It was only 18 months ago that Ryan Howard crumbled to the ground near home plate, writhing in agony with a ruptured Achilles tendon as the final out of the 2011 National League Division Series eliminated the Phillies from the playoffs.
In the season that followed, Howard slowly came back from his severe injury as the Phillies struggled through 2012, battling age and injury. The Phillies, they of one of the best rotations in the history of the game, could not overcome injuries to Howard, Roy Halladay, and Chase Utley, three of their most important players.
Many thought the Phils would retool, with so much money committed to an aging but still potent roster. They did move Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino to contenders but, rather than go all the way in attempting to restock their minor league systems, the Phillies opted to make another push to the playoffs in 2013.
The variety of moves made by the Phillies are tough to put a finger on, as some pundits like their chances in 2013. A healthy rotation and lineup might put them in the NL East conversation but their Achilles heel remains exposed: defense.
In shoving their remaining chips into the middle of the table for this season, the Phillies believe they can compete with the Braves and Nats in the NL East. The Nats have the best team on paper in the NL and the Braves bolstered their outfield with the addition of both Upton brothers; these two sides look like the class of the division.
But a healthy Roy Halladay changes matters greatly. The Phillies rotation remains unbelievably deep, with Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels providing ace-level production week-in and week-out.
Bizarrely, most of the Phillies moves were made not to strengthen their defense and enhance their already great pitching, but it was in service of the opposite: offense only players who offer very little in the way of versatility.
Adding Delmon Young and Michael Young to a team without the benefit of a designated hitter seems like suicide. The Phillies saw the effects of bad defense up close and personally yesterday, as manager Charlie Manuel lashed out against his sloppy team.
Sure, it was just Spring Training, but do the Phillies expect the regular season to be much different. A very aged team around the infield, an excellent outfielder in Ben Revere trying to make up for whoever or whatever the Phils throw up in the corners should give Lee, Hamels, and Halladay nightmares.
The above-linked Crashburn Alley piece mentions the Phillies (proud) ignorance of advanced stats or analytics. To me, this isn’t even an issue of advanced stats. What old-school baseball guy thinks Michael Young can still hack it at third, with a shortstop in his late thirties beside him? Who that has watched Ryan Howard run recently thinks he has the range of his younger days?
The Phillies are going to leave too many outs in the field this year. They will drive up the pitch counts of their sterling starters, two of which are hardly spring chickens in their own right. The decision to field such an incompetent defensive squad will come back to haunt these Phillies.
Anybody picking Philadelphia to finish above the Braves in 2013 must also think Halladay, Lee, and Hamels will finish 1-2-3 in the National League strikeouts this year. It is the only way they will survive.
And the rest
OMG the Italian Sausage costume from Miller Park was MISSING after a night on the town, only to turn up a day later. [Hit and Run]
The Rays teach their players to properly run the bases and this is revolutionary because??? [Tampa Bay Times]
The Braves crappy local TV deal looks even crappier for fans, as now zero games are available on over-the-air Turner channels. [AJC]
Our old friends across the hall at theScore TV caught up with a bunch of Blue Jays, including Jose Reyes, who now plays for the Blue Jays (I promise!)
Must read from earlier this week: life as a fringe big leaguer during the steroid era. [Baseball Prospectus]
Taijuan Walker might be pretty good.
After going over my game notes on Taijuan Walker, I decided to take a long shower. Locked the door. FB worked 94-97; CT was nasty at 91-92
— Jason Parks (@ProfessorParks) February 28, 2013
Five realities for the 2013 Philadelphia Phillies [Philly.com]
Mark Buehrle‘s godless killing machine showed up at Spring Training. There were no survivors.
— John Lott (@LottOnBaseball) February 27, 2013