Five Questions to Be Answered

The Phillies will look to get back to the World Series and with the addition of Cliff Lee, their rotation will be a big factor in getting there.

The Phils lost a bat but added an arm. The bull pen went under some minor tinkering. With a different complexion to the Phillies heading into 2011, will this new formula put them back on top of the baseball world or will they fall under the class of a one-hit wonder?

I have asked myself and the rest of the TTB staff five questions and they chose to answer either some or all of the questions. Here are their answers:

1. How far will the Phillies go this season?

Brian McCollum: As an “impartial” fan, I believe the Phillies will go as far as their offense will carry them. What I mean by that is, the Starting rotation will surely keep them in the majority of the games, it’s a matter of scoring runs. The majority of the hitters on the Phillies are over 30 (Utley, Howard, Rollins, Ruiz, Polanco, Ibanez, and Victorino) and it’ll be interesting to see if they can keep up the “American League” style of play. Now I do believe they can take the East for the 5th straight year. But it’s gonna come down to the offense. But World Series? National League Pennant? Maybe, but you have to start with the division first and move your way up.

John Russo: It’s hard for me not to think the Phils will make a lot of noise in the NL this year. They have the best rotation on paper and if 2010 was a fluke offensively then they will have the most complete team in baseball. With the league showing signs of becoming a pitcher’s league, the Phillies will clearly have an advantage. With that said, with the NL not being as strong as the AL, the Phillies should find themselves back in the World Series in a battle with the Red Sox, the early favorite in the AL.

Dan MacNeal: Depends how well the offense plays.  The pitching will be there and can carry the load.  I don’t see how they don’t win the division again, even with the other teams improving.  After that, it’s just match-ups.  If they won the World Series again, it wouldn’t surprise me.

2. Is losing Jayson Werth as big of a deal as it sounds? Who plays in right field?

Chris Bengel: Werth was a huge part of the Phillies’ success last year. He is an all-around great player but the Phillies just weren’t going to pay that kind of money to the fourth best player on their bal lclub. He did provide great protection for Ryan Howard and that is one aspect that I think the Phillies will miss. However the addition of Cliff Lee outweighs the loss of Werth. Lee adds another All-Star caliber starter to the rotation. The starters won’t be giving up too many runs this season so I think that will help accommodate the loss of Werth. The platoon of Domonic Brown and Ben Francisco should be able to get the job done. Ross Gload and even John Mayberry Jr. are options if Brown struggles.

With the loss of Jayson Werth, players like Shane Victorino will have to step up offensively and may even find themslves in newer roles in the line up.

JR: What the Phillies lose in Werth isn’t just a bat but a balance to the line up. Having that dangerous presence from the right side of the plate to protect Howard is what will be missed. Now the Phillies will likely have a hole in that spot which will allow teams to pitch around Howard. So to be short, Werth as a player won’t be missed. It’s the balance he brought to the line up that will be missed. As for a replacement, I don’t see anyone being signed before the season starts. Look for a platoon of Ibanez, Brown and Francisco. If that doesn’t work mid-season, expect a trade.

BM: I was never really a fan of Jayson to begin with. Granted he is a good right-handed power bat and an excellent fielder, but he does have his lapses in judgment and strikeouts on one knee. I don’t think it is that big of a loss. Werth is on the other side of 30 and will smolder in D.C. with that “Grand Canyon-esque” baseball park. The fact that they kept Domonic Brown says a lot about the kid and that they were willing to move forward without Jayson. I think that Dom Brown will get the majority of playing time in right field. But if Brown struggles, he gets platooned with Ben Francisco or even Ross Gload.

DM: There are going to be questions, no doubt, as in who will bat behind Ryan Howard? Raul Ibanez? Jimmy Rollins? Dom Brown? Who’s the right handed bat? The Phils will miss Werth, but they’ll adjust.  Brown will probably be the starter to begin the year, and will have to learn on the fly after spending most of last year on the bench.  I’d like to see Francisco get some more at bats, even if he won’t be the full time starter.

3. Will Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard have bounce-back years or are they on the decline?

CB: I definitely think that Howard can bounce back this year. He missed a few weeks due to injury but was still in the top 10 in both home runs and RBIs last season. The home run total will be up once again and I don’t think anyone should worry about Howard getting back to the player he was in 2009.

BM: I can see Howard bouncing back. Howard’s HR and RBI totals were down last season (10 and 32 respectively). But the average hovered near .290 for a good part of last season. So I do believe Howard will bounce back. Now, Utley like Howard and Rollins was injured for a good portion of the season. If Utley comes back healthy, he will bounce back. He just has to remain healthy. He may not be the best second-baseman in the Majors, but he is still one of the best in the NL.

Utley was also bit by the injury bug last year, only appearing in 115 games. His statistics were down and had some forgettable moments in the postseason. However Utley is still one of the best second-basemen in the game today and should bounce back just fine. If he can stay healthy, I can see 25 home runs and around 90 RBIs for him.

2010 is a year Jimmy Rollins would like to forget. Playing in only 88 games, Rollins hit career lows in average, hits, and stolen bases. Whether he leads off in 2011 is also up in the air. He will need to stay healthy in order to bounce back.

Rollins may be the biggest key to the Phillies success in 2010. He is the table setter and missed the majority of the 2010 campaign with multiple leg injuries. Rollins has said he was rededicated himself to training hard in the off season and being physically ready for the grueling major league season. I really see Rollins having a phenomenal year. He is playing in a contract year and will have many incentives to produce for the Phillies this year. I think the lead-off man will be back to his old ways and help the team have a great year.

DM: Howard should put up good numbers this year.  He won’t crack 50 HR, but he will be fine.  His improved average made up for his lower power numbers.  As long as Utley is healthy, he should have an Utley-like year.  Rollins is the question mark, unfortunately had a bad (by his standards) last year and an awful start to the year before.  Is this his last season with the Phillies?  He knows his best days are behind him, but he’s still a very good leader and good fielder.

4. Who will lead the Phillies rotation in wins?

JR: Cole Hamels for this reason: He’s going to be facing a team’s #3 or #4, which he will be heads and shoulders better than. He will get the run support from the offense against a weaker pitcher to go along with his 3.00 ERA. Hamels will finally know what it’s like to be Jamie Moyer in 2007 and 2008.

BM: I think Doc will get the majority of the wins this season. Here is what I think: Doc (20-25 wins), Lee (16-21 wins), Oswalt (15-19 wins), Hamels (17-22 wins), and a combination of Kendrick, Blanton, Worley and a bag of baseballs (10-15 wins).

CB: Roy Halladay will lead the Phillies in wins once again. I feel that he will get the most opportunities and should produce another outstanding season. I think Halladay gets 22 wins this year with Cliff Lee right behind him with about 20.

5. Who is the biggest threat in the National League?

CB: Although they had an off-year last year, the St. Louis Cardinals are the team that I fear the most. The combination of Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday is one of the most lethal in baseball. They simply can make any pitcher look average. They have a great pitching staff handled by a great catcher in Yadier Molina. Of course the Phillies have arguably the best rotation in baseball so a series between the two would be very entertaining. The Cardinals should be back atop their division this year and could be the biggest threat to another Phillies World Series appearance.

DM: San Fran, simply because they are the team to beat right now.  Their pitching staff shut down the Phils in the playoffs last year.  St. Louis is always good, with their staff also, and don’t forget the Brewers, who added Zach Grienke, and already have a pretty good lineup

JR: I would have to agree with Dan. San Francisco established themselves as the team to beat despite not making any significant moves in the off season. They’re a better team in experience but do you really expect the offense to repeat what it did last year? Their rotation is second only to the Phils and with this being a pitcher’s game now, that’s a clear advantage over the rest of the NL.

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