Running down the rosters: Philadelphia Phillies

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The Phillies still look like the class of the NL, but while their win totals have increased five years running, it hasn’t resulted in playoff success the last couple of years.

Rotation
Roy Halladay – R
Cliff Lee – L
Cole Hamels – L
Vance Worley – R
Joe Blanton – R

Bullpen
Jonathan Papelbon – R
Antonio Bastardo – L
Jose Contreras – R
Kyle Kendrick – R
Chad Qualls – R
Michael Stutes – R
Dontrelle Willis – L

SP next in line: Joel Pineiro (R), Kendrick (R), Dave Bush (R) Pat Misch (L)
RP next in line: David Herndon (R), Brian Sanches (R), Michael Schwimer (R), David Purcey (L), Phillippe Aumont (R), Justin De Fratus (R)

The rotation doesn’t look quite so impressive on paper with Worley plugged into Roy Oswalt’s old spot, but then, Worley was quite a bit better than Oswalt last season. The Phillies also have some nice insurance in case Blanton’s arm lets him down again. Pineiro would have been a decent bet as a $3 million-$4 million fourth starter somewhere, so he was a phenomenal pickup on a minor league deal. Kendrick had a 3.14 ERA in his 15 starts last season.

In the bullpen, the Phillies overpaid for Papelbon, but he should be terrific at the end of games. If Contreras is healthy, then there will be just one spot for Willis or Herndon. Herndon had a 3.32 ERA in 57 innings last year, but the Phillies are looking to Willis to give them a second lefty in the pen.

Lineup
SS Jimmy Rollins – S
3B Placido Polanco – R
2B Chase Utley – L
RF Hunter Pence – R
CF Shane Victorino – S
LF John Mayberry Jr. – R
1B Ty Wigginton – R
C Carlos Ruiz – R

Bench
C Brian Schneider – L
1B Jim Thome – L
INF-OF Michael Martinez – S
OF Laynce Nix – L
OF Juan Pierre – L

Disabled list: 1B Ryan Howard (L)
Next in line: C Erik Kratz (R), SS Freddy Galviz (S), INF Kevin Frandsen (R), INF Hector Luna (R), INF Pete Orr (L), OF Domonic Brown (L), OF Scott Podsednik (L), OF Lou Montanez (R)

So much for that typically lefty-heavy Phillies lineup: with Raul Ibanez gone and Howard set to miss the first month or two rehabbing a torn Achilles’ tendon, Utley will be the only lefty playing regularly initially.

The bench, on the other hand, will be dominated by lefties. Nix figures to start against some righties in left field and perhaps at first base. It’s unclear whether it will be Mayberry or Nix who slides between left field and first. Mayberry is the better outfielder of the two, so it’d be best if he’s out there pretty regularly. However, he’s also quite a bit more familiar with first base than Nix is.

Even with Howard out of the mix initially, this year’s offense should be a bit better than last year’s. A full season of Pence will help. Utley and Polanco could be healthier and more productive, though at their ages, it’s far from assured. Mayberry will top Ibanez’s numbers.

The pitching can’t be quite so good again. While none of the trio seems due for a deep decline, Halladay, Lee and Hamels won’t all rate among the NL’s top five starters. No, the Phillies will probably have to settle for just two or the top five or maybe even one. Papelbon may prove to be the NL’s best closer, but he’s replacing a guy in Ryan Madson who had a 2.37 ERA in 60 2/3 innings last year.

It seems safe to pencil the Phillies back into the postseason. Unfortunately, though, that simply isn’t enough. The Phillies are turning into the NL’s version of the Yankees, at least so far as in each year can be summed up as World Series or bust. And I can’t help but get the feeling that one more “bust” might cost Charlie Manuel his job.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉