Chase Utley of the Philadelphia Phillies is easing his way into the new campaign. Will his power stroke give the red pinstripes a greatly needed threat? Can he and Hunter Pence be enough for the first 52 battles?
Polly Polanco jammed his left ring finger on a 1st-inning pick-off attempt: His knuckle came out of joint and he popped it back in, which is why the precautionary measure was removal. Fortunately, the negative X-rays indicate only a few days before he returns. It’s a hold-your-breath ‘12 because the Phils need every ounce of production.
This is an after-publication update. Chase has cartilage issues in both knees, and will most likely be on the DL for the 1st few April lineups. He will visit a specialist who has helped other athletes overcome this problem. His seat will be kept warm by Freddy Galvis. There will be more about him at Tal’s Handy Caps on Facebook with the advance In-House Solution shortly. That said, the injuries to the right side of the infield will inspire the-time-is-now thinking for one more ring. Like a near-death experience, it will illuminate that this may be their last strong shot at that 2nd championship.
In-House Solutions: 3
Vance Worley, like Doc Halladay, didn’t excel with the circle change. However, he acquired a changeup grip from Rich Dubee two springs ago that he–now–has passed on, and the Vanimal is finding similar results. As I have said, ace-like symptoms are contagious.
Dom Brown’s quick hands have returned after some tutelage from Gary Sheffield, he has fixed some weaknesses in his swing, and he has added 20 pounds of muscle. Dom has made some defensive gaffes, but his speed and explodes-off-the-wood hitting may outweigh his difficulties in leftfield. That said, he may out run Juan Pierre and Scott Podsednik for that final bench spot.
Rube Amaro primarily traded Wilson Valdez for lefty bullpen pitching, and the GM will not deal Joe Blanton unless Roy Oswalt green-lights another tour. Rube has approximately $5M deadline scratch plus $6M AAV soft-cap room after eating $2M of Blanton’s $8.5M contract (AAV = Average Annual Value). Plus, Oswalt would split up the southpaws. Kentucky Joe will not be a salary dump or be swapped for young inventory. Scott Elarton and Joel Pineiro are not going to provide a comfort zone for Amaro, like Kyle Kendrick–no matter what they do in Florida. Little Roy would cost $7-8M plus incentives.
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, the Frat House and others. Nitecap Insight, Precap Pitch, and The Apocalyptic Horsemen are the 3 other parts.
Binoculars are searching Bright House Field for the second sacker, as worry lines are creasing foreheads throughout the tri-state area. The good news is that he only needs 30-40 at-bats to be ready for the northern bell. Some of those can come initially in minor-league activity, which would allow him to apportion the game speed into 2 bites. It will take until the last week in Clearwater to determine his homerun potential for 2012. Apparently, his biggest loss last season was his long-ball punch, but his statistics were also down: .259, 11 taters and 44 steaks. So, those figures need to improve across the board–especially during the first third of the tour.
There are a lot of interchangeable pieces in the 2 to 6 lineup holes. The cleanup position will be in the hands of Pence, while the big bopper is on the mend. Polanco and Shane Victorino can create a unique potency behind Jimmy Rollins. Polly is the consummate two man, who hits .300 and plays the sport right. Vic, on the other hand, employs his wheels to create a relay race at the top of the order. Either can provide an RBI situation for the meat of the attack.
See my previous publication (One Piece Short) for the order with Polly batting 2nd.
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Another variable is John Mayberry Jr. with his more athletic stance from the 2nd half of ‘11. If he can come reasonably close to his .301, 12 bombs and 37 RBI in 164 AB with that success prorated over more opportunities, he could provide a solid 5 stick for protection. Then, the 6 spot could be a mixture of Laynce Nix and Ty Wigginton, if Polanco swings seventh with Shane behind Jimmy Rollins. These combinations should plate 4 runs per contest, and realize a lot of victories. The weak link here is Utley’s fragile knee. His numbers require marked improvement at least, and his over-the-fence stroke is key.
Last year the production increased with Chase’s mere presence in front of Ryan Howard: Opposing hurlers worked the offense differently after his return. The reverse will be pronounced without the Big Piece, but his lumber in the 4 slot will mirror the 2011 Utley re-entry. The club was without Chase for 46 battles and there are 52 until the beginning of June. When number 26 took the field in late May, the Phils were 28-18 (.609) and continued on the way to a .630 (102-60) summer. They went 74-42 with him on the grounds, which is a .638 mark.
This franchise core has learned how to triumph: What it takes. From July 22 of 2010, they have a 146-79 record for a .649 clip. This has occurred without Jayson Werth or a right-handed bat behind the Rynosaur for the 1st 4 months of ‘11. It happened despite 2 months without Utley last season. It was there even with Chase’s hand injury and Ryno’s ankle in 2010. Each campaign the locals had rough patches. Remember, the Astros swept them at the Bank in four late August games along their path to the 2010 NL East title. After there was nothing left to gain last September, they were defeated in 8 straight, when they took their foot off the gas. The new year promises more of the same: It is who they are.
Tal’s Handy Caps on Facebook features an advance view of Cap-Size Foresight and photos that are not in Baseball-Fix Monday. Join for notification and you’ll also know immediately when the weekly post goes up. I usually load it on Sunday evening or night. It might be worth your while because I have seen delays of 2 hours on feeds. See link below.
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 (The Empty Corner), 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 one featured above–will be used for the ERA publications. Thank you, to all who bookmarked the Phillies page, because feeds are erratic at times.