Saturday, March 25, 2006

N.L. East Preview: Philadelphia Phillies

Last we checked, Phillies pitcher Randy Wolf still has not found that chick on the subway that he fell in love with a couple of seasons ago. But he'll have plenty of time to search for her as an elbow injury will keep him out until mid-July.

Other than that, the Phillies are a solid team who could easily contend for the N.L. East title in 2006. Their lineup, which includes mortal Met enemies Pat Burrell and Chase Utley, along with Bobby Abreu, Jimmy Rollins, and budding superstar Ryan Howard, is going to score a ton of runs in Citizens Bank Shoebox this season. And when you add in Aaron Rowand, this lineup has the potential of being quite lethal. Their pitching, however, might give that ton of runs right back to the opposition.

Brett Myers (13-8, 3.72), Jon Leiber (17-13, 4.20), and Cory Lidle (13-11, 4.53) are a solid if not spectacular top three. Then it gets slightly dicey. Ryan Madson will be called upon to convert from reliever to starter, and Ryan Franklin (the Phillies obviously lead the league in Ryans...not a good omen) will take his 5.10 ERA from 2005 and move from a pitchers park to a pitchers nightmare. Gavin Floyd and Robinson Tejeda (another Met killer) lurk in the weeds.

The 'pen, of which Billy Wagner was a huge part last season, is left with a big hole now that Wagner is gone. He's replaced as closer by Flash Gordon, the former Yankee set up man whose shoulder is probably about as strong as silly string after being run into the ground by Joe Torre. Flash+Citizens Bank=Disaster in 2006. There are plenty of lefties playing set-up men, but Arthur Rhodes is a fireman that sprays gasoline, Rheal Cormier is also old, and Aaron Fultz is most famous for giving up a game winning dinger to Benny Agbayani in the playoffs. Those three will however loom large in those big at bats against lefties Carlos Delgado and Cliff Floyd...so in limited use, they can be useful.

If the Phillies bullpen doesn't hurt them all that much, the Phils will contend. If Tom Gordon completely implodes however (which I think is likely), they'll struggle to stay above .500 for the season. What helps them, along with the Mets and the Braves, is that unlike last season, there will be a definite solid line between the haves and the have nots, with Florida and Washington sinking down low into the second division, and the Phils, Mets and Braves solidly in the hunt. But that Phillies bullpen will wind up being their downfall, as Philadelphia's hunt for a division title will prove to be as fruitless as Randy Wolf's search for a blonde on the 7 train (although Anna Benson has reportedly offered to sleep with Wolf if Kris Benson gives up more home runs than Jorge Julio this season). Prediction: third place.

Tomorrow: the second place team (ooh, the tension!)

1 comment:

Tommy_Calzone said...

Enjoying your breakdown...

I read Sporting News and SportsWeekly and they weren't as thorough or accurate. Good job!