Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Key Players for Phils Down the Stretch

Zak SchmollAnalyst IAugust 29, 2011

Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Key Players for Phils Down the Stretch

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    The Philadelphia Phillies play 33 games in 31 days as the season winds down.

    This is too much baseball to rely on just one or two hot players. Players are going to need a day off, and other players will need to pick up the missing production. Every athlete on this team will surely get an opportunity to contribute something during the final push.

    Nevertheless, some players will surely contribute more than others. Here are five key players that the Phillies will need to perform at their best throughout September.

5. Ryan Madson

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    The Philadelphia Phillies starting rotation is capable of pitching deep into games. In fact, they pitch very well and very deep into games. However, they often times hand the ball to Ryan Madson to finish off the game.

    He has had a good season as he has finally embraced the role of closer in Philadelphia. He currently has converted 23 saves in 25 opportunities and has a 3.11 ERA. His ERA was roughly one run lower until Aug. 19 in Washington where he was knocked around for five runs in two-thirds of an inning.

    A few years ago when the Phillies won the World Series, Brad Lidge didn't blow a save all season. Obviously the perfect season is impossible right now, but the point remains that having a solid back end of the bullpen is very important down the stretch.

4. John Mayberry

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    How many times in a lineup full of the formidable bats of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and now Hunter Pence would a rookie who just barely earned substantial playing time be regarded as a key player? It probably would not happen very much, but there is a reason for it.

    John Mayberry has been mashing the ball in August with a .319 batting average, six home runs and 15 RBI. He has been impressive enough to finally fight his way off of the bench and play pretty much every day.

    Why is it so important that he stays hot? If his performance cools off, then over one-third of the Philadelphia Phillies lineup would be struggling. Mayberry is followed in the lineup by the defensive minded although decent hitting catcher Carlos Ruiz, a very light hitting shortstop replacement in Wilson Valdez and whoever the pitcher might be that day.

    If Mayberry is not able to drive in those runners from the top of the lineup, the rest of the lineup does not traditionally have the power to drive them in.

3. Shane Victorino

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    It is hard to score runs without men on base. Shane Victorino is becoming an expert in that area. He is currently batting leadoff because of the injury to Jimmy Rollins, but he seems to know exactly what he is supposed to be doing there.

    Victorino is batting .319 with an on-base percentage of .382. This means that he is getting on base almost two out of every five times he comes to bat. That gives Chase Utley and Ryan Howard plenty of opportunities to drive him in.

    He is also capable of getting the big hit by himself with 21 doubles, 14 triples and 14 home runs so far.

    As a very solid all-around player, he will give the Philadelphia Phillies as many opportunities to score runs as any other individual player. He puts himself in scoring position and will become even more valuable as runs begin to mean more and more during this strenuous month.

2. Hunter Pence

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    Philadelphia Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has a tendency to swing colossal deals at the trade deadline. He continued this pattern by acquiring Hunter Pence from the Houston Astros this season in hopes that he would provide the Phillies with a powerful right-handed bat.

    He has more than done that so far. Pence has been hitting .341 in August with five home runs and 14 RBI. Combined with John Mayberry, he has been picking up any of the runs that have slipped by major league RBI leader Ryan Howard.

    Why is it important for him to stay hot? By batting strongly in the fifth position, he has given some protection to Howard who in turn gives protection to Chase Utley. It is very difficult to dodge three strong bats right in a row.

1. The Starting Rotation

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    I know, I cheated. I will rationalize it by saying that only one starting pitcher works each night, so it is very hard to choose one. They will all be equally important but on different nights.

    Nevertheless, the Philadelphia Phillies starting rotation is what is going to carry them through this month. Led by a trio of Cy Young candidates in Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, this rotation has been among the strongest in baseball.

    Roy Oswalt has had an injury riddled season, but Kyle Kendrick has been a decent substitute, and rookie Vance Worley has exceeded all expectations. This staff is going to have to stay on top of their game despite having very little rest in the position that demands the most of it.

    The Phillies have assembled what has been so far one of the best rotations in recent memory. However, they now need to win when it matters and carry the Phillies into the playoffs.


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