Philadelphia Phillies: The Five Most Important Under-the-Radar Players
Having a lot of superstars is great for obvious reasons. But the thing that makes a team great is having guys on the roster who can step in for those superstars when needed and make the plays that need to be made, or just play in a supporting role and do all the little things.
Fortunately for the Phillies, they have a lot of both types of guys. The superstars (Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Jimmy Rollins) aren't hard to pick out. But what makes this 2010 team so dangerous is just how stacked the roster is with great supporting players.
The superstars get a team in position to win, but it's the role players who ultimately do the things necessary to win.
So heading into one hell of a playoff push, let's take a look at the five guys who everyone should keep an eye on as potential difference-makers.
Early in the season, Valdez was forced to split time with Juan Castro at shortstop while Rollins recovered from an injury. It became abundantly clear very quickly, however, that Valdez was the superior player in nearly every aspect.
He's never going to be a .300 hitter, but he's come through with some clutch hits and has been fantastic in the field. In fact, Valdez has only been charged with one error this season and has turned 19 double plays from third base, shortstop, and second base.
He likely won't see a whole lot of time in the playoffs, but he will be a huge part of the push to stay in first place and will be a great guy to have coming off the bench.
If you would have told me Gload would be batting .281 with six home runs, 29 RBI, 14 runs and only 10 strikeouts as the Phillies' primary left-handed pinch hitter, I would have laughed in your face. But, here we are.
Gload has made Greg Dobbs all but worthless and is a guy the Phillies really like. He's going to continue to be the go-to guy off the bench and will be highly counted upon all throughout the push and into the playoffs.
A big situation doesn't seem to rattle him, so he should be fine when the lights are on. I wouldn't have thought it to be the case when they signed him, but there's a bit of confidence in everyone watching that when Gload hits the plate, he's going to come through.
Kendrick likely won't find himself in the rotation come playoff time. He'll be relegated to the bullpen in favor of Joe Blanton, who will keep the fourth spot. And while I believe Kendrick is the more talented pitcher, it's definitely the right move.
Blanton, even with his maddening tendency to give up first-inning runs and put the offense in a hole immediately, is the more consistent of the two.
He's not going to come out and blank anyone for seven innings, but he's also not going to allow 11 runs in the first four innings.
Kendrick has the ability to do the first, but is just erratic enough to do the latter. And in the playoffs, that's just something the team cannot afford.
But out of the bullpen as a long reliever, I believe Kendrick can be a real difference-maker. His problems seem to come about when he really starts pressing.
He feels like if he doesn't strike out the side to start the game he's not doing his job. He'll begin to calm down later in the game, but by then, it's sometimes too late.
As a reliever, he might be able to relax, knowing exactly what sort of situation he's going into and being given a specifically tailored assignment. And when Kendrick is relaxed and just going out and slinging it, he turns into a dangerous pitcher.
All right, so maybe he's not exactly in the same mold as the other guys, but he's not exactly a superstar either and will definitely play a huge role for the Phils over the next two months or so.
Ruiz isn't getting a lot of the attention because of the way Howard has gone off as of late, but Ruiz has been nearly spotless for a long time now. He's coming up with the clutch knocks when they need them and has been a life-saver behind the plate.
Chooch is quietly hitting .296 at this point in the season, and if he can carry that over into the playoffs it's going to make the Phillies' lineup a real forced to be reckoned with from top to bottom.
Closers are like kickers in the NFL: no one really knows their name unless they do something great or really mess something up. In Philadelphia, Lidge's name is known for a little bit of both.
But for all the talk, Lidge has actually been pretty good this season. He has blown five saves, but three of those came in one bad stretch from late June to early July. And, if I'm not mistaken, it later came out that Lidge was already having elbow problems then.
Since then, Lidge has blown only two saves and has a respectable 3.38 ERA and a 1-1 record. He is not ever going to be the same guy we saw in 2008, but he is a guy the Phillies can count on to come through when they really need him.
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