Philly … Back Again
First, Jim Salisbury and I will be signing copies of The Rotation at 7 tonight (Monday) at the Barnes & Noble in Plymouth Meeting and at 7 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday) at the Chester County Book Company in West Chester.
Please stop by!
Now, a few random thoughts about Spring Training and the upcoming season:
- I agree with Charlie Manuel: “I think until somebody beats us, we’re the team to beat.” There are anxious Phillies fans out there because of the injuries to Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, and I know it’s impossible to predict how Howard and Utley will play once they are back. But I still would bet my money on the Phillies to win their sixth consecutive NL East championship. The Braves have pitching questions. I’m not a believer in the Marlins. And I just don’t think the Nationals aren’t quite ready for prime time.
- My guess on Utley’s return: May 21 vs. Nationals.
- My guess on Howard’s return: June 12 @ Twins.
- I think the Phillies take the division with 93 wins. Don’t let the number 93 scare you. The Phillies won the World Series with 92 wins in 2008. (The Cardinals won it last year with 90.) As you saw last season, the postseason is a crapshoot. The Phillies just need to make the playoffs. Unless something happens to the Big Three (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels) I believe they will.
- I like the idea of Jimmy Rollins hitting third to start the season. Rollins is one of the few proven hitters in the lineup that can drive the ball. They need that in the middle of the lineup.
- If Juan Pierre can hit leadoff and play left field while John Mayberry Jr. is playing first base, great. It gives the Phillies more speed at the top of the lineup, although Pierre has not been a great base stealer lately. He went 3-for-6 this spring and 27-for-44 last season. Those are far from good percentages. (Davey Lopes said a player should be successful 80 percent of the time, otherwise he’s hurting the team.) The Phillies don’t need Pierre running them out of any innings. They can’t afford that.
- Mayberry is the lineup’s wild card. If he hits like he hit last season in an everyday role it would be a huge boost. If he struggles … the Phillies basically only have one pure power threat in the lineup: Hunter Pence, and he has never hit more than 25 homers in a season. Mayberry had a bad spring. He hit just .042 (1-for-24) against lefties. You’ve got to think that’s an anomaly and he will hit them much, much, much better once the season starts. If not … oof.
- Carlos Ruiz, Placido Polanco, Shane Victorino, Pence and Pierre had good springs. Springs numbers don’t mean a thing, but it should comfort Manuel that some of hitters are swinging the bat well entering the season.
- The bullpen has some question marks with Jose Contreras and Mike Stutes likely to open the season on the DL, and Antonio Bastardo not looking like himself most of the spring. But the Phillies like the way Chad Qualls has thrown the ball. They need him to replace Brad Lidge to provide some veteran stability down there.
- Can you imagine if the Phillies had not resigned Rollins and signed Ryan Madson over Jonathan Papelbon? Now that would be reason to panic.
- Freddy Galvis has been impressive at second base. Defensively, he should be fine. Offensively? If he can put up Wilson Valdez numbers (career .621 OPS) that should be fine, too. As an aside, I understand the Phillies could use Valdez right now, but I don’t get some people’s obsession with him. He cannot save any team from disaster, including the Phillies. I swear, if he had not pitched that inning in that 19-inning game last season, nobody would care.
- Vance Worley is motivated to replicate last season’s success. Joe Blanton is motivated to bounce back from last season, too. He becomes a free agent following the season. Those are pretty solid No. 4 and 5 starters, another reason to think the Phillies will win the division.
- People have been raving about the way Kyle Kendrick has looked this spring. He’s a valuable guy on this team right now because he can easily step in and start should something happen to one of the team’s five starters, and do a pretty good job, too. (He had a 3.14 ERA in 15 starts last season.) Should be interesting to see if Rich Dubee uses Kendrick in late-inning situations, rather than just using him as a long man.
- You get the feeling Manuel thinks Jim Thome can play twice a week at first base until Howard returns. Fascinating story if he can.
- April 2: Barnes & Noble in Plymouth Meeting, PA, 7 p.m.
- April 3: Chester County Book Company in West Chester, PA, 7 p.m.
- April 26: Barnes & Noble in Marlton, NJ, 7 p.m.
- May 10: Tredyfrrin Public Library in Stafford, PA, 7:30 p.m.
Jim Salisbury and I co-authored the book The Rotation, which is now available. Check it out here!
Here are our upcoming book signings: