Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Over Under

The overhaul of the Phillies continues abated with reports of the likely addition of yet another middling ballplayer, aka, the other Alex Gonzalez.

Now there will be at least three candidates for the third base job, or portions of it, none of them exactly likely to make us forget Mike Schmidt, Scott Rolen or Puddin’ Head Jones.

The Phillies are becoming a collection of budding stars, fading run-of-the-millers, and guys who always flew just under the radar. Come to think of it, that last image is the perfect metaphor for a team that is in a perennial holding pattern. The only difference with this year’s installment is that the General Manager admits as much.

The motley collection of pitchers and utility infielders Pat Gillick continues to assemble will surely test Charlie Manuel to the limit, not as a hitting guru but as an in-game strategist. History is not on the affable skipper’s side.

Despite all, however, I am optimistic about 2007. At that stage the Phils will have more money to work with, fewer albatrosses on the 25-man roster, and hopefully a well-established nucleus of players coming into their prime. And if the newly reconfigured Cititzens Bank Park turns out to be even a little more pitcher-friendly, some free agent hurlers who heretofore have avoided Philadelphia like the plague might be enticed to sign

As for 2006, I expect a trying year. Still, with Aaron, Jimmy, Chase and Ryan in town, I expect plenty of excitement.


gr said...

this off-season started so well, but since then it's just bored me to tears. ryan franklin? abraham nunez? ricardo rodriguez? who are these guys? (answer: "This guy's dead / cross him off then"). i wonder if we can re-sign ron gant too.

George S said...

I’m not quite the pessimist you are about 2006. The Phillies had a lot go wrong last year and still missed by just a game. Your main offensive power threat was gone for the entire season. Your RF did virtually nothing after the all-star break. Your best LHP was gone for the year by June. Your leadoff man played the first half of the season in a partial fog. Your regular 3B batted about .200. You had to re-invent your bullpen during the course of the season. Your manager took forever to figure out the NL, and evaluate the players.

There are many questions and concerns for 2006, but how about looking at it this way. Would you be shocked if:
The Phillies were even better defensively than last season?
If Ryan Madson won 12 games or more as a starter?
If Brett Myers had a breakout season?
The Phillies got more production out of 3B, even from Bell?
If Ryan Howard hit 40 HRs?
If Gavin Floyd made the team?
If at least one of the many young arms came up big?
If Gillick pulled the trigger on a big deal for a #1 during the course of the season?
If the new CBP dimensions helped the pitching staff much more than anyone thought they might?

Any or all of the above happening would not shock me at all. That doesn’t mean they are going to happen, but they are certainly within the realm of possibility, maybe even more than 50-50.
If I was in the NL East, I would not underestimate this team. There are a lot of question marks in the pitching and bullpen, but they are question marks, not hopeless situations (Franklin and Lieberthal are the closest things to no-hope write-offs on this team in my view).
The Phillies could regress or collapse this season, but I don’t think so. They have too good an everyday lineup. Will they get to the postseason? I don’t know that, but I think they actually have a pretty good shot.

gr said...

there's one problem i have with that thought, george s: the astros had a lot more go wrong last year and they were still able to assert their dominance over the phils head-to-head and by one game in the standings. to me, the phils blew a golden chance last year and don't have all that great an excuse (or excuses) as to why.

George S said...

You're right. When push came to shove, the Astros were better than the Phillies. You can call them reasons or excuses, but they're all the same thing.

Two simple questions can be illustrative of the Phillies prospects in 2006.

1) Do you think the 2005 Phillies overachieved, underachieved, or played to their talent level?

2) Is the Phillies talent level top to bottom starting 2006 better on paper than what they had in 2005?

Tom Goodman said...

Time to weigh in....

The second question George asks can be answered in part this way:

1. Howard represents a major improvement over the Jim Thome of last year. Impossible to say if that will be true if Thome recovers but I suspect it will be anyway.

2. Utley represents an improvement over Polanco if he plays as well again this season, especially in the power departments. He isn't as good a fielder.

3. Rollins represents an improvement over Rollins if the end of the season represents the new Jimmy going forward. Jimmy is the most important position player on this team right now. If he lights the spark and shows the way this team is going to be much better on offense.

4. Bell represents....next. A platoon here hs to be better. Anything would be an improvement against right-handers.

5. Lieberthal....next. Platoon here for sure as well. Better than Lieberthal-Pratt? Impossible to say, especially in the area of handling pitchers.

6. Bench. Better overall.

7. Burrell. If he plays at least as well as last year all it will be a big plus.

8. Rowand represents a vast improvement on defense but might not be an improvement over the platoon of last year when it comes to batting. He has to run the bases better than Michaels.

9. Bobby's recovery is a major key. He has to approach his old form for the Phils to contend.

10. Pitching. Let's start with the bullpen. It is not better than last year. Indeed, it is worse. Wagner's performance will be hard to match let alone exceed. The other two thirds of the TROIKA have departed or been re-assigned. Fultz had a career year. Cormier was a diaster. The newcomers are not so impressive to me including Rhodes. His second half was a bust whatever the reasons.

11. Starting pitching. Myers is a major key. He has to emerge, finally. Without that, the team is in trouble. Overall, I don't see an improvement in the starting rotation. Lieber a year older. Lidle a career average pitcher. Frannklin a complete gamble. Wolf not back until mid-summer at earliest and, then, who knows. He has pitched hurt for a few seasons now so none of us knows what he can do any more. Madson an unknown as a big-league startrer. I don't think he has the stamina.

Pitching just isn't good enough to win unless a lot of people emerge and recover. The offense is good enough to win if a lot of people perform as well as last year, especially the youngsters.