Chicago Cubs, the 29-year-old Ivan De Jesus joined the Philadelpiha Phillies in 1982 as their primary shortstop. He spent a total of three years with the Phillies, proving to be a workhorse as he missed just 23 games during those three years.

    In 1982, De Jesus played in 161 games as the Phillies shortstop. He amassed 536 at-bats, scoring 53 runs, recorded 128 hits and 59 RBI. He hit for just .239 that season which was about .14 points below his career average of .254.

    The following season, De Jesus continued to man the middle of the infield, missing just four total games. He scored 60 runs in 497 at-bats and added 126 hits. He had a career second best seven triples and second best four home runs. De Jesus recorded 45 RBI before finishing the season with a .254 average.

     

    Jimmy Rollins

    Recently considered to be the best shortstop in Phillies' history, Jimmy Rollins has been a presence both offensively and defensively for the Phillies. He was the NL MVP in 2007 and has been named to three all star teams as well as the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He holds the record for most at-bats in a season and was a huge catalyst behind the Phillies' 2008 World Series Championship.

    With speed and power, Rollins is one of just four people in the 20-20-20-20 club.

    In 2012, the 33-year-old Rollins, in his first year of his new contract, performed well. He played in 156 games, had 632 at-bats and reached over 150 hits for the 11th time in his career. Rollins also recorded 33 doubles, the most he had since 2009 and hit 23 home runs which is the third most in his career. He stole 30 bases and finished the season with a .250 average.

    Coming off of a bit of a renaissance year, there is optimism that the 34-year-old Rollins could have another solid season. His defense has not worsened, as he won the gold glove in 2012 and overall, in a different spot in the line-up, Rollins could be primed for a successful year.


3B: Mike Schmidt/ Michael Young

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    Mike Schmidt

    There is no denying that Hall of Fame great Mike Schmidt is one of the best, if not the best third baseman of all time. He is also easily one of the best to ever don a Philadelphia Phillies uniform.

    In his 18 year career, all spent with the Phils, Schmidt totaled 408 doubles, 1506 runs, 1595 RBI and 548 home runs, a number that stands as the most in Phillies history. He played in over 2400 games and was invaluable to the team during their 1980 World Championship.

    In 1982, a 32-year-old Schmidt, played 148 games at third. He had 514 at-bats, scored 108 runs and added 87 RBI. He mashed 35 home runs, easily the most on the team, and had a nice 144 hits. He averaged .280, which was significantly better than his .267 career mark.

    In 1983 however, Schmidt was even better. He played in all but eight games putting up solid numbers throughout. He had 534 at-bats with a total of 104 runs and 136 hits. He had 16 doubles and a career third best 40 home runs, marking one of thirteen times in his career where he hit at least 30. Schmidt also had 109 RBI. He was the NL's home run champion and won both the silver slugger and gold glove awards.

    There is no denying that without Schmidt's production, the Phillies would not have had a run at the World Series. The same doesn't exactly go for Schmidt's counterpart, current third baseman Michael Young. While anything Young can provide will likely be an upgrade over what the Phils got last season, he is nowhere near as valuable as Michael Jack.

     

    Michael Young

    This will be Michael Young's first season in his 12-year career that won't be spent in a Texas Ranger uniform. He has been a workhorse, rarely missing significant time due to injury. He has also been a reliable offensive producer, posting a career average of .301.

    In 2012 with the Rangers, a 35-year-old Young played in 156 games and recorded 611 at-bats. He recorded 169 hits and finished the season with a .277 average, both of these numbers which would have been the best if he was on the Phillies.

    Now 36, Young like Schmidt, does not seem to be slowing down with age. While his defense at third is likely not going to win gold gloves like his predecessor, Young has the ability to be a run producer with his consistent average despite not really being a power guy.

C: Bo Diaz/Carlos Ruiz

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    Bo Diaz

    Bo Diaz was the Philadelphia Phillies catcher from 1982-1985 before being traded to the Cincinnati Reds. As the full-time catcher, Diaz was a solid addition to the team in his first two seasons. He played the majority of games and really found his power stroke while in Philadelphia.

    In 1982, the 29-year-old Diaz played in 144 games and recorded 525 at-bats.  He had 151 hits, a career high 29 doubles a career high 18 home runs and a career high 85 RBI. He had a .288 average in what was his best year of his career.

    The following season, Diaz was not nearly as good, a fate Phillies fans are hoping doesn't repeat with Carlos Ruiz. Diaz batted just .236 in 1983 and had just 15 home runs and 64 RBI. The rest of his numbers also dropped from the previous year as Diaz played in about eight less games.

    Because the '83 team was anchored with expectations of production from Schmidt, Rose and Morgan to name a few, Diaz's importance was not nearly as close as Ruiz's is to the 2013 team. Following up his 2012 season won't be easy but it would be a huge asset to the Phils is he can do just that.

     

    Carlos Ruiz

    Brought out through the Phillies farm system, Carlos Ruiz has been the team's primary catcher since 2007. In that time, he has improved his stats just about each and every year, culminating in a strong 2012 campaign. Other than his offense, Ruiz has always been a top notch defender and one of the best game callers in all of the league.

    In 2012, Ruiz had the best year of his career as he paced the Phillies in a number of categories. With Howard and Utley out during the first half, Ruiz surged with career highs in runs (56), hits (121), doubles (32), home runs (16) and RBI (68).

    Ruiz was expected to pick up right where he left off, but that was before he was suspended for 25 games for use of a banned substance. The question that remains is if his career success was a result of the drugs or just a progression of his offensive talent. The Phils are hoping for the latter, and not a situation where his numbers and the overall production at the position lessens.

LF: Gary Matthews/Darin Ruf or Domonic Brown

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    Gary Matthews

    Following a career with the San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves, Gary Matthews at age 30 joined the Philadelphia Phillies for the first of three seasons in 1981. While with the Phillies, Matthews put up solid numbers in his first two seasons including a second best career average of .301.

    In 1982, the 31-year-old Matthews played in a career high 162 games, amassing 616 at-bats and a second best career mark of 173 hits. His 31 doubles were also a second best. Adding to this, Matthews had 19 home runs and a .281 average to finish the season.

    The following season, Matthews' production dropped. Despite the Phillies making the World Series, Matthews only recorded 66 runs, 115 hits and 50 RBI during the regular season. His average dropped to .258, well below his career mark of .281.

     

    Darin Ruf and Domonic Brown

    With the departure of Hunter Pence last season, the expectation is that the Phillies will play a platoon in left field, with most of the innings likely going to young guns, 25-year-old Domonic Brown and 26-year-old Darin Ruf. Both are unproven commodities, especially Ruf who is a first baseman by trade. With the numbers Matthews put up in his 1983 season, however, the platoon between these two should be enough to cover these kind of numbers.


CF: Garry Maddox/Ben Revere

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    Garry Maddox

    The great Harry Kalas once said that two-thirds of the earth is covered by water and the other third is covered by Garry Maddox.

    It was a compliment to the incredibly proficient level of defense Maddox played in perhaps the toughest place on the field to play defense, center field. What the saying didn't speak of, however, was Maddox's offense, which was also pretty good. In his career, he spent all but three seasons with the Philadelpiha Phillies.

    Maddox was 33 by the time the 1982 season rolled around. He still managed to play in 119 games and record 412 at-bats. He had 117 hits, 27 doubles and 61 RBI. He finished the season with a .284 batting average.

    In 1983, Maddox continued to handle most of the duties in center field although the team had instituted a sort of platoon. Maddox played in just 97 games that year, scoring just 27 runs and 14 doubles. He had 32 RBI and had a batting average of .275.

    Like Maddox, Revere is a very capable defensive center fielder. Also like Maddox, his on base percentage is very low as a result of lack of plate discipline and a tendency not to see many pitches. 

     

    Ben Revere

    The 24-year-old Ben Revere will be in his third major league season in 2013 and his first in both the National League and with the Phillies. The expectation is for Revere to be a speed guy for the Phillies utilizing his best asset in his legs.

    In 2012, Revere had his career best season. He played in 124 games, recorded 511 at-bats and put up solid numbers with 150 hits, 40 stolen bases and a .294 average. In 2013, the hope is that he builds off of these numbers and unlike Maddox, progresses forward in his career as opposed to hitting an early stall.

RF: Von Hayes/John Mayberry

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    Von Hayes

    Von Hayes began his career with the Cleveland Indians where he played two seasons being heading to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1983. In all but the final year of his career in 1992, Hayes played for the Phillies and proved to be an asset as a power hitter in right field. He was one of the few Phils that were under 25 during the 1983 season.

    In 1982, his final year with the Indians, Hayes played well. He played in all but 12 games and amassed 527 at-bats. He scored 65 runs, had 82 RBI and 132 hits. Hayes also had 25 doubles and 14 home runs. This was his first full season in the league.

    The following year the 25-year-old Hayes joined the Phils and took over in right field. He played in 124 games, recorded 351 at-bats and had 93 hits. He scored 45 runs and 32 RBI. Overall, his stats decreased in his first season with the team. Nevertheless, the Phillies still reached the World Series.

     

    John Mayberry

    2012 was a bit of an off year for John Mayberry, who had previously proven and earned the starting job in left field in 2011. The 29-year-old Mayberry, now in his third year, will once again get the chance to start, this time in the more challenging right field.

    Mayberry did not have a bad season in 2012. He played in a career high 149 games and recorded career bests in runs, hits, at-bats and doubles. He added to this 14 home runs and 46 RBI, both numbers that will be expected to be improved upon in 2013.