April will arrive without Ryan Howard for the Philadelphia Phillies on the 5th in Pittsburgh. Can they survive, like they did last year without Chase Utley? Will Hunter Pence partially plug the hole in the middle of the order?
I am doing a weekly Baseball-Fix Monday until the end of March. Also, I’ll publish after every game that is not washed out during the summer. The updated format is in 4 sections. Cap-Size Hindsight features highlighted elements, good and bad, from the last battle through a variety of mostly house-themed devices. They are: Penthouse Occupancy with the Crystal Champagne Toast, Cholley’s Doghouse, the Glass House, Miniature Mansion, the Kangaroo Court House, Fun House Of Mirrors, Rally Tal & Cap, Full House Warming, the Big House Key for The Rising Son, Animal House, and the Frat House. Nitecap Insight, Precap Pitch, and The Apocalyptic Horsemen are the 3 other parts.
The Empty Corner:
The 2011 NLDS came to an abrupt termination with the wounded warrior felled by his ruptured left Achilles tendon. There are many miles to his next official at-bat in May or later. That said, this may turn out to be a disguised blessing, because the offense has been waiting for the long ball, which is no longer there in the cleanup department. The top of the lineup will be looking to rely on their legs and strategy instead. The Phils are a 5-run-per squad that can plate 4 until the Rynosaur gets comfortable at the dish.
Even with limited time, Howard may have the best chance he’s had in quite awhile to make the All-Star team. Adrian Gonzalez, on the other hand, had only 1 campaign away from the first-base bottleneck in the NL. It has followed him to the junior circuit with 2 big-name signings. Albert Pujols will wear the halo after leaving the heavenly confines, while Prince Fielder will drive the Motor City wild with his oversized engine. Add Mark Teixeira from the Yankees and you have 4 competitors for 2 spots. Boston and New York will stuff the ballot box, while St. Louis joins Los Angeles behind Pujols. Prince may end up 4th with Detroit and Milwaukee on his behalf.
Meanwhile, Joey Votto and Ryan will be the top talent and vote getters in the senior league. The list shows some career-season possibilities, and there could be a breakout from some lightly polished youngsters or rookies. That is probably not going to affect the fan’s or the manager’s selection. Plus, Ryno is likely to be well-rested and there is a possibility he could go on a tear that leads into July.
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Jimmy Rollins has started revving up his wheels on the base paths, realizing that without the big bopper, they can no longer stand around. He is also endeavoring to rack up 3-4 more knocks per month, and a few additional free passes before swiping a bag or two. I expect Polly Polanco to average .300 or more in April and May. He has established hot Aprils in Philly: .398 (‘11) and .299 (‘10). Even after being plunked by Tim Hudson in early 2010, he hit .299 (April), .313 (May), .346 (June) and .299 (July). Shane Victorino may also bat 2nd on occasion, but the table setters will be a strength again.
Power from Utley is the unanswered question, which will make the difference between the 2 or 3 slot for him. The brain trust is using all due caution with his pampered knee to maximize his production, and he is expected to regain the leg strength for 20-25 homeruns. The temporary four hitter is Pence who can achieve a .300 mark with 30 bombs and 100 RBI. He should be able to provide enough punch for the 4-8 week interval without the Big Piece. Vic will finish the meat of the offense in the early days because he can go yard with a .290 performance.
LF/1B John Mayberry Jr. should be able to come close to his 2nd half stats (.301), but he will drop off a little after pitchers make necessary adjustments. The 7 slot will be split between 1B Ty Wigginton and LF Laynce Nix, depending on the opposition’s starter. Combining both, they would produce these numbers: .250, 20 HR and 60 RBI. Chooch Ruiz will again thrive in the clutch and turning over the lineup. And don’t forget there is some lumber swinging ninth.
The 3 aces will mostly limit the other club to 3 runs or less, which should equal a lot of triumphs. Joe Blanton and Vance Worley will receive more run support due to facing the bottom of other rotations. That’s why Jamie Moyer notched 16 wins in 2008. The improved bench will provide additional pop and speed as well. Last summer the red pinstripes survived without Utley and Jayson Werth, but this time it’s Howard’s big stick. They went deeper in October when they weren’t as invincible, but they have played .649 ball since late July of 2010.
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My contribution to the MLB-30 series (3 Up and 3 Down) is for isportsweb & Fox Sports (launch in late March). The other links are to my previous publication (Yesterday’s Tomorrow), and the 15 storylines–so far–for 2012 on the Phillies page or my author archives, where there is an excerpt photo.
Tal’s Handy Stats is daily coverage. The 2012 MLB 5 may feature the Halos or Cardinals, while the Sox and Dodgers may be replaced. I alternated the 2011 ERA For The NL East and the 2011 ERA For The MLB 5. A site format change slightly distorted the original ERA postings (#161 is less so), but the new table–like the ones featured above–will be used for the ERA publications. Thank you, to all who bookmarked the Phillies page, because feeds are erratic at times.