Yes, I know it is way too early for a 2011 MLB season preview.
The Phillies are making a colossal playoff push and are looking to become the first National League team since the St. Louis Cardinals of the early 1940s to reach the World Series three consecutive years.
With this in mind, I still couldn't wait. So, here, sports fans, is your extremely premature Philadelphia Phillies preview for the 2011 season.
The Starting Rotation
1. Roy Halladay - The ace. The foremost no-brainer in this Phillies rotation. Halladay is a viable candidate for the 2010 Cy Young Award, sporting a solid 16-9 record and a cozy 2.22 ERA through August 29. Luckily for the Phils, Halladay is inked through the 2013 season.
Bad news, however, as the Phils' faithful will have to watch pitching phenom Kyle Drabek grow into a star for the Torono Blue Jays and stand by as the New York Yankees try to sign Cliff Lee for a ridiculous contract this offseason. But hey, we got our ace, and that's a positive.
2. Roy Oswalt - This season's key trade deadline pickup, the other Roy has been pretty darn good in the red pinstripes, throwing out a 3-1 record with a dominant 2.18 earned run average and a stable 0.97 WHIP.
3. Cole Hamels - Same old story for the golden lefty. Extremely poor run support and bad luck have sparked criticism and doubt over Hamels' performance. However, Hamels has possibly been the Phillies' most consistent starter over this season. Although his record is 8-10, he has a 3.31 ERA and has allowed two runs or less in four of his last five starts. This is one player that is drastically underrated and is a key reason for the success of the Broad Street Bombers.
How will the Phillies finish in 2011?
4. Joe Blanton - Possibly the one error in Ruben Amaro's tenure as GM has been the contract extension for Blanton. Don't get me wrong, Blanton was an essential pickup for the magical run of 2008. However, $10.5 million per year is a lot for an end of the rotation guy, even if he has been mediocre recently.
5. Kyle Kendrick - Oh, how I wish to have typed Jaime Moyer's name into this rotation. Sorry, it just doesn't work. Kendrick is up for arbitration come 2011 and will almost definitely get it, meaning that Moyer's tenure in Philly has come to a close. We'll miss you, bud.
That's enough Moyer love. Kendrick has been the ideal fifth starter this year, flashing signs of his potential while staying somewhat consistent over the 2010 season. He should flourish next year in low-pressure situations as an above average number five starter.
First Base - Ryan Howard
The Big Piece. Howard is the key component to this potent offense. He provides power, stability, and swagger. And, lately, Howard has shown his angry side, going afternoon a third base umpire this past week. Next year should be classic Howard with colossal homers, clunky triples, and an innumerable amount of backward and frontward K's.
The scariest thought about Howard's future, is the fact that his contact is up after next season. Time to start the negotiations Amaro.
Second Base - Chase Utley
Utley, you are the man! Utley has been the picture of consistency and cool while manning second base for the Phillies. Signed through the 2013 season, Utley figures to keep producing for several years to come and provide stellar defense.
Shortstop - Jimmy Rollins
J-Roll has been the spark plug for many seasons for the Fightins, and that streak shouldn't stop anytime soon. Rolling is hitting just .248 this season, but he has fought through several injuries, playing in just 69 games. Rollins is inked through just the 2011 campaign, so hopefully this winter will see the extension of him so that it doesn't distract from his comeback campaign of 2011.
Third Base - Placido Polanco
Unsung heroes. Every team has it's fair share. Philadelphia's 2010 unsung hero is Polanco. He is the only Philadelpha starter who is batting over .300. In addition, third base has been the place where screaming grounders go to die at Citizens Bank Park.
Honestly, it will be an absolute travesty if Polanco does not win a Gold Glove Award for his work in 2010. Signed through 2013, Polanco should earn his spot in the hearts of Philly fans over the next few years.
Left Field - Raul Ibanez
At the 2010 All-Star break, analysts all over the Philadelphia sports scene were calling for Ibanez's head, declaring him done. Ibanez has absolutely proved them wrong. He has gone on a tear these past few weeks, raising his home batting average to .280 over this last homestand.
Sure, you would guess that Ibanez's production will decrease rapidly in the coming season. However, I will not quit on my man and I think that he will recharge this offseason and build on his second half success.
Center Field - Shane Victorino
The Flyin' Hawaiian has been suprisingly below what we expected coming into this summer, batting just .251 with 15 dingers through August 29. We can only hope that Victorino comes back next season and produces like we know he can. He will only be 30 going into next season, so you have to think that he can have a solid rebound campaign in 2011.
Right Field - Domonic Brown
With each game that goes by, it seems more and more probable that the Phils and Jayson Werth are doomed to part this winter. It shouldn't be a huge problem, however, as Downtown Domonic Brown seems poised and ready to jump in and take over. Hitting just .224 this year, there seems to be vast room for improvement, which is a good sign for a player with so much natural talent. Move over Werth, this kid will be ready come 2011.
Catcher - Carlos Ruiz
Choooooooooch! Ruiz falls into that Polanco, unsung hero mold for the Phils. Ruiz has been Philadelphia's most clutch hitter in 2010. Chooch is signed through 2013, but I suspect that catching duties may fall into a platoon between Chooch and Brian Schneider or another player in the coming seasons, as Ruiz is bound to break down one of these days.
A scary concept: Brad Lidge is signed for another two seasons and will most likely fall right back into the closer's role in 2011. I know, it's frightening. However, there is hope and a promising future for the bullpen. J.C. Romero and Ryan Madson will each reprise their roles as consistent setup men next summer, as both are inked through 2011. Meanwhile, closer in waiting Drew Carpenter will hope to make a name for himself as a middle reliever. Things at the back end of the bullpen may seem bleak now, but there is plenty of reason for hope.
Honestly, I think it should be another very solid year for the Philadelphia in 2011. The rotation and batting lineup both look incredibly impressive. Plus, with the Mets, Marlins, and Nats looking pretty mediocre going into the offseason, it will most likely be another two-team race between the Phils and Braves. With that said, Atlanta is clearly the young, up-and-coming squad of the NL East, and it should be a great, season-long bout.