Monday, March 7, 2011

MLB Preview, Key to success: Philadelphia Phillies

My complete preview for the MLB season is here, today I will continue my team by team analysis of the player that is the most important to watch in the upcoming season. This isn't necessarily the best player, rather someone who's season is important for the team, or their growth as a player.

Philadelphia Phillies: Chase Utley
On a team as loaded with star power it's nearly impossible to say one player will make or break their season. The Phillies have about as many superstars as any other team in baseball, but Utley is the one guy whose success is the key to them going from very good to the best team in baseball.

Last season, Utley sprained his thumb causing him to miss all of July and half of August. In the month of July the Phillies went 15-13, which is decent, but goes to show the importance of having Utley in the lineup. I won't put the injury prone tag on Utley because it was the first time he has missed such a substantial time during a season. That being said he is getting older and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him on the DL again this year.

Utley was considered the best second basemen in baseball going into 2010, not only because of his hitting, but his glove as well. While he has never won a Gold Glove, he did win the Fielding Bible award in 2010.

Since becoming a full-time player in 2005, Utley has three seasons with more than 30 home runs, four 100+ Rbi seasons, five seasons with 13+ stolen bases, and never batted below .275 including two years above .300. Plain and simple, Utley is GOOD...Not just good, but he has been the best second basemen in baseball over the last six years. Only last year did Robinson Cano surpass him at the top.

That was just one season though and 2011 is there for Utley to take back the top spot and carry the Phillies to the World Series. They have several power hitters, several base stealers, but Utley is the one guy who can do it all, which is key for their lineup to produce.

Assuming he hits second or third, Utley has Shane Victorino in front of him, as well as possibly Jimmy Rollins. Those two guys are going to be on base a lot, having Utley to drive them in is important to the team. Behind Utley is Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez; two guys with power, but not great averages. Having Utley on base in front of them will increase their run production as well as allow them to see better pitches.

You could argue that Utley isn't so important because Howard and Ibanez could just drive in the top two. That's true, but Utley is able to not only drive in the runs, but be one base for the sluggers to hit him in as well. If he can get back into his top form he would be a huge run producer for the Phillies.

The Phillies have one of the most amazing rotations I have ever seen. They have two guys who are Cy Young candidates every year in Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, then they have two guys who would be aces on almost any other team. Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt will be over-shadowed, but they could end up with the best numbers of the bunch. Joe Blanton is the number 5, and he is the kind of pitcher that any team in baseball would love. He'll pitch lots of innings and have a solid era.

Because of this dominant rotation, the Phillies don't need to score tons of runs to be one of the best teams in baseball. But they do have a good lineup which can take a lot of pressure off of their rotation. If they can give early leads, the starters can limit their stress and keep their arm healthy for the playoffs.

Others Considered: Jimmy Rollins was considered, but I think he is pretty much done. Age has caught up with him and his bat is not what it used to be. That being said, they have Victorino who will fill in fine at the lead-off spot...I also considered the bull-pen, namely, Brad Lidge. He has been up and down for the last few years and he'll need to pitch well in order to assure the Phillies get all the wins they can. He may get a lot of action this season as the closer, but he'll need to be more consistent if he wants to keep the closer role.


Tage said...

"The Phillies have one of the most amazing rotations I have ever seen."
Name one rotation you've seen that is better!

Tage said...

I think I would start label him as injury prone. Hasn't played a Spring Training game yet due to tendinitis in the knee!

Please read this:

Mitchell.Larsen said...

My response to the first comment is that I haven't seen them pitch yet so I can't call them the best yet. What happens if Cliff Lee goes down to start the season like last year? Then Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels revert to their 2009 seasons where both had plus 4 era's. Not saying that will happen, but there are some problems that COULD arise.

As far as Chase Utley, maybe the ipro tag needs to be put on him. He is getting older and apparently all those stolen bases have caught up to him. Would be too bad for Utley and the Phillies, if he misses substantial time they may get off to a slow start.

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