NL East Preview: Phillies

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NL East Preview: Phillies
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Well here we are.  Just about 2 weeks and some change from Opening Day for Major League Baseball.  Teams are shortening up their rosters and pitchers are lengthening their innings.  All the prep work, all the sweating, the BP, the stretching.  It's all about to pay off.  

So what can you expect from the Phillies this season?   This is the question that Crashburn Alley asked 16 Phillies Bloggers.  We were asked about Cole Hamels and company to see how well we thought our beloved Phightins would fair this season.  You can check out Crashburn Alley's site to see what everyone had to say.  Below you can read how I responded to the questions.  Hopefully this will stir up some conversation.

  1. How concerned are you about Cole Hamels going into 2010?

 When a pitcher comes off a frustrating year there is always going to be a little bit of concern.  Last season Hamels showed some his 2008 form but had problems putting together a string of good starts.  I think what happens is, is that a lot hitters now are making the adjustment better than before.  What I mean by this is a pitcher is going to use what works for him.  And with Hamels it was his fastball and then his amazing change-up.  Now, Hamels could throw the off speed pitch in any count so it kept hitters guessing.  But last year the hitters were jumping on first pitches and ‘need to throw a strike’ pitches, so he got roughed up a little.  Mid-season is hard to incorporate a new pitch especially when you aren’t comfortable throwing it.  The curve was giving him a lot of problems, and then was causing discomfort in his elbow so that was out.  I think for this season, we will see his wins up and ERA down.  He has always been a strikeout pitcher so I am not worried about those numbers.  His fastball is showing life this Spring, his change-up is still nasty and he is liking the way his curve and cutter are progressing.  My biggest concern for Cole Hamels this season is how to get a fitted hat on his big head in 2011 once he regains his domination this year.  Hamels cockiness is as much a problem as it is a blessing.  He needs that edge.   Too many times last year you could see his frustration on the mound when he didn’t get calls or his defense got soft.  Be cocky yet humble, and be great with no mercy. 

2. Give the Roy Halladay/Cliff Lee mega-trade between the Phillies, Blue Jays, and Mariners a letter grade and explain your grading process.

Well obviously now that Roy Halladay has a 0.90 ERA through 15 innings this spring Cliff Lee just got tossed in the third inning of his game, I would have to say the Grade is an A.  And I think throughout this season it will stay that way.  The major characteristic of this trade that we need to look at is how it affects the Phillies farm system.  I, personally, do not feel they replenished it properly.   But only time will tell.

 3. What should the Phillies do about Jayson Werth and his impending free agency? 

I think it is very possible to resign Jayson Werth after the season.  Raul Ibanez will be a FA after the 2011 season.  It is very possible to sign Werth to a heavy ended contract to save money while Ibanez plays out his final year as a Phillie.  Also, Werth has never seemed like the kind of guy that was worried about money but you never know.  The Phillies are a good fit for him.  They are the only team that stuck with him through his injuries and gave him a real chance to play every day.

 4. Jimmy Rollins says he wants to hit .300, accrue 200 hits, score 150 runs, steal 50 bases, and commit 3 or fewer errors. Give us your AVG, H, R, SB, and E predictions for Rollins in 2010.

 AVG .293

H 183

R 130

SB 45

E 5

 Jimmy is good.  But those numbers are out of this world.  Would I love to eat my words?  Of course.  Do it up Jimmy.

 5. Is the duo of Ryan Madson and Danys Baez reliable back-up for ailing closer Brad Lidge?

 Absolutely.  I think Brad Lidge is feeling good and confident about this upcoming season.  Baez is an established pitcher who has pitched in bug games before.  Madson has gotten hit this spring training but I feel he will make the right adjustments to get the job done.

 6. Which team in the NL East worries you the most?

The Braves remind me of the Phillies of 2005 and 2006.  Their prospects (the good ones) are all maturing at the same time it seems.  Tommy Hanson is a very good pitcher and it is only a matter of time before we see Jason Heyward in the lineup for Atlanta.  And that day will most likely be opening day this season.  Heyward has unbelievable power and does all the little things correctly.

 7. Teams have been approaching Ryan Howard with a steady diet of left-handed pitching and breaking balls and by employing the shift on the right side of the field. Will this trend continue in 2010, or will Howard make the appropriate adjustments?

I think Howard will make the right adjustments but never quite be completely comfortable at the plate against lefties.  His bat is so heavy that there is always a chance of him becoming off balance out on the front foot.  But that is ok, I think.  He can keep putting the ball to the opposite field.  This season we should see his batting average rise while his strikeout numbers go down.

 8. Placido Polanco is making the switch from second base to third base. How good will he be defensively?

 Polanco has a great glove.  The biggest different between second and third is reaction time.  I am not worried about his glove work but am a little concerned with his arm.  He definitely does not have the arm strength Pedro Feliz had.  Other than that, whatever other flaws come with him switching positions, his bat will make up for it.

 9. Who should win the #5 spot, Jamie Moyer or Kyle Kendrick?

For baseball’s sake, Kyle Kendrick would win the #5 spot for the Phillies.  He has showed great command this spring and is still getting better.  He is, however, giving too many warning track power fly balls.  He would definitely need to keep the ball down more.  Now with that said, I think Moyer will likely get the nod.  There is no way Charlie Manuel is going to justify putting an 8mil a year almost 50 year old in the bullpen.  It is just not going to happen.  Unless they release Moyer, Kendrick starts in the pen.

 10. The bench was great in 2008 but disappointing last year. Will the additions of Brian Schneider, Ross Gload, and Juan Castro help?

I think the addition of Smalls, Hambone and Squints would have been a better bench than 2009.  These are great pickups for Rube and company.  Brian Schneider is a legitimate starter on another team and to have him as a number 2 is awesome.  Ross Gload and Juan Castro are not going to hit .325, but if they can hit for situation then they will suffice perfectly.

 11. Will J.A. Happ come close to his 2.93 ERA from 2009?

A sub-3 ERA from J.A. Happ would be incredible.  I am not buying into the whole ‘last season was a fluke’ thing or that it was based on luck.  I think Happ is number 3 starter at best right now in his career.  I also think a sub-4 ERA is very doable and we could very well see his win total rise from last year.  Prediction 14-8, 3.69 ERA

 12. The Phillies essentially swapped Chan Ho Park for Jose Contreras. Thumbs up or thumbs down and why?

Thumbs way down.  Park got into some trouble last season, but kept his composure.  He stayed in games, or better yet, he kept the Phillies in games.  From what I have seen this spring, Contreras just looks ‘content’ to be pitch.  I hate the words ‘content’ and ‘hungry’ but that is not what the Phillies need in their pen.  They need a Major League pitcher ready to rock.   I don’t think Contreras is that guy.

 13. Which Phillie(s) is/are we most likely to see dealt by the July 31 trading deadline?

I think there is a very good chance we could see Brian Schneider and/or Ross Gload get traded.  Depending on how well they do in spot starts/at bats, they could seem attractive to teams suffering from injury behind the plate and in the field.

 14. The Phillies have had one of baseball's best defenses for several years running according to most metrics. Does this trend continue?

Of course.  With Ryan Howard showing up early to Clearwater to work on fielding and the addition of Polanco the defense has definitely gotten better this season.

 15. What will the team get from Domonic Brown this season?

Barring injuries to the current team, the Phillies will get a September call up and monster Minor League season from Brown this season.

 Predictions

 Phillies W-L, place in division:  99-63 1st in NL East

Playoffs: (Do the Phillies reach the post-season? If so, how will they fare? Be specific.)

Phillies will beat LA in NLDS, as will St Louis over Atlanta(WC).  Phillies will then beat StL in NLCS 4 games to 2.  In WS they will beat Boston in 7 games.

Team MVP:  Chase Utley

Team Cy Young: Roy Halladay

Biggest Rookie Contributor: John Mayberry Jr

Breakout player: (can be the same as above) Mayberry Jr

Under-the-radar: (player who is underappreciated by fans and media) Carlos Ruiz

Feel free to send in your own answers to the questions above.

Follow me on Twitter @kierancarobine

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