Are Phils mainstays like Victorino, Rollins, Utley, and Howard among this year's MVPP's?
Another September and, just like the Phoenix, another rise from the ashes by the Philadelphia Phillies.
As with every contending team, the Phillies have a handful of players that, without them, they would never be in the position they are in now, atop the National League East with the NL's best record.
Let me assure you, there will be some players you expect to see on this list but there may be some that may surprise you. That's what's fun about this list and this year's Phillies team. The star power has not entirely carried this team.
Now that the bullpen is just about completely healthy, Jose Contreras, the Phils' $1.5 million offseason signing, is lost in the name game. Don't forget, though, what the Cuban righty did for the Phillies up to this point, primarily in the first half of the season.
Back when Madson was still nursing his self-inflicted broken toe and Lidge was still trying to right his own ship, Contreras (with the help of JC Romero and Danys Baez) was left to hold down the fort that is the Phillies bullpen.
Utilizing a fastball that hovers around the mid-90s and a funky arm slot, Contreras sported a 2.79 pre-All-Star break ERA and held opponents to a low .233 batting average.
He converted three of the four save opportunities he had during that time and currently sports a 3.28 ERA while standing tied with Chad Durbin for the team lead in holds with 13. He also showed that he still has a live arm, striking out a very respectable 50 batters in 49.1 innings.
While he's only been dominant three out of the season's six months so far (April, May, August), Contreras has stepped up when the Phillies needed him the most.
Sometimes a player's value cannot be measured with stats.
Remember when Jimmy Rollins won the MVP and everyone thought it should have been Colorado's Matt Holliday because he had more homers, RBI, and a higher batting average? Rollins won because of what he brought to the table, day-in and day-out. That's how you measure what Wilson Valdez has meant to the Phils this season.
They say a team is only as strong as it is up the middle (catcher, pitcher, second base, shortstop, centerfield). So it stands to reason that when Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins each had their stints on the DL, the Phillies would have struggled mightily. Sometimes, due to the lack of their bats in the linuep, the offense did struggle.
Valdez, though, who is a surprising 32-years-old, pretty much beat out Juan Castro as the Phillies' backup utility infielder with his sure-handed defense and clutch hits. In essence, Valdez was an upgrade to Castro and Eric Bruntlett.
Without the emergence of Valdez, the Phillies would have had a tougher time getting to where they are today.
When you think back to the Cliff Lee trade (yes, even I hate bringing it up), a lot of people questioned Phillies' GM Ruben Amaro, Jr.'s thought process and motives.
Regardless of what you believe, you had to think that he was banking on a return to prominence by one Colbert Michael Hamels. In the opening month or two of the season, it appeared as though Rube came up snake eyes. Now, though, Amaro may have hit the jackpot.
Hamels was pedestrian in the first half, amassing an ERA of 3.78 and a 7-7 record. In the second half though, he's been downright filthy.
King Cole leads the NL with 81 post-break K's (eight more than anyone else) and his 2.01 ERA in that span is bested only by three, relatively non-descript, yet up-and-coming starters (San Diego's Mat Latos, 1.77; Arizona's Daniel Hudson, 1.91; and Houston's Wandy Rodriguez, 1.98). His record of 3-3 would be much better if not for well-documented lack of run support.
Just as impressive as his statistics, though, is how Hamels has gone about his work.
Have you noticed how scraggly he's looked lately? He has focused less on his appearance and more on pounding the strike zone. In addition, he's gotten minimal run support yet hasn't said a thing. Last year, he may have.
He's gone about his business as an ace should and the Phillies have reaped the rewards.
Has anyone been more clutch this season than Chooch?
In addition to playing baseball's most physically demanding position and handling the Phils' up-and-down pitching staff, Ruiz has compiled, by far, his best offensive season.
If the season ended today, Ruiz would have tallied career highs in batting average (.289), on-base percentage (.389), and walks (50), all while hitting at or near the bottom of the Phillies' lineup.
And I'm sure I don't need to remind you of the clutch hits: the walk-off solo homer in May against the Cards and his walk-off double against the Dodgers in August.
Ruiz is higher on this list than Hamels only because he plays in more games than the lefty.
The effects #1 has had on this team, though, goes far beyond the limited number of games he actually plays...
His performance on the mound needs no introduction. The clutch outs, the strikeouts, the ground balls, the complete games, the Perfect Game. Harry Leroy Halladay has been everything the Phillies dreamed of when they acquired him in the offseason.
In addition to his Cy Young-nominating statistics, his talent, knowledge of pitching, and work ethic have had a trickle effect on this team. You don't think Hamels hasn't picked up a thing or two from the 33-year-old righty?
Halladay has done everything an ace should do. Not only does he perform on a consistent basis but he leads, not with words but by example.
In essence, his attitude and approach to the game is just what Hamels, and this Phillies team, needed.
Without a doubt, the Phillies would not be where they are now without him.