February 26, 2010
Every day in spring training until we're finished with the entire league, Big League Stew takes a brief capsule look at each team that we visit in Florida and Arizona. Today, let's hang out with the Philadelphia Phillies, who are *only* the defending National League bleeping champions this season.
2009 RECORD 93-69/1st in NL East
BIG ACQUISITIONS: Roy Halladay(notes), Roy Halladay, Roy Halladay. He's worth three guys, he's so good. A Cy Young is possible. Mayor of Philly is possible. But all he wants is a ring. ... Oh, and Placido Polanco(notes) is here, too! Back for his second tour of duty with the Phils, ready to take over the hot corner.
BIG DEPARTURES: Some of Phillies Nation still mourns the loss of Cliff Lee(notes), who went to Seattle in the Halladay swap. Understandable, but get over it. ... Scott Eyre(notes) was a good, if wacky, lefty, but he retired. ... Pedro Feliz(notes) is happy to be playing for the Houston Astros, who provide a home for wayward ex-Phillies thanks to general manager Father Flanagan Ed Wade. ... Chan Ho Park(notes) really came into his own (and his own turned out to be pretty good) in relief, but he's now a damn Yankee. ... Eric Bruntlett's(notes) beard will be missed ... Matt Stairs(notes) and Pedro Martinez(notes), too.
FIVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE PHILLIES:
1. Can they be the first NL team in 66 years to win three straight pennants? Not even the Big Red Machine could pull it off, though another "red" machine — the 1942-1944 St. Louis Cardinals — did. No questions asked, the Phillies can do it. The Braves will challenge in the division and possibly in the playoffs.
2. Will Cole Hamels(notes) get it back? His batting average against on balls in play was 30 percent higher in 2009 than for his career. In short, that means he was unlucky. If and when Hamels' opponents hit at their actual level, he'll look like the old Cole again. Probably.
3. Does Brad Lidge(notes) really have it back? And, for that matter, is the pen as a whole good enough? After being virtually flawless in 2008, Lidge was often unreliable in the regular season. He pulled focus in the NL playoffs before getting roughed up in his lone World Series appearance. His knee is healing. He's "lost it" before and gotten it back. Ryan Madson(notes) is solid as can be at set-up, but the rest of the pen is question mark after question mark.
4. How long can Jamie Moyer(notes) last as a fifth starter? You know Methuselah will never go away. His strikeout rate dropped a little, from 5.6 per nine innings to 5.2, but he was getting outs when it was 4.6. That was when he was still in his 40s, of course. I mean early 40s. Bad news: He might be done. Good news: Maybe he's not, but the Phillies also have many able-bodied replacements who aren't eligible to get an AARP discount.
5. Did the GM improve the bench enough? Brian Schneider(notes) has a starter's amount of experience to back up Carlos Ruiz(notes) behind the plate. He also knows all of the Mets secrets, which would come in handy if the Phillies had a problem beating the Mets. Ross Gload(notes) is more of a contact hitter than Matt Stairs. Juan Castro(notes) does not have Eric Bruntlett's beard and his career OPS is about 30 points lower. His glove is fine.