Philadelphia Phillies: 3 Up and 3 Down

With a foil for Jimmy Rollins as part of the newly minted double-play combination in the dugout, the Philadelphia Phillies have added their former fiery manager to their new skipper. Previously, Larry Bowa had returned in 2001, and the red pinstripes won an additional 21 games. While past and predicted numbers bear an eerie similarity, opposite results do also.

With His Battle-Tested Bat in the Cocked Position, Howard Eyes Serious October Baseball.

With His Battle-Tested Bat in the Cocked Position, Howard Eyes Serious October Baseball.

Despite the negative outlook by many, good news is half of 2014’s story. That stated–for the first time since the 2000 season ended–Rollins and the franchise face an uphill battle. Then, the shortstop was a September call-up for a 65-97 squad. Other than an 80-81 record in 2002, the organization until last year has had 10 successful summers and one .500 mark.

According to David Schoenfield of SweetSpot Network, the Phillies will finish at 66-96 and only the Astros will have more losses. However, his prediction from February 3 does not consider these differences: a helm change, a healthy Ryan Howard, eight fit regulars and a stronger rotation. Baring injuries, ’14 does not open without a right fielder and a backstop. While some areas are the same or better, Ruben Amaro Jr. especially improved the five-man staff on February 12.

Schoenfield’s prediction is one victory more than the 2000 Phils’ 65-97 mark. That next September, Bowa pushed them to 86-76–which was probably not the forecast–and he had less to work with. When a club is too old, the accepted opinion–not mine–is they cannot even reach the .500 plateau. However, the 1983 squad went 90-72 on the way to the World Series with these 10 stars: Mike Schmidt, 34; Steve Carlton, 39; Pete Rose, 42; Joe Morgan, 40; Tony Perez, 41; Ron Reed, 41; Gary Mathews, 33; Dick Ruthven, 32; Garry Maddox, 34; and Tug McGraw, 39.

After Ryne Sandberg took the reins, the team had new life before they ran out of starters. The rookie manager went 18-13 before his rotation included Zach Miner, Tyler Cloyd, Ethan Martin’s emergency effort and Roy Halladay’s final outing. While the starting staff and Howard with a nearly full 162 should fare better, Marlon Byrd and Bobby Abreu just might enjoy the fun they missed by sparking a last hurrah for this championship core.

3 Up

Best case scenario for 2014

If most variables end positively, the franchise could again reach the NLDS. That includes advancing after a wild-card berth and six contending months. In other words, repeat performances from Chase Utley and Domonic Brown are the minimum. Therefore, experiencing slight growth, Brown could average .285 with 30 homers and 100 RBI. That said, this linked sentence connects you to a piece about Brown’s six deceptive days in May.

Additionally, AJ Burnett produces 15 triumphs with a powerful August and September. Although he worked 6 1/3 frames or more  in 17 of 30 opportunities last year, he accomplished that in 10 of those last 13 games. And for those concerned about his New York stint, his dominant fastball there had changed from four seam to two seam immediately after leaving.

Most important Phillies

The offense is 2014’s key, and that begins with healthy regulars: Howard, Byrd and Ben Revere. While Byrd must produce stats similar to last season, Howard must provide a full campaign, and Revere must avoid leg maladies. Byrd should bat .280 and contribute 80 percent of 2013’s production: 19 long balls and 70 RBI. Did you know the new right fielder’s best summer in a new city is his first? This linked sentence connects you to Byrd’s full circle.

Dialing Up a Four-Seam Fastball, Diekman Aims for Critical Setup Innings.

Dialing Up a Four-Seam Fastball, Diekman Aims for Critical Setup Innings.

Potential breakout players

If he makes the rotation, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez could notch 10 wins from June through September, and this clause links to an in-depth report on him. Meanwhile, after averaging .349 for Single-A Clearwater and .300 at Double-A Reading in 2012, Cody Asche hit .295 last year for Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and a similar achievement would make him a Philly fan favorite. Lastly, Jake Diekman and BJ Rosenberg might continue their late second-half success as a 1-2 punch for setup innings. Check out their potential through this linked sentence.

3 Down

Worst case scenario

Early March arrives with disabled key players, like Cole Hamels, producing a slow start, trade rumors during April’s third week and a salary dump before the July 31 deadline. This would result from bad seasons from many veteran stars, and most youngsters failing in the show after the league finds their holes. In other words, expect 90 losses and virtual elimination by the All-Star break, thusly ushering in the rebuilding process.

Areas of concern

Following his last tour, Jonathan Papelbon is no longer 2012’s stud. Mike Adams is not a viable setup man after his shoulder surgery, and–for the third straight campaign–the eighth frame is the slow death of leads. Also, realizing he has elder statesmen with Carlos Ruiz, Lee, Burnett, Adams, Howard, Utley, Rollins and Byrd, the decision-maker hopes a healthy Father Time prevails.

Who needs to bounce back from a down 2013

With the team in contention, Papelbon can add 2-3 mph to his heater–which clocked at 94 mph during his stint in Boston–and Adams can be the dominant reliever expected. After their 2013 difficulties, Ruiz and Rollins can mostly duplicate their 2012 statistics, and Howard can launch 30 home runs with 100 RBI. The combination of his last two summers is .240, 25 homers and 99 RBI in 151 contests. Estimating that 10 percent of the 1,200 players (all 40-man rosters) have ADHD, the MLB has an Adderall exemption. Last April, Ruiz served a 25-game suspension for Adderall; however, he currently has approval.

With each new year, hope is not in short supply and the prediction here is serious September baseball.

If you have interest in something different, my weekly storylines–the last linked here between the dashes–represent a baseball man’s thinking in my opinion. Reading people is the answer to their decisions: past, present and future.


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