This evening at Citi Field, the Mets welcome the Phillies into Queens for the opening of a three-game series. Despite taking two of three from the Mets a few weeks back at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies enter the weekend in 4th place in the NL East with a 9-14 record. It's very early, so it's understandable if you're still not buying that Phillies are dead. There is good news, though, as catcher Carlos Ruiz could return for Sunday's game, meaning you'll probably get to Cot For Choice in the near future! To find out more about the Phillies, I turned to SBN's The Good Phight and Phrozen, a contributor to the site, answered my questions.
Amazin' Avenue: What are the expectations for the Phillies this season and what has to happen for the team to reach them?
The Good Phight: Expectations ranged from the wildly optimistic (Gnats suck 95 wins!!!!!!one) to the typically Negadelphian (OMG SEASON OVER SHOULD OF TRAIDED), but I think a reasonable expectation is for them to improve on 2012's 81-81 record. But not by much. 85, plus or minus five, is my guess, and I think that's a fair 90th percentile.
As for what has to happen for us (yes, I say "us" and "we;" sue me) to get there, the biggest three are rebounds from Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay. Utley's off to a great start so far,with a .309/.360/.543 line and four homeruns, and as long as he stays healthy, this line isn't that unreasonable. He'll probably cool off somewhat, but will still remain the team's best hitter.
Howard has been an enigma. .284/.302/.432 isn't terrible, but, actually, yeah, it kinda is. He's barely walking, and his ISO is just about half his career mark. He really needs to put it together for the Phillies to have a chance at that 85-win line, because, knowing Charlie Manuel, Howard will be the cleanup hitter until the end of time.
Halladay's also a question mark. He looked terrible in the Spring, and his first two starts of the year did not inspire confidence (although nine strikeouts in 3.1 innings is pretty damn impressive!). His last three outings have been better, but in a weird way. Against Miami, he pitched 8 innings and allowed only one run, but only recorded two strikeouts. He was legitimately stellar against St. Louis, and very good against Pittsburgh, (though his BABIP in those three outings was only .094) but there are enough question marks to.... (brb being waterboarded) Halladay is back to prime facebreaking perfection. SOCUTTERED.
AA: Aside from Cliff Lee's typically stellar performance, the rest of the Phillies' rotation has been uneven so far. In particular, the slow starts of Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels drew my eye. Is Halladay's "demise" a real thing or are his last three starts representative of a rebirth of sorts? And what's up with Hamels? Is this just small sample noise or is there something else there?
TGP: As I said, Halladay is perfect. Hamels' starts have been puzzling, but his last two outings have been much improved. On Tuesday against Pittsburgh, he pitched 8 innings, allowing seven hits and a walk, against six strikeouts. That's good enough to win most games, but the Phils didn't spot him any runs. Hamels has had rocky starts before, and I think this is just a slump on its way out.
AA: Domonic Brown had a great spring but he's gotten off to just a poor start. What are your expectations for Brown this year and what do you think has been his biggest issue with adjusting to major league pitching? Do you feel like he can break out into the star the Phillies thought he would be?
TGP: Brown is either the future of the franchise or a bum who should of been traded. Personally, I think he's gonna be a star (though it would help if he'd tear up the league) and is just struggling. Take a look at these three outfielders:
Player A: .243/.325/.371
Player B: .234/.300/.407
Player C: .226/.280/.345
AA: Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are huge keys to the Phillies season but with them entering their mid-30's, they've had injury problems and age-related declines. Do you think both players can stay on the field and still produce enough to provide the pop in the middle of the lineup?
TGP: I kinda answered this a little bit above, but yes, I do. Utley's playing like it's 2007 (THANKS JOHN LANNAN!), and if he stays healthy and gets regular days off, I think there's a very real chance that he'll be worth 5+ fWAR. Same thing for Howard. I think he is legitimately healthy for the first time in two years, and if he can bring his ISO up somewhat, he'll be the power threat that this team really kinda needs (not gonna be worth $25M, of course! #ryanhowardscontract).
AA: How has Michael Young looked at 3rd base so far? Which Young (Michael or Delmon) do you feel better about contributing positively to the team this season?
TGP: I have a soft spot for Michael Young, having been a fan of his since his 1996 MVP season with the Alaska Goldpanners. That said, it's been just about the adventure we expected there. His 14-game hitting streak notwithstanding, his bat has about what I expected: high average, few walks (though he is walking more than in the past), little power. Michael's going to be worth his contract ($6M) this year, and I think can provide a decent right-handed bat in the lineup.
Delmon Young, on the other hand... Let me say one thing. In his first rehab game at A+ Clearwater, he misplayed three fly balls. And follow @VoteForDelmon for your Delmon Young news. But, honestly, he's cheap. If he can hit even a little, and doesn't embarass himself too much in the field, he can more than earn his salary, and he'd only be taking time away from AAAA guys like John Mayberry and Laynce Nix. I'm fairly sure I'm not alone when I say that I really really wish he'd just go away.
Thanks to Phrozen for giving us a preview of the Phillies! Here are the pitching matchups for this series: