The Team to Beat?

Chris DowhowerContributor IMarch 31, 2008

The team that won the NL East division last year is not a serious contender. Despite what Jimmy Rollins says, and sports writers predict, they are not the team to beat.If you put this team under the microscope you will see how the hype does not match the product. Opening night gave everyone an insight into what will hurt this team all year long. Lack of starting pitching, a weak bullpen, too many strike outs, and inconsistent play.

The starting pitching is thin at best. Hamels is a stud, but in a division where Johan Santana and John Smoltz are, you need more than one stud pitcher. Many people point to Brett Myers as the Phils other possible ace. Uh, Brett Myers is not an ace, period. He has not been one since he's been a starter, and will not be one this year. A career 59-47 pitcher, is being counted on to finally show the form that made him a top prospect.  I'm not sure why, he going to have adjust to being a starter again, he still has control issues, and he still is plagued by the big inning.

Next they have Kyle Kendrick. Many expect him to build on the success he had last year. My question is haven't Philly fans seen this before. Remember Pat Combs, Ben Riveria, Mike Grace, Robert Person,etc. A guy who comes from nowhere, has a good half a year, and never does it again. Have you seen Kendrick's .280 BA. against him last year, lets see how that works out for him this year.

The rest of the rotation rounds off with 45 year old Jamie Moyer (5.01era last yr), Adam Eaton (6.29 era last yr), and or Chad Durbin (4.72 era last year). None go deep into games, and will put even more strain on a questionable relief corps.   

Relief pitching had become one of the most important commodities in baseball. The Phillies believe they have a quality bullpen. I think it is mediocre at best. The Phils did well adding Brad Lidge to help replace Brett Myers as closer. Hopefully he can regain his health and confidence and become a shutdown closer he once was. Ryan Madson appears to be finally used to his role, giving another quality arm.

Then the real issues surface. Tom Gordon got smoked opening night, and has been really inconsistent for the past year. He is not getting any younger, or any better over time. He looks like Mitch Williams out there towards the end of his Phillies career. J.C. Romero is not as good as he looked last year. If you need proof look at his 6.70 era in 2007. He will return back to reality this season. Condrey and Lahey, are well Condrey and Lahey. 

So poor starting pitching and questionable relief pitching usually spell disaster. Philly believers point to there potent line up as the equalizer. The line up is good, but lets not act like its the Tigers or the Yankees line up. There are holes, and I am not just talking about in there swings.

Rowand and his right handed .309 BA 27HR 89 RBI's in 161 games has moved on. In is Geoff Jenkins left handed .255 21HR 64 RBI's in 132 games, plus his 116 strike outs, platooning with Jason Werth. Will these two replace the consistency Rowand provided last year protecting Ryan Howard. You never know which Pat Burrell will show up.  Pedro Feliz with his .244 avg. is an improvement over Wes Helms you would think. There is an overload of lefty hitters not being balanced out by quality right handed bats. This line up has a lot of guys who strike a lot, don't hit for avg., and have little speed. If they hit bombs they will be fine. If they don't the line up will have trouble manufacturing runs. Don't forget how non-potent this line up looked while getting swept by the Rockies.

This years Phillies is not much improved from last years team, if improved at all. The Mets collapsed and only lost by one game last year. They have added Johan Santana and get back Pedro, mixed with the improvement of John Maine. The Braves have Teixeira for a whole season, got back Mike Hampton, and rookie prospect Jair Jurrjens makes his debut. The Nationals have an improved line up, and the Marlins are still really young, but do have some talent. So the rest of the division for the most part has improved and the Phillies have not. My prediction is the Philles will finish third, and a World Series isn't even close to a possibility. I'm not sure why everybody seemed to think it was.