There is a team in the National League that looks really good this season.
They have four great pitchers, two of which are Cy Young winners. They have had clutch hitting in the playoffs, and a great closer who has recently locked up a World Series. However, this team is not the Philadelphia Phillies. This team is the San Francisco Giants.
Forget about that team? I can’t point fingers at you. When the Phillies went out and acquired Cliff Lee this off season I too forgot about the defending champions.
I, just like many other baseball fans, automatically put the Phillies in the World Series this year. How couldn’t you? They had three of the games best pitchers last year and now they have four. The Phillies should be a lock to win their second World Series in four years, right? Not so fast.
Unfortunately for the Phillies, you cannot win with just starting pitching, even if your rotation is as prolific as the Phillies. If you don’t believe me, you can ask the Atlanta Braves. From ’91-’05 the Braves won 14 straight division titles, went to five World Series, and had three different pitchers win the Cy Young award from ’91-’96. With all of that said, the Braves only had one championship to show for it. If you want to look even more recently, you can ask the 2010 Philadelphia Phillies.
The problem with the Phillies is they didn’t address any of their weaknesses this offseason. Their bullpen, which faced the fewest innings in the National League last season, was 18th in the majors.
The bullpen doesn’t look much better this season. Most recently the Phillies lost key middle reliever Chad Durbin to the Cleveland Indians. Durbin has played a big role for the Phillies these last few years, eating up a lot of innings when called upon.
The Phillies were able to resign left hander J.C. Romero, but his ERA went up nearly a whole run from 2009 to 2010 and has had control issues. The only other lefty in the bullpen is 25-year-old Antonio Bastardo. Nothing against Bastardo, but let’s just say hitters aren’t shaking in their cleats in fear of facing him.
Another area the Phillies didn’t address in the offseason is hitting. The Phils hitting was very streaky last year, and the loss of Jayson Werth will not help. Not only do the Phillies lose his 27 home runs and 85 RBI’s, but they lose a big right-handed bat which makes their line-up even more left-hand dominant. Perhaps Werth’s biggest asset was the ability to protect Ryan Howard in the line-up. Now opposing pitchers have the luxury of intentionally walking Howard if they don’t feel like striking him out.
Listen, I am a big Phillies fan and I hope I am wrong about everything. However, when I see a team with such high expectations that has so many glaring weaknesses, I see a recipe for disappointment and disaster.
The Phillies will still win the NL East and probably a playoff series too, but the problem I see with the “Phantastic Phour” is it allows us as fans to ignore too many things. We ignore a bullpen with not enough quality lefties, and a batting lineup with too many. We ignore a team that is getting older, and a window of opportunity that is getting smaller. And perhaps worst of all, we have ignored the biggest problem facing the Phillies this season… The San Francisco Giants.