I know that we all can’t wait for the season to get started on Sunday against the Braves. Have already heard the tailgating in preparation for Sunday afternoon.
That being said, here is my take on the Phillies and how they set up for the 2009 season…
Starting Pitching: The only question marks here appear to be Chan-Ho Park (was his Spring Training the real thing or a fraud) and Jamie Moyer (we know he will gut it out, but is he good for 15 wins this year). Hamels and Myers and the top of the rotation should not have any questions at all. My surprise is Joe Blanton. I am expecting a good year from the righthander… to the tune of 15 wins (and a homerun somewhere along the line).
Relief Pitching: I like the pickup of Jack Taschner. Saw him in the Minors and he will get the job done. People are on him because he hadn’t done much lately for the Giants. Well, J.C. Romero and Scott Eyre did pretty well off the scrap heap. Losing JC for 50 games hurts, but Eyre will step up to the 8th Inning vs. RHB spots and Taschner can fill in behind him. And then, there is Brad Lidge. I’m not expecting 48-for-48 again. I figure he’ll drop a couple along the way, but should be still good for at least 35-40 saves.
Infield: Do we really need to talk about the right side and SS??? No, I didn’t think so. I will say this… I think J-Roll playing in the WBC will pay off big dividends. I know he wants to forget some points of 2008, but remember the great run in Sept. and Oct. But he still has a bit to prove after a bit of an off year (.277, 11 HR , 59 RBI, 76 R). How Pedro Feliz plays may be the only question still to be answered. He fit in well with the team in ’08, but didn’t show the production numbers (but in that lineup it’s possible).
Outfield: I have said it in other entries. My concern is Jayson Werth and was last year a bit of a mirage. If you go by his Spring Training, then no. He has six homers in Grapefruit League action and a .317 average. I see another strong year from Victorino. No doubt that he and Werth will flip-flop again between the top and middle of the batting order. And I think Raul Ibanez is going to really pick up the slack for the departed Pat Burrell.
Manager: Charlie Manuel earned his spot in Philadelphia sports history last year by ending the curse and bringing Philly its first title since 1983. For all the critics early on, Charlie benefitted from Jimy Williams last year as his bench coach. Adding Pete Mackanin was a good move… a guy that has been around baseball for a lot of years and, most recently, the manager of the Cincinnati Reds.
Forecast: 91-71 and the Phillies win the NL East by two games over the NY Mets, who again falter in September.