Philadelphia Phillies Last Year: 92-70 1st in NL East, World Series Champs This Year: 1st in NL East
Last year the Phillies capitalized on another Mets collapse to repeat as division champs. They then marched through the playoffs going 11-3 on the way to the franchises' second World Series title with the other being in 1980. They have not made a lot of moves in the winter with the only major move being not re-signing Pat Burrell and replacing him with Raul Ibanez. It will be interesting to see if this team has the fire or desire to defend their World Series title.
Opening Day Lineup w/Projections SS Jimmy Rollins .277 13 HR 62 RBI 44 SB CF Shane Victorino .290 16 HR 63 RBI 34 SB 2B Chase Utley .307 34 HR 107 RBI 1B Ryan Howard .267 50 HR 140 HR LF Raul Ibanez .289 20 HR 102 RBI RF Jayson Werth .273 24 HR 69 RBI 3B Pedro Feliz .252 16 HR 74 RBI C Carlos Ruiz .231 5 HR 39 RBI P Cole Hamels
Rotation LHP Cole Hamels 17-9 3.19 ERA 189 K RHP Brett Myers 12-13 4.54 ERA 160 K LHP Jamie Moyer 9-9 4.79 ERA 118 K RHP Joe Blanton 14-10 4.24 ERA 113 K RHP Chan Ho Park 6-9 5.31 ERA 97 K
CP RHP Brad Lidge 2.31 ERA 39 SV 87 K
Best Case Scenario: Cole Hamels stays healthy and is an absolute stud. Brett Myers pitches well and is a nice compliment to Hamels. Howard improves the batting average, cuts down the strikes and wins his second NL MVP. Utley is fully healthy and rakes all season. Ibanez fills in perfectly for Burrell. This team scores plenty of runs and wins the NL East for the third straight season. This team goes back to the World Series.
Worst Case Scenario: Hamels elbow becomes serious rendering him useless for the season. Myers blows up again and Moyer finally pitches like the 46-year old that he is. Ibanez hits like a 38-year old and fails to protect Howard like Burrell did. Howard strikes out 200 times and fails to hit 40 home runs. This team still scores but can't outscore the 8 runs the pitching staff gives up every game. This team finishes 3rd in the division and around .500
Player Most Important to Success: Brett Myers. The lineup will score runs in bunches, Hamels is a legitimate Cy Young contender and Brad Lidge is one of the best closers in the game. What this team needs though to have a chance to repeat is a second starter who can win games for them. That falls on the shoulders of Brett Myers. Consistency is not a word in Myers vocabulary. In 2007 he was coming off two straight seasons with an ERA under 4.00 and was the Opening Day Starter. He then blew-up so badly they moved him to the bullpen and eventually the closer. He was moved back into the rotation last year and had mixed results. If he can give the team 190 innings with an ERA under 4.00 again this team will have a very good chance of repeating as champs. If not the Phillies may have trouble getting the lead to Lidge in the 9th.
Outlook: How the Phillies start the season will be very important. They will be without the services of their best set-up man J.C. Romero for the 1st 50 games since he tested positive for a banned substance. They will also have to fight off any World Series hangover. They can not get off to a slow start and depend on another Mets collapse in August and September. This team should still put up plenty of runs but the pitching depth is a legitimate concern. The chips all fell into place last year by the Mets collapse in September and facing postseason experience challenged teams in the Brewers, Dodgers and Rays. I don't see this team repeating this year but they are still a very good team and could very likely return to the World Series but I don't think this team will be able to beat the American League again in 2009.