Countdown 'Til Pitchers and Catchers Report: Two Days
For us red-blooded baseball lovers, it is no coincidence that the start of spring training and Valentine’s Day come together each year. I hope that my readers will greet both events with great excitement and a little extra hop in the step, although I prefer to write only about the first one.
As exciting as any spring training is—and Spring Training 2011 is particularly thrilling for Phillies fans—my goal is to make the coming regular season just a little more interesting. Perhaps I’m taking my cue from the recent Super Bowl.
I am not a betting man, but I threw in a couple shekels last Sunday for a chance to win some of my friends’ money based on 26 prop bets that our host came up with. Nothing was too creative, and most related to the Super Bowl itself; about five of the questions related to the coin flip, commercials and the color of the Gatorade dumped on the winning coach.
Yes, I ended up making a small donation, and I’m not advising anybody to bet any real money on the following. But in previewing a season that Phils fans accept as a given that their team will make the playoffs for the fifth straight time, these prop bets may add just a little intrigue to the formality of the regular season.
In honor of Cliff Lee, I propose 33 (mostly) over-and-unders to keep track of during the 2011 regular season. I have not researched Vegas odds for any of this, so if you’ve seen any of these numbers elsewhere, it’s purely coincidental.
PITCHERS AND CATCHERS
1. Combined wins by R2C2 (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels): 71
Last year, the four pitchers combined for only 58 wins, deceptive as I think that number was.
2. Combined innings by R2C2: 850
Last year, the four hurlers amassed an amazing 881.7.
3. Combined strikeouts for R2C2: 800
Last year, they combined for 808 K.
4. Combined complete games for R2C2: 20
Last year, they combined for 19.
5. Wins by Joe Blanton in a Phils uniform: 6
Big Joe was 9-6 last season, and he won 12 the year before, but how long will he be here?
6. Saves for Brad Lidge: 33
Brad saved only 27 in 2010, but has averaged 33 during his three years in red pinstripes.
7. Batting average for Carlos Ruiz: .285
Chooch hit a remarkable .302 last season, boosting his career BA to .260.
8. Homers for Chooch: 11
He belted eight last year, and nine in 2009.
THE REST OF THE LINEUP
9. Home runs for Ryan Howard: 44
The Big Piece has averaged 45.8 in his last five (full) seasons, but knocked only 31 out of the yard last season.
10. RBI for Howard: 136
Yes, that’s a big number, but even factoring in his drop last year (108), Howard has averaged 136 over his five full seasons.
11. Whiffs for Howard: 180
Howard only whiffed 151 times last year, he averaged 191 in his previous four campaigns.
12. Games played for Chase Utley: 145
Utley only played in 115 games last season, but had averaged 151 in his previous five seasons.
13. Homers for Chase: 28
Chase only popped 16 last season; he averaged 29-plus in his previous five.
14. HBP for Chase: 23
He did not move away from 18 pitches last season in limited at-bats, he averaged an NL-high 25.3 the previous three seasons.
15. Games played for Jimmy Rollins: 145
Rollins played in only 88 last year, but he played in at least 154 games in eight of his previous nine campaigns.
16. Runs scored for Jimmy: 105
This seems high as J-Roll only crossed home plate 48 times in 2010. In his previous six seasons, he averaged about 113 runs.
17. Stolen bases for Rollins: 32
He dropped to 17 last season, but in the last 10 years he has swiped a total of 340. You can do the math.
18. Placido Polanco’s batting average: .300
Polly, about as consistent a hitter as you’ll find, hit .298 last year, his career BA is .303
19. Will Polanco reach 2,000 career hits before or after September 15?
Polly, who is 35, starts the season at 1,836.
20. Games played for Wilson Valdez: 55
Last year’s supersub played in a career-high 111 last season, almost tripling his previous high.
21. Will Raul Ibanez finish the season in a Phillies uniform?
22. RBI for Raul: 90
Raul rallied to end up with 83 last season, after knocking in 93 the season before. He topped 100 in each of his final three seasons as a Seattle Mariner.
23. Batting average for Shane Victorino: .285
The ever-popular Flyin’ Hawaiian slumped to .259 last season, but the career .279 hitter had topped .285 four of his previous five seasons.
24. Homers for Shane: 13
Shane popped 18 last season. That was a personal best, but many Phils fans would sacrifice about 10 of those for a more consistent approach at the plate (and 25 or so more line drives).
25. At-bats for Domonic Brown: 250
Brown joined the parent club on July 28, and registered 62 at-bats on the season.
26. Homers for D-Brown: 14
Two of Brown’s blasts reached the seats (in fair territory) last year.
27. Games played for Ben Francisco: 115
Francisco played in 88 games last season, sometimes relegated to a defensive replacement, or pinch-hitting appearance. (They all count, of course.)
28. Ben’s batting average: .270
Francisco hit .268 last season, and carries a lifetime .263 mark.
29. Homers for Ross Gload: 8
Gload blasted six in 2010, in only 128 at-bats.
30. Total Wins in 2011: 100
Last season, the Fightins won 97, the most in the majors.
31. Games ahead at the All-Star break: 4
32. Games the Phils will win the NL East by: 7
They won by six games in 2010.
33. Games the Phils will finish ahead of the New York Mets: 13
It was a margin of 18 last year, but can the Mets be that bad again?
Okay, time to go to work, and kill some of the remaining hours until pitchers and catchers report. If I hit any of these numbers on the button, please feel free to send some of your mythical winnings to the house, care of my email address or BR’s private message service.
For more information on Matt Goldberg’s new books, other writings and appearances, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org