2012 Outlook: Philadelphia Phillies

Heading into the 2011 season many people penciled in the Phillies as the world series winners. They had a rotation that was straight out of a video game, three of their starters could have been aces on any team in baseball. As a result they had arguably the game’s best rotation. Their offense was good as well, ranking in the upper half of the league.

The team’s offensive strength lies in the outfield. Shane Victorino is one of the more underrated players, at the plate he has excellent plate discipline, striking out roughly 10% of the time. Last season he saw a pretty big spike in power (.212 ISO), but he’s probably closer to the .170 range. He’s also above average defensively. Hunter Pence is in right, and is also a really good outfielder. He has better power then Victorino, but he strikes out more. He’s had some really good seasons defensively, but has struggled the past couple of seasons. He’s a free agent at the end of the year, and is someone the Phillies need to lock up long term. John Mayberry Jr. is someone to keep in eye on during this season. In 104 games last season he had a .240 ISO, and showed good plate discipline. An ISO around .180-.190 wouldn’t be surprising, with a 18% strikeout rate. Defensively it’s hard to say how good he’ll be, but he doesn’t need to be great.

Ryan Howard will be coming off achilles surgery, and it’s hard to say how he’ll bounce back. It’s no secret that he hits for power, but his strikeout rates are terrible. This past season he struck out over 26% of the time. Defensively he’s pretty bad, and the past two seasons he’s been a below average player according to WAR. Going into the season there’s an excellent chance that he continues the trend. Defensively Placido Polanco has been one of the best third basemen in the league. His offense though is pretty poor though. If he can continue playing good defense he’ll be an above average player yet again.

Chase Utley had been one of the best players in baseball until he got hurt. Even then he posted very good seasons. When healthy he has excellent power, and a good eye at the plate. A big chunk of his value comes from defense though. Minus his first two stints in the majors he’s had a total of 80.6 UZR, making him a gold glove candidate every year. Jimmy Rollins will continue to play shortstop, and is one of the better ones in the league. In 2011 he was coming off an injury shortened season, and turned 33, and still managed to steal 30 bases. Besides his speed he offers modest pop, and has a good eye. He doesn’t have the best on base percentage, but he hasn’t been known as a huge offensive contributor. Defensively he’s been an above average to great defender, but as he ages he should start to decline.

Carlos Ruiz may be one of the more underrated catchers in baseball. Since 2009 he’s been more of an offensive c0ntributor then in the past. He doesn’t have a ton of power, but he also doesn’t strikeout. Catcher defense is limited, but his arm strength and arm accuracy are above average.

Like always Roy Halladay had another dominant season. He had a 2.35 ERA, and a 2.70 xFIP and 2.79 SIERA. He saw an increase in his strikeouts, but also saw an increase in his walks. He did a great job at keeping the ball in the ballpark, so if that trend continues he’ll be in excellent shape. The other ace, Cliff Lee was also dominant. His strikeouts also saw a big increase, but he also saw an increase in walks. Going from 2% BB rate to 4% BB rate is expected though. 2% BB rate is obviously not sustainable. Assuming he stays healthy he should have another spectacular season. Cole Hamels wasn’t as amazing as Doc or Lee, but was outstanding nonetheless. He had good command, but his .255 BABIP was pretty low. He had a 2.79 ERA, but his 3.03 SIERA says not to expect a ton of regression.

At the fourth spot Vance Worley makes for a good pitcher, he’s shown that he can strike batters out, but struggled a little with his walks. His 3.01 ERA probably isn’t near his true talent level, he’s probably closer to a 3.50-3.60 ERA pitcher, but any team would take that. Joe Blanton didn’t make an impact at all last season, but he’s a serviceable fifth pitcher. His command is good, but he can struggle with home runs. A 4.50 ERA is to be expected.

The bullpen lost Ryan Madson, but got closer Jonathan Papelbon in free agency. Obviously we know how good Papelbon is, but it’ll be interesting to see how he makes the transition from the AL to the NL.  Antonio Bastardo is another arm who should contribute out of the bullpen, as is Jose Contreras.

In the end the Phillies should be able to make another run at the world series. The pitching will be able to carry the team, if the offense hits any speed bumps during the season. The Miami Marlins made some nice moves during the off-season, and could make a run, as could the Washington Nationals and the Atlanta Braves.

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