Another season of Phillies baeball is upon us. This is the blog’s first full season covering the team, which means this is our first tri-annual Phillies round table discussion. (We will also have one at the All-Star break and at the conclusion of the regular season.)
Our participants are among the most respected in the business:Phil Sheridan Columnist, Philadelphia Inquirer
A Philadelphia native and a graduate of Temple University, Phil Sheridan is a very popular columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philly.com. For seven years, Sheridan served as Eagles beat-writer. He now gets to cover the Phillies as a columnist. You can read his work here.Amanda Orr Blogger, Swing and a Long Drive
Amanda Orr considers herself an avid Phillies fan. She covers the Phillies not only for her own blog, Swing and a Long Drive, but also for the extremely popular PhilliesNation.com. Her work can be read here.GM-Carson Blogger, We Should Be GMs
The guy known by Phillies fans a “GM-Carson” runs one of the most popular blogs on the web. We Should Be GMs looks at the Phillies in a slightly different way. Carson, who admits to being obsessed with the Phillies, is one of the smartest Phillies analysts out there. You can read his work here.Chris Jones Blogger, Long Drive: A Phillies Blog
Chris Jones writes for one of the best and funniest blogs in the Phillies “phlogosphere”. He opened Long Drive in March of 2008 as a place to share his rants of joy and frustration with the general public. Jones hopes he can make it through one more season with his sanity! You can read his work here.Shay Roddy Blogger, Phillie Phanatics
Shay Roddy has been covering Phillies baseball since July 2008. He is a columnist for BleacherReport.com, a division of CBS Sports. He is also a frequent contributor to CBSSports.com. He was called upon to share his opinion on FOX Sports Post-game during the 2008 Playoffs. In December 2008, Roddy opened this very site, Phillie Phanatics, as an honest, clean, accurate source for Phillies information and analysis. His work can be read anywhere on this site.
Below, they will all be responding to the same questions, each individually submitted, with no knowledge of the other participants’ responses. It is interesting to compare, side-by-side, some of the top Phillies experts opinions. Take a look:
Who is the Phillies most valuable player?
AMANDA ORR: Chase Utley. He’s the best all around player on the team. Not only is he an excellent hitter who can hit for average and put up some power numbers, he provides excellent defense and base running skills. He’s the total package.
CHRIS JONES: It could probably go a couple of ways but I have to go with Jimmy Rollins. I know it is a cliché, but he does make this team go. If Jimmy can avoid missing any extended period of time, due to injury or other circumstances, and does what we all know he can do (what he did in 07′) then this team could win upwards of 94 games in my opinion.
PHIL SHERIDAN: Ryan Howard is the MVP of the Phillies, even though there is a compelling argument to be made for Chase Utley or even Brad Lidge. I know it isn’t all that interesting to the sabermetricians, but a guy who drives in runs and hits homers really does change the way opponents pitch to your team. Howard had a lot of strikeouts and hit for low average for much of last season, but his monthly power and RBI totals were strangely consistent. He carried the team to the postseason last September and does more than his detractors give him credit for.
GM-CARSON: Ryan Howard is the Phillies most valuable player, because I believe he will be the NL’s MVP this season. I foresee Howard boosting his batting average to the .270ish area, with 60+ homeruns, and 140+ rbi. That’s an MVP! Don’t forget WSBGM’s will be tracking “Howards” this season, which is any time a player commits and error, strikes out, and hits a homerun all in the same game.
SHAY RODDY: Chase Utley is the Phillies MVP. He’s consistent in every department of the game. His work ethic is second to none. When the time comes to step it up you can always count on Utley. He shows up for the big games and the small games. Though one can argue for Hamels, Howard, or Lidge, Utley proves to be the most consistent, and is the steady anchor in the Phillies lineup.
Which Phillie should we be watching in 2009?
AMANDA ORR: Brett Myers. He had a rough start last season, was sent down, came up and did great. It will be interesting to see how consistent he is. Plus, this is his contract year so it could be his last year as a Phillie. However, if he has a good year, the Phillies could give him a deal.
CHRIS JONES: Joe Blanton. When we made that move at last year’s trade deadline I was one of very few nay-sayers. After joining the Phils he went undefeated and I know you can’t put too much stock into a win-loss record but he kept the Phils in every game. Blanton had a very impressive spring putting up a 2.45 ERA and I look for him to have the best year of his career in 2009 to the tune of a 3.50ish ERA.
PHIL SHERIDAN: The smartass answer is: All of ’em. But I think Chase Utley is the guy I will be watching most closely, at least at the start of the season. It was quite the story of determination and perseverance and pain tolerance that he was able to return sooner than originally expected from his offseason hip surgery. But we really won’t know if he rushed it — and if he therefore put himself at higher risk of re-injury — until he plays every day for a few weeks. As it is, Utley says it will take him an extra hour to 90 minutes a day just to get loose and prepare to play. That physical toll is almost bound to have an impact on his performance. Either that or he, not Pat Burrell, is the Machine.
GM-CARSON: Jayson Werth is on the verge of becoming a 30/30 player. If he can handle righties enough to warrant staying in the lineup everyday, he could eclipse both 30 homeruns and stolen bases. Along with that speed/power combo comes 100+ runs and RBIs and decent defense (somewhere Bobby Abreu is crying, “That used to be me!”).
SHAY RODDY: Raul Ibanez. He’s replacing someone who evolved into a fan favorite. Raul needs to win the fans over early. I think he can, too. He’s a hard worker, and someone who wants to win. He’s the player to watch only because he’s the only player we haven’t really seen much of before… Ruben Amaro, Jr. did a terrific job resigning everyone.
What do you think of the Phillies rotation? Does it concern you that Hamels is hurt, Myers is inconsistent, Moyer is 46, and Blanton and Park still need to prove themselves?
AMANDA ORR: Because of his history of injuries, and the fact Hamels pitched 262 innings last season including the post season, there is a reason to be concerned about Hamels. I think in the long run he’ll be okay, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he misses a few starts as the season goes on. Now that Myers knows he is going to start and has that type of mentality again, I think he’ll have a decent year. I think Blanton will have a decent year as well, I’m not really worried about him. He should definitely eat some innings. As for Moyer, I don’t think he’ll have the year he did last season. No way I see him having an ERA under 4 again. I don’t think he’ll do bad, but I don’t see him repeating last season. Personally, I think Happ should be starting and Park in the bullpen. Happ struggled in the bullpen last season and Park, who has more experience, was successful in the pen last season. Plus, that makes 3 lefties in the pen and then Romero comes back in 50 games. I don’t think Park being in the rotation will last long. I wouldn’t be surprised if he struggles.
CHRIS JONES: Every rotation has questions, like the Mets rotation. But the Phillies have very minor questions. The biggest of them though has to be Moyer. Age will catch up to him eventually and lets just hope that it is at the very end of 2010.
PHIL SHERIDAN: Boy, when you put it that way, it does. When you say Hamels is cautiously returning to World Series MVP form, Myers is pitching for a big contract in his walk year, Moyer is back as the seasoned veteran and mentor, Park is healthy and back to being effective and Blanton was one of the keys to last season’s late run — well, that sounds a lot better. Obviously, there is some truth in both ways of framing the subject. And sure, there is some concern. But there is always concern about a rotation. Even in the Glavine-Maddux-Smoltz years, the Braves had concern about their fourth and fifth starters. I do think the Phillies’ rotation looks sound and there is some comfort in the fact that J.A. Happ and eventually Carlos Carrasco are already here to serve as potential replacements for any parts that break down.
GM-CARSON: I’m slightly concerned about Hamels, but I think they were being overly cautious with him. I think he finally wins 20 games this season. Moyer isn’t going to just fall apart on us, his pitching repertoire is built upon slow, slower, and slowest and of course location. Blanton is going to be fine, in fact I think he’ll be the Phils 2nd best starter this season. Park won’t last the season in the rotation, he’ll be replaced by Happ or Carrasco. Myers is the one who concerns me. I’m ready to wash my hands of him as a Phillies fan. I’m tired of the Myers Rollercoaster Express. The Bad Myers/Good Myers act is tiresome and I’ll be thankful when this hothead is gone.
SHAY RODDY: I’m not worried about Hamels at all. I think he needs some time and he’ll be back to his same old self. It’s better to have this happen now than down the stretch. Myers is slightly concerning, but this year there’s no “I want to be a closer” or “Will I be a starter all year”. He has job certainty. During the off-season he put the necessary work in to be successful and right now I have no reason to believe that his hard work won’t pay off. Moyer is always slightly concerning. I don’t think he’ll be a sixteen game winner again, but I think he can make it through another season without hitting the wall. I liked what I saw from Joe Blanton last year, so I’ll look for him to be an inning-eater and let this offence go to work for him. If Park is unsuccessful, there’s a whole lineup of young talent waiting to pick him up. Bottom line: Every team has its question marks. I think the Phillies will be ok, though, in this department.
Ibanez is in, Burrell is out. What does this mean for the Phillies? Will Ibanez be an upgrade, a downgrade or a wash?
AMANDA ORR: I don’t think its either an upgrade, downgrade, or a wash. I think it’s even. Offensively, Burrell will put up the better numbers, but Ibanez isn’t too far behind. On the base paths it is an upgrade. Ibanez isn’t speed lightning, but he is a solid base runner. His defense isn’t great, but it’s a little better than Burrell’s. This way, we don’t have to worry about putting Bruntlett in at the end of the game and we have a solid bat in the lineup in the late innings.
CHRIS JONES: I’d love to say Ibanez will be either an upgrade or a wash, but I don’t think that will be the case. The bottom line is he is much older then Burrell and is an even worse defensive player. The only thing he has over Burrell, some would say, is he doesn’t go through extended slumps. But a closer look at the numbers and it all evens out in the end. In short Burrell > Ibanez.
PHIL SHERIDAN: Writing this after Ibanez struck out with a Burrell-like swing to end the opener is a little trickier than writing it last week. One game is not much of a sample, not when Ibanez hit .305 against lefthanders last season in Seattle. The idea was that he would be a more consistent contact hitter than Burrell, which would lead to more RBIs out of that spot in the order and fewer dead rallies. I think that makes sense, so I still think Ibanez will be a slight upgrade.
GM-CARSON: There will be plenty of fans that simply won’t be able to let Pat Burrell go, and therefore will be unable to fully appreciate what Ibanez brings to the team. I see him being a consistent bat in the middle of the lineup that will help the offense and be able to remain in games and not be lifted for pinch runners and defensive replacements. So, I guess what I’m saying is “wash”.
SHAY RODDY: Letting Pat go will be tough to do. He really won over the fans hearts. When you look at strictly from a baseball standpoint the two’s pros and cons seem to balance out. Burrell fit nicely behind Ryan Howard in this lineup, a tough thing to do. He had some pop in his bat and could certainly win games for you with the longball. However, Burrell was inconsistent and would often go through prolonged slumps. His defense wasn’t great, either. Ibanez provides much more consistency and slightly better defensive range. However he doesn’t fit well into the lineup and doesn’t have quite the same power as Burrell. Right now, judging strictly on what Ibanez did in the AL and in Spring Training, I’d have to say wash.
What Phillies prospect has a chance of making an impact this year? Which prospect has the biggest long term potential?
AMANDA ORR: If a starter gets hurt, Carlos Carrasco will be called up before Kyle Kendrick is even mentioned. I think he could make the biggest impact this year, like what Cole Hamels did in 2006 when he was called up. I’m a huge fan of Jason Donald. However, with Utley and Rollins, it is going to be tough for him to be brought up. I think he could move to third, where he could be next year in the majors. He has a ton of potential and could turn out to be a very good major league player. He’ll definitely be up in September, along with Lou Marson, who could be the everyday catcher come 2010.
CHRIS JONES: Eventually the Phillies will have to deal with an injury to either Werth or Victorino, maybe even Ibanez. Neither are particulary durable (Vic and Werth), or haven’t been so far. When that happens John Mayberry Jr. is going to have to step in and I believe he will perform. Mayberry will take advantage of an opportunity given to him and make the club’s following offseason decisions that much harder.
PHIL SHERIDAN: I’d have to put my money on Carlos Carrasco as the most likely to make an impact this year, although John Mayberry Jr. could wind up being that guy just as easily. I was intrigued by Mayberry during spring training and thought he might have a shot at coming north with the team. But given the nature of starting pitching — how often have the Phillies had five starts go the full season? — Carrasco could be a difference maker. Long term, I’d say Dominic Brown. Talking with Phillies people, you can tell they’re really excited about him. He could just as easily be playing football at the University of Miami. He’s a great athlete and could be either a pitcher or an outfielder (he’s in the outfield now).
GM-CARSON: Since Happ probably isn’t considered a “prospect” anymore, I’ll say Carrasco has the best chance at making an impact, because if not this season then definitely by next season where we’re going to start having to infuse some youth into the rotation. Long-term- I love the potential of Michael Taylor. He’s built like a Tight-end, and has a tremendous speed/power combo that scouts salivate over. The Phils system has some promising outfielders coming up.
SHAY RODDY: Jason Donald and Carlos Carrasco both look like strong long-term prospects. John Mayberry, Jr. and Gary Majewski have also looked good in Spring Training. I doubt we’ll see much of Mayberry or Donald this year, but watch their names in the future. Carlos Carrasco is a guy who I could see coming in sometime around the all-star break, due to injury or poor performance by someone in the rotation. I could also see Majewski having some sort of role in the bullpen this year.
What is your biggest concern entering the season?
AMANDA ORR: The bullpen. They had one of the best in baseball last season, but losing Romero for 50 games is huge. I also don’t think Lidge will be perfect again.
CHRIS JONES: I am really most worried about Moyer. I just can’t see him replicating his success he had last year. Last year he pitched 196.1 innings at the age of 45. Not only did he pitch that many innings but he ended up with a 3.71 ERA. I hope he maintains this production but I think his season was pretty much an anomaly.
PHIL SHERIDAN: Math. I mean, the Philadelphia Phillies won two World Series titles in their entire history. It took them close to forever to get the first, in 1980, and then 28 years to get the second. So doesn’t it seem a little, um, counterintuitive or even greedy to expect the team to win two in a row? Seriously, it isn’t easy to win a championship, as Philadelphia teams prove year after year after decade. So I guess my biggest concern isn’t about a particular player, or the rotation, or Lidge being perfect again — it’s about the planets aligning just right for a second consecutive season when, for the most part, we can’t even find those planets for decades at a time. That said, I think this team is good enough to contend this year and the year after and the year after that. The Red Sox took 86 years to win a World Series. They didn’t repeat in 2005, but they came back and won again in ’07. If the Phillies duplicate that feat, I’d be cool with that.
GM-CARSON: Health. Utley’s hip, Feliz’s back, Ruiz’s neck, Werth’s many minor dings, Lidge’s sore arm, Hamel’s ridiculous amount of innings logged arm/elbow, Rollins’ back, Durbin’s forearm tightness, Moyer’s age…very worrisome.
SHAY RODDY: Luck. Last year the Phillies stayed healthy for the majority of the season. That was nicely complimented by the Mets’ annual choke. Don’t get me wrong, the Phillies played tremendously last season, but it will be hard to count on an injury free season again. Also, don’t expect the Mets to go down easy, I see them as a 90-95 win team.
Describe Charlie Manuel as a manager.
AMANDA ORR: When he first got here, not too many people liked him. Everybody thought he was dumb just because of his southern accent. Now, he is a hero. While a lot of his moves (or sometimes lack of) are questionable, he knows what he doing. He must have great instincts or something because he picks his matchups wisely. All he asks his for two things; his players to be on time and hustle. As showed by the benching of Jimmy Rollins last season, he isn’t going to play favorites, he goes by his rules and the best player for the job. The players love him. Nobody wants a manager who they dread being with for 162 games. He helped bring a World Championship to Philadelphia, that is all we can ask for.
CHRIS JONES: Charlie is Charlie. I love him. From his first press conference he had me hooked. I know you may say “easy for you to say that now” but I was not one to jump on the Jim Leyland bandwagon. Charlie connects with these players like none other and I can say confidently that without him, we don’t have a championship in 2008.
PHIL SHERIDAN: I’ve often wondered how Buddy Ryan would be viewed by fans here if every media availability had been on live TV and radio and if he’d had talk radio and message boarders and bloggers pecking at every word he uttered. It would probably be something like what Charlie Manuel went through in his first couple years as manager of the Phillies. Sit in the dugout and talk to Charlie and you learn a lot about baseball, especially hitting. He understands players, understands the demands of playing every day, and has no problem benching the highest-paid guy on his roster if it’s warranted. What he wasn’t good at was talking at a podium during the live postgame telecast. It is extremely telling that the people who criticized him most severely — and most personally — were the people who had the least actual interaction with him. The Phillies play hard for the guy, they respect him and they’ve won under him. It says a lot about Philadelphia and the fringe media here that it took a World Series for most people to get it about Manuel. Good man, fine manager.
GM-CARSON: For those of you that are readers of WSBGM’s, it’s no secret we thought Charles Fuqua Manuel was a “bumbling backwoods bumpkin” that made seemingly countless managerial mistakes over his first 1.5 seasons in Philly. However, part way through the 2007 season and almost entirely last year he became a better manager, making better in-game moves and became unafraid to shake things up. I am now a fan of Chuck, and was one of the thousands chanting “Charlie” on Opening Night.
SHAY RODDY: Charlie’s a smarter guy than people think. His southern lingo may make you doubt his intelligence, but that would not be fair or correct. Charlie has a high baseball IQ and motivates his team through the longest season in sports. Having Jimmy Williams at his side no doubt improved his in game decision-making, but I’m confident that he will be a more than competent manager without Williams this season.
Should Phillies fans be concerned with the Marlins, Mets, and Braves?
AMANDA ORR: Yes, and I think you can even add the Nationals in there. The reason the Mets didn’t win the East last season was because of their bullpen. With the addition of K-Rod and Putz, they turned their bullpen from one of the worst to one of the best. The Marlins are stacked with young talent. The Braves have added some solid pitching. The Nationals aren’t going to compete for a playoff spot, but they have improved their team a lot and always seem to put up a good battle and can play spoiler. The NL East has turned into one of the best divisions in baseball.
CHRIS JONES: We should always be concerned. Never get complacent. The Mets fixed their bullpen, the Braves fixed their rotation, and the Marlins might have the best rotation in the east. But with all that said the intangibles, such as team chemistry, are the most important and can’t be measured through stats. We are the champs and we brought back that championship team minus Pat. The amount of intangibles this team brings to the table is what sets them apart. Stat and Sabre heads will get a headache reading this response, but the game is played on the field, not on paper.
PHIL SHERIDAN: Of course. The Mets spent a fortune in the offseason to bolster a team that probably should have won the division each of the past two years. The Braves are a solid club with good pitching and a tough lineup. The Marlins pop up every few years with a young and talented club that comes together and has a chance to win it all before being sold for scrap. It is a tough division. The good news for Phillies fans is this: Fans of all those other teams have to be very concerned with the Phils.
GM-CARSON: Yes to all 3. [The] Mets have a damn good offense, and if their starting pitching comes through watch out. The Marlins have potentially the best rotation, but that also means they have the potential to fail as well. They’re young and probably don’t have what it takes to last an entire season in contention. Despite 3 homeruns on Sunday Night off of batting tee Brett Myers, I don’t think the Braves have enough offense to sustain their improved pitching staff. But, yes, worry about all 3 for sure.
SHAY RODDY: You should always be concerned with the rest of your division. The Mets have a very good team this year. Their offense is up there with anyone and they’ve made improvements to sure up their bullpen and rotation. There’s a reason why so many national publications have them above the Phillies. The Marlins are also a team to watch, they’ve got a young talented roster that could really surprise some people. I also wouldn’t forget about Atlanta, they’ve made moves to sure-up their team as well.
Will Chan-Ho Park still be the fifth starter at the all-star break?
AMANDA ORR: No. I don’t think he’ll be successful as a starter. By the break, J.C Romero will be back and that means they have to get rid of a lefty because 4 in the pen would be too much. That could mean Happ and Park switch roles.
CHRIS JONES: No. Chan Ho won’t [even] be the 5th starter in May. I will stand by my opinion that J.A. Happ is the logical choice for the 5th starter. Not only will Happ maintain a longer success as a starter but Park makes our bullpen better. Park had a 12.5 K/BB ratio and there is NO chance he maintains such luck. Happ in the bullpen is just to appease him for a job well done this spring. I say by early May that Happ is the 5th starter and Park is in the pen and we are better for it.
PHIL SHERIDAN: I think he will, for two reasons. He went through a lot of very difficult health issues the last couple years and he seems to be past all that now. And I was impressed that, even on a very hard-working team like the Phillies, Park stood out for his work ethic during spring training. His decision to bypass the World Baseball Classic was tough (he cried at the press conference where he announced that) and demonstrates his commitment to being a starter. I won’t be stunned if there is a change in the rotation by the break, but I suspect Park will be a happy surprise this year.
GM-CARSON: Nope, he’ll have a few good starts, but will begin showing why he’s sucked as a starting pitcher for the past decade leaving Manuel no choice but to make a change. It’s worth noting, that I think Ho Park will do fine in the ‘pen.
SHAY RODDY: No. Park is made for the bullpen and Happ is made for the rotation. It’ll probably take a month or two, but they’ll be flip-floped (Park to the ‘pen and Happ to the rotation).
The Phillies will… (record, NL East finish, playoff finish)
AMANDA ORR: 91-71, win the NL East, hoping for a repeat!
CHRIS JONES: I have the Phillies going 94-68. That will be good enough for first in the NL East by 2 games. Yes, I believe the Mets are a 92 win team, although I admit I am being generous. As far as playoffs it is hard to honestly say I think they will repeat because once the playoffs start anything can happen. So all I will say is we will go in to the playoffs as the NL East champs and we will defeat the Mets in the NLCS.
PHIL SHERIDAN: Win 95 games (95-67), win the NL East by 2 games over the wild-card Mets and then get upset in the divisional playoff series. I have no reason to believe any of that is accurate, but what the heck? It never stopped Jeane Dixon.
GM-CARSON: …win more games than last year and finish 95-67, good for 1st in the NL East. Repeating as World Series champions is a very difficult task, and just making it back to the Fall Classic is quite the endeavor as well, so I’m going to guess a 2nd round knockout in October this year.
SHAY RODDY: They’ll go 94-68. It’ll come down to the final week but they’ll take first place in the East. The Mets will win the Wild Card. Beyond that it’s tough to say. It’s all about who’s hot in the playoffs. I do not see them repeating, though. What we had last year was very special.
Regretfully, Michael Barkann, John Finger, and Jason Weitzel could not participate due to previously scheduled conflicts.