The Philadelphia Phillies didn't deliver on their 2012 playoff hopes, but do have a number of positive points that can be taken into the offseason. Here are five of them:
Positive Point #5: Ruf could be an answer
Darin 'Babe' Ruf earned his nickname this season because of the Double-A Reading Phillies' franchise record-breaking 38 home runs that he hit. Now the question is whether he will be able to actually make an impact in the major leagues.
The 26-year-old had his position converted from first base to left field in August so that the organization has some offseason options. If he performs well in the Venezuelan Winter League, isn't traded and performs well in spring training next season, Ruf might become part of the Phillies' outfield. In that scenario, he could platoon in with a left-handed batting partner.
Positive Point #4: Papelbon was effective
Of course a big-money closer like Jonathan Papelbon isn't overly valuable to a non-playoff team. But, general manager Ruben Amaro's decision to bring the former Boston Red Sox stopper to Philadelphia should help in future seasons.
This eight-year veteran has quietly had a strong year, posting nearly 40 saves, carving a WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) that is below 1.000 and generating an ERA that isn't far above 2.00. Papelbon held up his end of the bargain this season. If the team can solidify its middle-inning arrangement and he remains healthy, next season should be just as good.
Positive Point #3: Hamels isn't going anywhere
It's difficult to know how close Hamels, or the Phillies actually came to parting ways this summer. What we do know is that both sides agreed on a long-term contract extension and that he produced another solid year on the mound.
Heading into next season, this excellent left-hander is primed to become the team's top ace.
Positive Point #2: Utley isn't finished
With all that was said about Chase Utley last spring, it was natural to wonder if the guy could stand properly on both legs. Low and behold, he runs onto the field on June 27 and has looked better than he has in awhile.
Yes, this isn't 'The Man' who was one of the best players in baseball between 2005-2009. But, he proved that his knee issue has apparently been neutralized because he drove the ball again and remained healthy. Utley's OPS (on base plus slugging percentage) is over 60 points higher than last season and he is still handling his fielding duties adequately.
Who knows, maybe he will be able to convert to third base next year as well.
Positive Point #1: 'Chooch' carried the team
Not enough can be written about Carlos Ruiz' 2012 season. This true warrior has come into his own during the prime of his career.
Long known as a sound defensive catcher, 'Chooch' literally carried the Phillies for portions of this season. Fans who have followed his entire career were not overly surprised by his terrific offensive contributions, because they have seen him carry a clutch bat to the plate in the past and knew that he was ready for a breakout year.
Extra innings: Ryan Howard looks like he's getting healthier by the month and has shown signs that his power stroke is returning as well. Jimmy Rollins might be moved from the leadoff spot if another option (player) can be obtained in the offseason. In addition to still being able to pick the ball in the field, his steady power numbers could make a permanent middle-of-the-lineup transition finally happen.
Juan Pierre was a true team guy and handled himself with true professionalism every step of the way. Kevin Frandsen and Erik Kratz seemed to have made strong cases to be reliable bench players next season.
Cliff Lee's won-loss record doesn't show it, but hardcore fans know that he produced another fine year.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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