In November, when asked for his prediction for the 2008 season, Jimmy Rollins said the Philadelphia Phillies would “win probably 100 games.”
Soon we will be witnessing the beginning of the Philly prophet’s journey. Will it be self-fulfilling? Will he lead his team to the promised land?
It was almost impossible to escape the whispers of the New York Mets signing Johan Santana. The media practically took note of every moment Santana decided to inhale while readers devoured each crumb of information. Philly Phans were in denial and held false hope until it was official.
The Mets obtained the best pitcher in baseball.
Following the initial shock of Santana’s move to the Mets, acceptance moved in. True, in its last season, Shea Stadium will be home to the pitcher every team wants and fears. But there’s no reason to believe that the Phillies can’t repeat as N.L. East Champions.
Examine Philadelphia’s infield. Ryan Howard has the raw power, while new addition Pedro Feliz has the high-caliber defense. Although the corners are polar opposites when it comes to defense and offense, the middle is as good as it gets. Chase Utley and Rollins combine to form a duo that is the league’s most dangerous threat to opposing teams.
Howard, Utley, and Rollins had their names peppered atop various lists of 2007 offensive categories, which is incredible since both Howard and Utley spent a considerable amount of time on the disabled list.
In order to win 100 games, the Phillies need to stay healthy and third baseman Feliz needs to improve his offensive numbers.
Pedro Feliz is an upgrade compared to last year, due to his power and defense—which is a sad statement in and of itself. The combination of Abraham Nunez, Wes Helms, and Greg Dobbs barely passed Feliz by batting .255 with 76 RBI.
However, Feliz wins the power competition by hitting 20 HRs compared to the whopping 11 HRs by last year’s third base platoon. Expect Feliz’ HRs to increase with the move to the hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park from the pitcher-friendly AT&T Park.
Despite having the fourth-worst pitching staff in the N.L. in 2007, Philadelphia still won the N.L. East. No personnel changes occurred in terms of middle relievers, but the addition of Brad Lidge as closer strengthens the pitching staff by allowing Brett Myers to return to the starting rotation. He will join Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer, Kyle Kendrick, and Adam Eaton.
Hopefully an offeason miracle occurred and Eaton will have an E.R.A. lower than my shoe size. Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in eight days.
Miracles happen, right?
The Phillies won the division with ace Hamels out for a month. In order to reach the 100-win mark, the pitchers must stay healthy.
Can the Philadelphia Phillies live up to Rollins’ prediction by repeating as N.L. East Champions and winning 100 games? Yes.
There may be a Santana in the way, but with a healthy roster and a stronger rotation, the Phils can squeeze out at least 11 more wins than they did last year.