Monday, January 3, 2011

2011: The Year of Massive Phillies Hype

Yes, this is overdue.  Yes, you will deal with it.  The season doesn't start for another three months anyway.

We are all going to die a terribly pre-ordained death sometime in 2012.  Before that happens, it appears that Ruben Amaro Jr. wants Philadelphia to experience the last World Series victory ever.  He did so by stealing Cliff Lee out from under the Yankees this offseason, which was the second time that New York had experienced this tomfoolery in 2010 (the Rangers made a deal for Lee midseason despite the Yankees' utmost efforts).

Lee decided to sign a five-year, $120 million contract with the Phils in lieu of a six year, $132 million offer from the Yanks.  There are rumors that this had something to do with Lee's wife being mistreated by Yankee fans while attending Rangers/Yankees games, but I would like to think this had a bit more to do with Lee's perception of the way that the two teams do business.  Yes, the Phillies have thrown lots of money around recently as well (see Halladay, Roy, and Howard, Ryan), but the Phillies have such a great clubhouse demeanor (that Lee can attest to) and the Yankees are just so cold about their spending.  My friend who is a Yankee fan was not concerned about the Yankees losing to Lee in the playoffs this year because the Yankees would "buy" him after the season.  Not "sign" him, not "pick him up," but "buy" him.  It's just not the way you should think about this sort of thing.

Lee, who had a 3.18 ERA with seven complete games last year and has a career 2.13 ERA in the playoffs, joins a rotation that already had three starters with ERA's below 3.10 last year in Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels.  Not only that, but Halladay and Hamels are signed through next year and Oswalt has an option for next year as well.  So what happens when a team has four aces?  MAD HYPE.

Yes, this is a ridiculous rotation.  No, the Phillies will not win 80% of their games.  However, since these guys' career win percentages are all around 64%, we can really only expect around 100 wins.  See the hype thing?

Now, Joe Blanton is being shopped to get some of his contract off the books, but I would think that Ruben can replace him with a suitable starter that won't go 3-15 or something.  Besides, Blanton was pretty league-average to begin with, and that only represents a fifth of the games.

On the other side of this, though, is the loss of Jayson Werth and the disappointing offensive season this team had last year.  Without the thumping right-handed bat in the middle of the lineup, isn't it a lot easier to pitch to this team?

I think that the Phils' lineup should do about as well as it did last year, because there were a LOT of injuries last year, and our opening day lineup only suited up together for about 20 games.  Having a healthier season should account for some of the issues with losing Werth, but whoever replaces him (Domonic Brown will likely NOT be this person, at least full-time) will need to be serviceable for this lineup to get it done.

So the NL East is ours.  What about the rest of the league?

Well, the team that beat us, the Giants, didn't really add anybody, and everybody seems to think that the stars aligned for them last year and it will be tough for them to put that kind of season together again (especially with their ridiculous pitching towards the back end).
The Reds should have some improved pitching with Mike Leake and Aroldis Chapman getting another year under their belts, but did you see how we beat them in the playoffs this year?  Unless Chapman can put his talent together as a quality starter, I'm not seeing it.
The Cardinals fell off at the end of last year, but the Pujols/Holliday and Carpenter/Wainwright combo is hard to ignore; in a short series, they could be a tough out.
The Brewers traded for Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke to put some actual pitchers in their rotation, and held onto Prince Fielder for what appears to be one last hurrah.  We'll see how that works out.
The Padres got rid of Adrian Gonzalez and appear to be content with mediocrity again.

The Red Sox GOT Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, and if Josh Beckett and John Lackey can have bounceback years, they are most definitely the favorite to represent the AL in the World Series, and their makeup is quite similar to the Phillies', but with a less dominant rotation and more dominant lineup.
The Yankees lost out on Lee, Werth, Crawford, and Greinke, and really don't have the rotation depth to compete with the Sox, let alone the Phillies.
The Rays lost Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford and appear to be content with something greater than mediocrity for the time being, although Jeremy Hellickson could come up and be a nice starter behind David Price.
The Tigers and White Sox have some nice bats, but I'll need to see their rotations put it together to consider them legit contenders.  The Twins can't get it done in the playoffs, so I'm disregarding them.
The Rangers lost Lee but have some nice young pitchers that were showcased in the playoffs and a great middle of the lineup in MVP Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz.  I just don't see the pitching getting it done in the postseason.

Really, it's just too easy to pick a Sox/Phils World Series, which would be great for TV ratings and this guy.  I just hate the idea that it's a foregone conclusion, and both of these teams were so decimated with injuries last year that they know better than anyone what can go wrong during a long season.

And it's going to be a long, seemingly-unimportant season.

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