The final play of the Philadelphia Phillies 2011 season was tumultuous.
First of all, a ground out by Ryan Howard officially gave the St. Louis Cardinals a 1-0 win in a pitcher’s duel for a spot in the National League Championship Series (NLCS). Then, as Howard dug in to try and dart toward first base, he collapsed to the ground.
Howard was quoted on ESPN describing the injury.
"I was trying to run, and I felt a pop. It felt like the whole thing was on fire. It felt like I was on a flat tire. I tried to get up, but couldn't go."
Howard also passed along the fact that doctors believe he has a torn Achilles tendon. Howard is getting an MRI today, and the results will show the true severity of the injury.
Basically, it doesn’t look good for the Phillies slugger.
Instead of speculating on how long Howard could miss, I’m just going to cut to the chase. The question on everyone’s mind is how good the Phillies would be without their star first baseman.
The answer is they’d be just fine.
Obviously, Philadelphia would miss his 33 home runs and 116 RBI. What they won’t miss is his 172 strikeouts, which was good for fifth-worst in the MLB. The Phillies have multiple players that can pick up the slack in the hitting department for Howard.
Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino—need I say any more?
Could the Phillies be a playoff contender without Ryan Howard?
In terms of fielding, Howard has definitely shown improvement, but he’s not someone whose loss will collapse your defense. The identity of the Phillies is pitching, and they should be able to return their incredible rotation for next season.
The rotation includes Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, and is one of the best in recent memory. If the Phillies can manage to keep their pitchers in Phillies uniforms, they’ll be able to overcome many struggles at the plate.
Rollins is a free agent, but it’s going to be hard for him to leave such a promising team like the Phillies. The Phillies have a club option on Brad Lidge, but it’s highly unlikely to be exercised.
The Phillies have the best team in baseball, and one injury can’t curb their chances for a World Series in 2012.