The Five Most Important Phillies (Not In Rotation) Needed to Win Another Ring
So the starting rotation isn't the worst, but ultimately it won't matter how dominant the rotation is if the bats stay quiet once again in October.
In last year's NLCS, the Phils hit an abysmal .216. The Giants weren't much better at 244, but they got the timely and clutch hitting from Cody Ross, Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria that Philadelphia was looking for all series.
The big boppers, Utley, Howard, Werth and Ibanez, were just 19-for-82 with 27 strikeouts.
With Werth now in Washington, someone needs to step up and protect Howard in the fifth spot in the lineup. At times, Werth single-handedly carried the Phightins last postseason.
5. Charlie Manuel
If there is a fault to Charlie Manuel, it's that he'll play his starters 'til they die. He doesn't give as many days off as other managers.
I think one of the numerous keys to the season is rest. Guys like Utley, Rollins and Ibanez need to sit some games if they want to be successful in the postseason. Last year, the bench proved how capable they can be in relief.
In an interview with Daily News Live, Manuel did acknowledge that he will be giving Utley more rest than usual this year, but that remains to be seen.
Another important factor is the lineup. I believe during the first half of the season, there's going to be a lot of tinkering going on.
Manuel is usually calm and collected, clutching the mesh of the fence in the dugout while chomping on his gum like Mr. Ed. This year, he's going to need a lot more gum.
4. Shane Victorino
There's been talk of Shane Victirino starting the season as the leadoff hitter instead of Rollins.
In various interviews, Victorino stated that he wants to improve his batting average and pitch selection. He's almost hinting that he may be leading off.
Victorino's power may have surged last year with a career-high 18 home runs, but his batting average dipped more than 30 points! He was constantly swinging for the fences.
Victorino hit over .280 in each of his first four seasons; he hit .259 last year.
In order for Victorino to be effective from the leadoff spot, he has to get on base.
3. Brad Lidge
In 2008, Lidge went a perfect 48-for-48 in save opportunities, including the playoffs, in arguably the greatest season ever by a closer.
A year later, Lidge blew 11 saves and had a preposterous 7.21 ERA. Last year, Lidge started slow but finished the season strong.
The ultimate key to Lidge is that right knee. When he's healthy, he drives ferociously off the back of his right leg to snap off his signature slider. He threw the pitch a baffling 58 percent of the time last year.
The velocity on Lidge's fastball has seen a severe decrease. In 2007, Lidge averaged 95.8 mph on his fastball, as opposed to 92.0 mph last year. Instead of trying to overpower so much with the fastball, Lidge did a much better job of locating the pitch.
I believe Lidge is well on his way towards having a big year.
2. Jimmy Rollins
With the departure of Werth, someone has to step up and take over the five hole to give Ryan Howard some insurance.
I believe Rollins is the guy to fill that hole. Although Rollins won't have as many chances to run out of the fifth spot, I think the role fits him.
He's always been a guy who's aggressive and swings early in the count, which drew criticism throughout his career when he led off.
Rollins is in a contract year and he has a lot to prove. He's usually one of the last to arrive in Clearwater, but this year he came two weeks early.
He hit just .243 a year ago.
1. Ryan Howard
The indelible image of Ryan Howard striking out looking to finish off the 2010 season has been stuck with Phillies fans for months.
Howard has a history of getting hot in September; why not wait another month until October? When the Big Bear is raking, there's no one in baseball (besides Pujols) who can carry a team on his back like Howard.
Along with Rollins, Howard also came to spring training a bit early. He's motivated.
Howard has changed his batting stance. He's moved closer to the plate so balls on the outside part of the plate are now easier to hit.
He won't be as off-balance when going after those pitches. You know what he does with balls on the inner-half...bye!!!
Howard's batting eye has improved, and he cut down on his strikeouts last season. Granted, the power went down to just 31 dingers, but he was spraying singles all over the place.
I think Howard is ready to show why the Phillies gave him a five-year, $125 million contract extension.