Yesterday I picked the Phillies to win their second World Series in three years. With the additions of Roy Halladay and Placido Polanco, this could be the best team in Philadelphia baseball history.
Three Biggest Questions
1. Will Cole Hamels return to 2008 form?
Following a season where he won the NLCS and WS MVP award, Hamels disappointed last year when he went 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA. All the offseason events Hamels had to do between 08 and 09 seemed to affect him negativley last year and he admitted his own expectaions were too high. Fans have calmed down about trading away Cliff Lee who would have been second in the rotation behind Halladay. If Hamels doesn't pitch well, the discussion will go back to the Lee trade. If he does pitch like 2008, the Phillies will be back in the World Series.
2. Who will close?
As with Hamels, Brad Lidge had a disappointing 2009 season. After a perfect 2008, Lidge went 0-8, had a 7.21 ERA, and blew 11 saves. He will start 2010 on the DL so Ryan Madson will be the Opening Day closer. Madson has shown many times that he is not a closer. Last year Madson blew six saves. This could be a really big problem in 2010 but the offense may put up enough runs to keep us out of save situations.
3. How will Polanco do at third?
Polanco has been a second baseman for the past four years. The last time he was at third was in 2005 when he played just 8 games at 3B for the Phillies. Paulie looked good during Spring Training, making only one error (.973 Fielding%). He's one of the smartest guys in baseball and should make a successful transition.
C Carlos Ruiz: entering his fourth season as the Phillies' starting catcher, Chooch has developed into one of the best defensive catchers in the NL. He knowns the pitching staff and is pretty good at throwing out base stealers. Despite not hitting over .260 in his first three years as the starting catcher, Ruiz turned out to be the best postseason hitter on the roster over the past two years. If Ruiz can hit like it's the playoffs during the regular season, the team will be even better. 2009 Stats: .255 AVG, 9 HR, 43 RBI, only 1 pass ball.
1B Ryan Howard: one of the top first basemen in baseball, Howard will put up big offensive numbers again in 2010. In his four seasons as the starting 1B, Howard has never hit under 45 home runs. Cutting down on the strikeouts is something to work on this year. Not over-throwing Rollins at second would be nice too. Expect close to 50 homers and and 140 RBIs. 2009 Stats: .279 AVG, 45 HR, 141 RBI.
2B Chase Utley: Utley is the best second baseman in baseball and will one day win an MVP. It's hard to do in the NL as long as Pujols is around but he's got a shot if his numbers don't drop during August and September. He got a lot of rest in March and hopefully gets more days off during the regular season. The guy is pretty fast too: he was a perfect 23 for 23 in stolen base chances during 2009. He'll be an All-Star once again. 2009 Stats: .282 AVG, 31 HR, 93 RBI.
SS Jimmy Rollins: JRoll will drive people nuts again by swinging at too many first pitches and trying to swing for the fences. Yet somehow he will put up good offensive numbers and be in the running for a gold glove. His average of .250 last year will have to go up. His 31 steals was his lowest total since 2004. Rollins will be better in 2010. 2009 Stats: .250 AVG, 21 HR, 77 RBI.
3B Placido Polanco: Polanco is back in Philly after spending four and a half seasons in Detroit. He won't hit many home runs (though his numbers should go up playing in CBP) and his RBI total will be in the 60s but he is one of the smartest hitters in baseball. Paulie is also the hardest batter to strike out in all of baseball. Batting second, he will get pitches to hit from pitchers who don't want to face Utley and Howard. He should be fine adjusting to his new 3B position. 2009 Stats: .285 AVG, 10 HR, 72 RBI.
LF Raul Ibanez: Raul made Phillies fans forget all about Pat Burrell in 2009 after a strong start. His numbers dropped mid-summer and never really went back up. After a terrible Spring where he hit .130, people will start to get worried if he isn't hitting by May. He was much better than expected in the field last season. 2009 Stats: .272 AVG, 34 HR, 93 RBI.
CF Shane Victorino: Shane made his first All-Star game last year and has turned into one of the top base stealers in the NL. He covers center better than anyone, winning consecutive Gold Gloves in 08 and 09. His on-base percentage has gone up every year he's played in the Majors. Victorino will be dangerous at the bottom of the lineup, moving there so Polanco can bat second. If Ruiz hits, Victorino will score a lot of runs this year. 2009 Stats: .292 AVG, 10 HR, 62 RBI.
RF Jayson Werth: Jayson had a career year in 2009 and expect big numbers from him again as he enters his contract year. Along with Carl Crawford of Tampa Bay, Werth will be the top outfielder available in the offseason. He was also named to his first All-Star game last season. Werth is becoming dangerous on the base paths as well, stealing 20 bases the past two years including a steal of home last season. Always hustles in the field. 2009 Stats: .268 AVG, 36 HR, 99 RBI.
Roy Halladay: while Cliff Lee was amazing last season for the Phils, Halladay will be even better. He played in Toronto his entire career and posted a career record of 148-76. That's with the Blue Jays who haven't provided much run support the past few years. Doc will win 20 games this year and win the NL Cy Young. 2009 Stats: 17-10, 2.79 ERA, 208 K in 239 IP.
Cole Hamels: Hamels' performance may be the most important part of the 2010 Phillies. If he is good, they will have the best 1-2 punch in the NL. If he struggles, the team won't be as strong. He looked better in Spring Training and admits he had the wrong expectations last year so he may turn it around. 2009 Stats: 10-11, 4.32 ERA, 206 hits in 193.2 IP.
Joe Blanton: Blanton has been great for the Phils since arriving in mid-2008. He always has a 4.00+ ERA but you expect that and the offense picks it up on those nights. He will start the season on the 15 Day DL which allows Kyle Kendrick to enter the rotation. As long as he stays healthy, Blanton is a solid #3. 2009 Stats: 12-8, 4.21 ERA.
J.A. Happ: Happ has been a huge surprise since arriving in Philly in 2008. He was 12-4 last year with a sub-3.00 ERA which could have won him the NL Rookie of the Year. His two shutouts and three complete games were huge for the Phils. People keep saying that hitters will catch on to Happ but if he is good this year, they will have to admit he is just a good pitcher. 2009 Stats: 12-4, 2.93 ERA, 2 Shutouts.
Jamie Moyer/Kyle Kendrick: Moyer won the only battle of Spring Training and will start the season as the #5 starter. With Blanton starting 2010 on the DL, Kendrick will begin the year in the rotation. Moyer appeared to be declining late last season but still put up a 12-10 record. Kendrick only started two games in 2009 but pitched really well this March. If Moyer struggles early, Kendrick will join the rotation full-time. 2009 Stats - Moyer: 12-10, 4.94 ERA, Kendrick: 3-1, 3.42 ERA.
C Brian Schneider: the Northampton native was signed in the offseason and gives the Phillies a good back-up catcher. He isn't much of a hitter (.251 career average) so he will be used only to give Ruiz a rest. 2009 Stats: .218 AVG, 3 HR, 24 RBI.
IF Juan Castro: Castro signed a 1 year deal with the Phils in the offseason. He too is not a great hitter with a .230 career average. He only hit .190 in Spring Training. I think Phillies fans may miss Bruntlett more than they tought. 2009 Stats: .277 AVG, 1 HR, 9 RBI.
IF/LF Greg Dobbs: one of the best signings by Pat Gillick, Dobbs is a good pinch hitter. He needs to get better against lefties. 2009 Stats: .247 AVG, 5 HR, 20 RBI.
OF Ben Francisco: Francisco proved to be more than a throw in with Cliff Lee after hitting .278 with the Phillies from July through November. With the great outfield we have, Ben won't get too much playing time but is a solid backup. 2009 Stats: .257 AVG, 15 HR, 46 RBI.
OF Ross Gload: Gload won't get much playing time being the second outfielder off the bench. Moving to CBP will help his numbers but he still isn't much of a threat. 2009 Stats: .261 AVG, 6 HR, 30 RBI.
The loss of Chan Ho Park (free agency to NYY) and Scott Eyre (retired) will hurt. The signing of Danys Baez was a good move. Veteran Jose Contreras will be available for long relief. Antonio Bastardo showed some good things last year and will also be in long relief. David Herndon and Drew Carpenter made the team out of Spring Training but will be IronPigs once Blanton and Lidge come off the DL. With Lidge on the DL, Madson will close which will make for some interesting 9th innings.
3 Predictions for 2010
1. The Phillies will win the NL East by at least 5 games
2. Roy Halladay will win 23 games and take home the NL Cy Young
3. Brad Lidge will come back healthy and pitch more like 08 than 09.