Last season, the Phillies overcame an onslaught of injuries and offensive lack of production and earned the best record during the regular season, but they succumbed to the Giants in the NLCS.
This year, they re-signed Cliff Lee, making them appear to have the best team in the bigs (on paper), but after injuries to Brad Lidge and Chase Utley, do the Phillies still have what it takes to win the World Series?
I believe the answer is yes, and here are five reasons why.
Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels will continue to mow down NL batters, but Cole will be the only one without 20 wins. The lack of run support that Cole typically receives will continue in 2011, and coupled with suggestions that he might be back to his 2009 form, that causes me to cross him from the list.
Oswalt pitched an incredible 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA in a Phillies uniform last year and will hopefully keep that pace going. Halladay will continue to be an unstoppable force, and Lee will pitch the way he did in Seattle last year, forgetting about his World Series performance for Texas against San Francisco.
You heard it here first. Joe Blanton has been having a good spring and will carry that success into the season. He's pitched 28 innings in six games and has only given up 10 runs. While Joe's career ERA is 4.30, he'll barely squeak under 4.00 this year.
At least, the Phillies really need him to have a low ERA, because if he can't make it at least six innings every game, with our bullpen, the Phillies could be in trouble.
Raul Ibanez is having a solid spring. He blamed his slow start last year on not having enough time to get ready last season because of injuries.
This year, with a full spring under his belt, Ibanez should hit close to the numbers he hit in 2008.
Ben Francisco has been waiting for his moment in the spotlight, and after his prosperous spring and Domonic Brown's injury, Francisco will take advantage of his opportunity to play right field on a regular basis and will hit 20-plus home runs with 75-plus RBI.
Ryan Howard changed his stance this offseason so that he's closer to the plate. He'll have a better time hitting the outside pitches, and hopefully will lay off the ridiculously low-and-away slider this season.
His injury towards the end of last season interfered with his usual end-of-season offensive surge. This year, with better plate mechanics and an injury-free August, Howard should be back to hitting 40 home runs.