Philadelphia Phillies: Highly Balanced Team Without Weakness
Part 7 of 7 Phillies Championship Advantages
Over the past ten days, we have examined the first six of The Philadelphia Phillies Seven Championship Advantages. In review, those aspects of the team that differentiate them from other contenders are as follows:
1. "The Big Three" Starting Pitchers
2. Postseason Experience
3. High Octane Offense
4. Peaking at the Right Time
5. Electric Citizens Bank Park Atmosphere
6. Superior Team Chemistry
The seventh and final advantage of this powerhouse ball club encompasses all of the above and more.
More succinctly, the 2010 edition of the Philadelphia Phillies are a tremendously balanced team—with no real weakness.
They are the baseball team equivalent of a seasoned, five-tool player with charisma. They can beat opponents in a variety of ways and are void of vulnerabilities that can be exploited by opponents.
It all starts with "The Big Three." The Phillies are the reigning two-time National League champs and just one season removed from winning a World Series, yet they have never approached the caliber of starting pitching that they will feature this postseason.
They plan to primarily ride Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels throughout the fall tourney. All three possess a well earned reputation for rising to the occasion. From the opponent's dugout, "The Big Three" cast a very large and imposing shadow.
The bullpen has been a trouble spot at points during the season, but the warning lights have darkened as players have healed from injury.
The 2008 championship club relied heavily on its own big three at the back-end of the bullpen. Ryan Madson and JC Romero provided the Bridge to Lidge—who everyone knows was "Lights Out" that season. Last season, the bullpen was often an adventure.
Those three relievers are still around in 2010 and performing well, but not quite as much a sure bet as 2008. Any drop-off, though, is made up by greater depth.
Jose Contreras has been a very good addition with his heavy, mid-90s fastball. Chad Durbin is solid and dependable. Hard throwing Antonio Bastardo adds an important ingredient as he can be very tough on lefties.
Importantly, the team's need to rely on the 'pen should be largely diminished by its three ace starters.
When those hurlers take the hill and look around them, they see one of the best fielding teams in all of baseball. If the regulars had been healthy all year, perhaps the numbers would suggest they are the best.
The infield is galvanized with a left side that has accumulated five Gold Glove Awards between Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco. Chase Utley has been in the Gold Glove discussion over the past few years. These guys can pick it.
Additionally, they discovered an amazing thing while each player logged time on the DL—back-up Wilson Valdez appears to be their equal in the field.
Center field is patrolled by two-time Gold Glover Shane Victorino. The Flyin' Hawaiian has both the blinding speed and verve to track down balls in all directions. He complements his glove work with a plus arm that limits runners to station-to-station movement and cuts down others who dare to risk it.
The highly athletic Jayson Werth possesses an even bigger arm and is not far behind him in terms of range. Raul Ibanez holds his own in left and Ryan Howard continues to improve at first.
Carlos Ruiz has evolved as a quiet leader behind the dish. He instills confidence in the pitchers with his game management, and his ever-growing reputation around the league could earn him a Gold Glove in the near future.
Perhaps nothing speaks more to the balance and strength of this Phillies team than some pundits highlighting concerns about the offense.
Yes, the collective numbers were down. Yes, the biggest stars didn't post some of the eye popping stats we have grown to expect.
However, as mentioned before, injury surely had an impact on the decline both in terms of lost time and lost timing. As players returned and found their groove, we witnessed the lineup's capability down the stretch.
This team is still an offensive juggernaut. If you want evidence, consider that the almost-healthy team averaged 5.57 runs per game in September and October.
Putting this in perspective, that pace would have made the Phillies the highest scoring team in all of baseball by 43 runs over the course of a full season—without having the benefit of a DH.
For further evidence, consider that the team is likely to have Rollins batting seventh, just three years removed from a spectacular MVP season. Batting behind him will be the team's leading hitter in Ruiz, who posted a .302 mark.
And, this offense is not a "one trick pony," but rather multidimensional. They can scratch out runs by working walks, getting base knocks, taking extra bases, and outright stealing them. They can also simply bludgeon teams with the long ball.
This is an extremely well-rounded team clearly capable of doing big things this postseason. Now the time begins to go do it.
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