If Roy Halladay isn't the Phillies' most important off-season pickup, than who is?
Remember this: Placido Polanco will wind up making the most impact on this team in 2010. I know all of the arguments and question marks around Polanco:
Can he still play third base? Can he hold his own there like Pedro Feliz? Is Placido getting old and losing his abilities?
All players have question marks and I cannot hold too much weight on those questions just yet.
Placido Polanco will be very important this year. The first statistic that stands out about him is that he is an excellent contact-hitter. He had just 46 strikeouts last season, 43 in 2008, and 30 in 2007.
There is not a regular full time player on the Phillies that can even come close to having such low strikeout totals.
Lead-off hitter Jimmy Rollins had 70 last year. But the argument is that Rollins is not a typical lead-off hitter. I do not think Placido Polanco should lead off. But his low strikeout totals are going to give the Phillies' powerful lineup a sense of balance that they never had before.
Balance meaning the Phillies willl have a guy they can count on to get on base and do the little things to add another weapon to this already loaded offense.
Of course, making this statement does depend on where he bats in the lineup. I think manager Charlie Manuel can't argue with the fact that Placido needs to bat second and just how productive that will be.
Of course, outfielder Shane Victorino has batted in that spot for the last two years.
But how more much productive will the Phillies' offense be with Polanco in that spot, who strikes out less than Victorino?
It is not so much the fact of strikeouts, but the fact that the ball will be put into play more so when Placido is batting.
The ball being put into play more often can result in very good outcomes.
A strikeout gets you nowhere.
Polanco is more apt to move a runner then Shane is at bat. Polanco will step into the batter's box with a game-plan and is a more experienced hitter than Victorino.
Admit it Phillies fans, the most disappointing thing about this team in the last three years has been during its stretches when the offense can't score a single run.
That kind of thing happens to an offense that depends so much on the "long ball."
I remember watching this team, screaming at the TV when they have runners on first and second and then Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth strikes out.
Strikeouts have been a big problem for this team. That is why they went out and signed Polanco.
I was happy with this the Polanco signing because it gives this team more balance than they've ever had before.
If the lineup looks like this—Rollins, Polanco, Chase Utley, Howard, Werth, Raul Ibanez, Victorino, Carlos Ruiz, and then the pitcher, then yes, the impact will be strong.
Not only will Polanco help this offense, but Victorino moving to seventh will give Charlie Manuel so many other options down at the bottom of the lineup.
They will have speed at the bottom, which they never had with slow-footed Pedro.
Think about what could happen if Ibanez leads off an inning: you have a couple of options because of Shane being down there and Ruiz to follow. You may even be able to steal a cheap run down at the bottom of the lineup.
Here's a final benefit of Polanco playing in Philly: The Phillies can give Chase Utley a couple of days off without killing their offense and defense.
Nobody, including Chase, wants to sit on the bench.
But this team and its fans need to realize that playing in the postseason year after year, while the importance of the entire team grows and grows. Players need that rest because playing in the playoffs extends their season by over a month.
Clearly, I'm very glad the Phillies now have Roy Halladay. I cannot wait to see him pitch every five days.
But, as everyone knows, a pitcher only plays every five days and Polanco will be on the field every day.
Being on that field daily we all will get to see balance and a more productive Phillies' offense. I cannot wait to hear the crack of the bat—pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 18—Playball!