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2006 Philadelphia Phillies Baseball Preview

Philadelphia Phillies Predictions – NL EAST

OVERVIEW:

Philadelphia came so close last season, finishing 2 games out of first for the East Division title and one game out of the Wild Card. They’ve made some improvements in an attempt to make it over that final hump. Will they be playing in mid-October this year?

PITCHING:

The club lost its dominant closer, Billy Wagner, to the Mets and has signed Tom Gordon, who has not been in that stressful, ninth inning position in years. Gordon’s bread and butter when he was with the Yanks was the set-up role, where he excelled. Can he notch over thirty saves like his predecessor?

Overall, the team was ranked 10th in the NL in pitching and the starting rotation remains basically the same. Jon Lieber (17-13, 4.20 ERA) and Brett Myers (13-8, 3.72 ERA), although not dominant, are extremely solid and are good for 200-plus innings each. Cory Lidle (13-11, 4.53) is really a fourth or fifth starter masquerading as the third man in the rotation. After that the staff really gets iffy.

Although management tried to a degree to find good pitching, it’s tough. Gordon and the starting five put Philadelphia is in a dicey situation.

HITTING:

The team was second, .270 BA, in league batting last season.

Jimmy Rollins (.290 BA, 115 R, 71 SO, 41 SB) is an offensive catalyst at leadoff. He’s able to spray the ball around the field and has fine speed on the bases.

Chase Utley (.291 BA, 28 HR, 105 RBI), Bobby Abreu (.286 BA, 104 R, 24 HR, 102 RBI), Pat Burrell (.281 BA, 32 HR, 117 RBI), and Ryan Howard (.288 BA, 22 HR, 63 RBI) are all fine hitters capable of clearing the bases. The middle of this order is as loaded as any in baseball.

The team traded Jim Thome to the White Sox for Aaron Rowand; Rowand is a developing player who could easily surpass last year’s .270 average and 13 homers, making him an important part of the offensive package. Kenny Lofton (.335 BA) signed with the Dodgers.

DEFENSE:

The Phils feature some excellent fielding (.985 FP, 90 E), with shortstop Rollins leading the way (.981 FP, 12 E). However at third and second, Bell and Utley were inconsistent in 2005, with .951 fielding percentage and 21 errors and .978 and 15 errors respectively.

In center, Rowand provides great coverage and a sound arm and in left Burrell offers consistent play. Abreu in right possesses limited range but has an on-the-mark arm.

MANAGER AND FRONT OFFICE:

• The highly successful Pat Gillick replaced GM Ed Wade in November. With three different teams over 24 seasons, Gillick has been in the post-season nine times, winning two World Series. Can he do it here?
• Charlie Manuel is a manager who works well with players—giving them confidence and working easily with different personalities.
• Gillick, at 68 years old, is still interested in and dedicated to winning. Good news for team and fans.

INTANGIBLES AND/OR OTHER STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES:

• Manuel was not Gillick’s choice as manager. Can this marriage be saved?
• Tom Gordon’s arm problems from overuse—will they surface again?
• Manager Manuel likes to play hunches, which drives some people crazy.

CONCLUSION:

Thome is gone and the Phillie pitching is pretty much what it was last season. That means more pressure on Rollins to produce and lead and a need for better defensive play from most of this crew. Errors will prove to be costly to this rotation challenged team.

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