As spring training draws to a close, we have more insight and information to assess the Phillies' prospects for the 2010 season. Live game action, rehab progress, and commentary from coaches and players provide additional assurance or in some cases further doubt.
Over the past month, I have detailed what I believe to be the five keys to a successful Phillies season. If you missed them, here they are:
1. How will the fifth starting pitcher fare?
2. Can Cole Hamels go back to the future?
3. Which Raul Ibanez will show up this season?
4. Will the bullpen sink or swim?
5. Which Brad Lidge shows up?
It is my belief that these five factors will largely determine whether the Phillies will win a fourth consecutive National League East title, a third consecutive National League Pennant, and/or another World Series Championship.
Most baseball pundits rate the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies as the favorites heading into the season. Those same experts vary in their ranking order of those two teams—but a large percentage see them colliding once again in the 2010 World Series.
The 2010 Phillies have an all-star laden team led by Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino. The harsh reality, though, is that the weakest links have a chance to cause the team's vast potential to go unfulfilled.
Armed with new insight and some of the blanks at least penciled in, let's take a pulse check on each of the five keys to see if the situation has improved, regressed or simply remained status quo.