On The Edge Blog

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Gotta love some February trash talk!

Oh Carlos Beltran, nobody likes a copycat!

It seems that the Mets' center fielder Carlos Beltran wishes he were as cool as National League MVP Jimmy Rollins, because he's suddenly making predictions about who the "team to beat" is in the National League East.

I'm going to be a little delusional here and assume that Beltran read my column last week, in which I broke down the two team's rosters and deduced that the Phillies came out on top even after the Mets added Johan Santana. That has to be the reason he made the following prediction.

He told the New York Daily News, "With him [Johan Santana] now, I have no doubt that we're going to win in our division...So this year, to Jimmy Rollins, we are the team to beat."

Last year, Jimmy Rollins declared the Phillies as the team to beat in the National League East, and it took six months for the Phillies to reach the top of the division, but they made it there on the final weekend of the season.

Jimmy Rollins did not respond back to Beltran's claim, having already made his prediction for 2008: 100 wins for the Phillies.

Last week, I compared the Phillies to the Mets; this week brings the more important comparison of the 2008 Phillies versus the 2007 Phillies.

So, are the Phillies capable of reaching 100 wins?

The 2007 version of the Phillies won 89 games last year. Are the 2008 Phillies 11 wins better than last year's team?

Starting in the bullpen, the 2008 Phillies are worlds ahead of the 2007 group of relievers.

First of all, the closer position belongs to a healthy player (Brad Lidge) instead of Tom Gordon. Flash blew three out of his first eight save opportunities without throwing a curveball, and then was shut down for nearly three months with arm trouble. Since taking over for Billy Wagner as Houston's closer in 2004, Lidge has converted between 80 and 85 percent of his save opportunities, so that's one or two more wins right there.

Then looking at the rest of the bullpen, Antonio Alfonseca will not be closing (blowing) games in red pinstripes this season. Old 12-fingers blew three of his 11 save opportunities when Brett Myers and Tom Gordon were on the disabled list, so add another win there and we're up to 92 wins.

Overall, the bullpen is improved from last year. Lidge, Gordon, J.C. Romero (a full season), Ryan Madson, and Chad Durbin sure look better than their counterparts at the start of last season, which included Geoff Geary and Alfonseca.

Now to the starting pitching.

Cole Hamels should improve in his second full season in the league, but 15 wins are a nice conservative estimate. Jamie Moyer has pitched at least 199 innings in nine out of the last ten seasons, so his production should be similar to last year's numbers. Adam Eaton can't possibly be worse than last year (I hope), or Kris Benson or another Kyle Kendrick-type call-up will replace him. Kendrick, who put up ten wins in 2007, gets a full season to show what he can do. Considering he replaced the pathetic one win that Freddy Garcia contributed in the first two months of last season, figure an extra two or three wins in that spot.

Now for the big upgrade: Brett Myers. How many wins is a full season of Brett Myers worth over the group of scrubs that trotted out to the mound last year? A rough estimate is five to ten wins. An all-star season makes him worth 12 extra wins, but that's pushing it for a guy switching back from a closer to a starter. If Myers can put up 15 wins in 2008, the Phillies should be able to reach triple digits in the win column.

The Phillies' pitching staff is improved, but is the lineup?

Aaron Rowand, and his 27 homers, is gone, but he'll be lucky if he's half as productive in 2008 for the Giants as he was in 2007. Taking his place is Geoff Jenkins. Jenkins won't produce as well as Rowand did, but that should be balanced out by inserting Pedro Feliz's bat in place of the Wes Helms/Abraham Nunez/Greg Dobbs black hole that occupied the hot corner in 2007.

Now for the biggest wild card of them all: Can the Phightins fight off the injury bug?

Last year, the Phillies had enough injuries happen to key players to last a decade, let alone one season. I don't need to go through the entire list, but among the casualties were Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, Cole Hamels, Brett Myers and Tom Gordon.

For starters, Ryan Howard should be able to avoid his trip to the disabled list because his offseason bulk this year is in his shoulders and not his stomach. Cole Hamels swears his injury last year was avoidable, and the Phillies responded to his claims by getting him his own chiropractor, so hopefully he can stay healthy. On the downside, Chase Utley is a gamer, so he won't start ducking out of the way of fastballs targeting his wrists, and Tom Gordon is even older than last year, so we can probably mark them down for infirmary visits in 2008.

My overall guess for the Phillies is less injuries to key players, and better pitching all around. That has to be worth 11 more wins. Right?

No matter what, isn't it great to have some real hope, instead of our normal February false expectations?


Anonymous Please stop said...

One hundred wins? Are you nuts? The Mets and Braves will both be better than last year, yet the Phils are going to win 11 more games?
Losing Rowand is going to be devastating. You're right that he won't put up the same numbers in SF, but he was perfect in Philly. Wes Helms can't get on base to save his life, and Geoff Jenkins will strike out at least 125 times. This team is not as good as last year. Myers is a better closer than Lidge (who blew 8 saves in only 27 chances last year), and Tom Gordon is so old he remembers when the Liberty Bell was functional.

February 20, 2008 6:40 PM  
Blogger Matthew Fleishman, Yardley News Editor said...

I do have to ask how the Braves are better? They added Tom Glavine but lost Andruw Jones, Edgar Renteria, and half of their bullpen. That seems like a step back to me, but I guess I shouldn't let facts get in the way of someone's rambling.

March 6, 2008 3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fair point. Oh, by the way:

FACT: It's been more than 9,000 days since Philadelphia has won a pro sports championship.

Enkoy rambling.

March 16, 2008 12:17 AM  

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