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To 2011… and beyond!

December 25, 2010

Pitchers and catchers will report in less than 55 days from now, and that means a whole new season of expectations will commence. The Pirates and recently Grienke-less Royals will both be just as likely to win the World Series as the Red Sox and Phillies. That is the beauty of the game: anyone can come from anywhere and accomplish anything from the word get-go. The best players can have an off-YEAR, not just a game (not a game, not a game). That being said, however, it is very difficult to image that a team like the Pirates could advance to the playoffs, let alone win the World Series, when they haven’t had an above .500 season in 17 years. So we can make a little bit of an assumption with how certain teams will do this coming season.

SO naturally we’re going to use our first blog here at The Citizens Bankers looking at how our Phillies are going to do this coming season!

First, let’s look at some of the key moves the Phillies have made thus far in the offseason: Jamie Moyer and Domonic “The Future” Brown headed off to Winter Ball together but both came home early as Jamie Moyer’s career ended/didn’t end because he is actually a cyborg, and Domonic got sent home early due to lack of hustle… deal with it. Oh, and Greg Dobbs was let go. Meh, who really didn’t see this one coming.

Next Chad Durbin, Jose Contreras, J.C. Romero, Mike Sweeney and Jayson Werth’s beard all elected free agency. The Phills brought back Jose because of his value to the pen, and word flying around was that they were about to get J-Dub back before he decided to shave and play for the the best last place team in baseball last year, the Washington Nationals. Hopefully the beard was his power and now he’s pulled a latter day Samson.

The Phills, desperate for a lefty reliever in their pen, sought out the services of Dennys Reyes and, for a brief week, it appeared they had accumulated the greatest collection of subpar relievers whose first name started with “D” and ended in “nys.” And then IT happened: Cliff Lee and his agent Darek Braunecker contacted Ruben Amaro Jr. and the Phillies, seeking to make a deal. Of course, what’s $5 million dollars between friends, right?

Unbe-Lee-vable.

Well, here we are now, staring at possibly one of the greatest starting rotations ever assembled, a very shallow bullpen and, oh yeah, there’s a gaping hole in the middle of the lineup. However, let’s not focus on the negatives quite yet but instead let’s just take a look at what we got right now and try to figure out how things are going to go for the Phightin Phills in 2011. Here we go.

Halladay. Lee. Oswalt. Hamels. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (and about 600 other nicknames)… and, hey look, there’s also Kyle Kendrick (or maybe Joe Blanton?). What could be scarier to an opposing team than that starting rotation? Even in a series where there are only 2 games scheduled, even if you’re lucky enough to catch Kyle (I am assuming Joe gets moved), you still have to go through Cole or Roy. And if it’s a 3 games series then you see both of the Phillies 2010 pre-season top 2 starters… and Kyle sandwiched in-between the two. That is madness. For those of you who have been reading up about other historically-great rotations and how they failed to win it all, just take a deep breath and remember that 20 wins by Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar AND Pat Dobson in 1971 all had 37 starts each to accomplish that (4-5 more than anyone on this rotation will get this year, assuming health). The 90′s Brave staff had the 90′s NL East to pick on and pad their stats. I’m just trying to say, leave the past alone, it has no bearing on how we will do this year. The Phillies won the World Series in 2008. Does that guarantee they will win it in 2011!? Absolutely not.

So what CAN we expect out of this Phillies Phab Phour (ooooh the countless, different, varying nicknames we will be using this year)? Well, for one, we can expect consistency. These 4 guys are professionals at the peak of their lives, opperating at a level that few of their co-workers can compare. If they stay healthy, they are going to pitch 32 (x4=128) games of typical, dominating (6-7 IP of 3 or less ER) ball. Well… Roy Halladay did have that 1 game against the Red Sox where he didn’t even go 6 IP. So, for the sake of argument, let’s assume they all “goof” about 6 times each. That may be generous considering it’s Roy Friggin’ Halladay and Cliffton Phifer Lee, but let’s assume the WORST! 6 “goof” starts out of 32?! Joe Blanton started last season off with at least 8 goofs! That means there’s going to be at least 104 games this season where one of the Phantastic Phour dominate the opponent. Then mix in probably 10 of Kyle Kendrick’s starts (in 32 starts, he’s gonna do well at least once or twice and you, folks, will be seeing 114 out of 168 games as dominating pitching performance. I didn’t say we’d win them all though. If we won every single one of Cole Hamels dominate starts last year, we would have easily eclipsed 100 wins. On the flip side, we’re gonna have explosive nights where we win despite having poor pitching. An example would be: Roy from the South has an “off” night and gives up, say, 5 runs over 7 IP but we win 12-5 because the offense blew up. The craziest stuff happens in baseball and that’s why we love it.

So we can expect about 110 dominate games from the starting rotation from my guesstimates. That’s pretty insane considering that would be over 65% of the ENTIRE season. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though, 110 is a lot of games to be pitching so well. Realistically, their not going to be so machine-like as I have predicted them to be. Between the 4 of them, there is probably going to be like 4 games each where they are simply out-pitched despite their efforts. That still leaves 98 games where their pitching will dictate the outcome of the game (note: still not saying they will win every single one of those games).

But while pitching wins championships, as we saw in this 2010 NLCS you need to actually hit the ball against the opposing pitching–which will actually be pretty good and PO’d at us because we’re the Phillies and we have Cliff Lee– to win games. That’s the other thing: we’ve got a HUGE target on our back this season from everyone in baseball. One mission: destory everything that moves in red pinstripes.

So The Beard is gone, so I guess that means it’s the end of the world for the Phillies offense. Or is it?

Let’s start from the top: Jimmy Rollins said in a radio-interview after the Cliff Lee signing on The Herd with Colin Cowherd, concerning the team’s collective power outage last year and how they are adjusting for this year, “No one’s taking last year as a, ‘Well it happened, whatever it’ll come back,’ nah we’re gonna make sure it comes back.” You gotta love Jimmy. Whether he produces or not he’s a future Phillies Wall-of-Famer and he’s been the face of this franchise since he got up here. Well, I can imagine why Jimmy might have that little extra motivation for this year: it’s a walk year. His contract runs out and he knows he hasn’t been the same player since 2007. You can expect Jimmy to really have a bounce back year, assuming he stays healthy, and hopefully produce more effectively from that leadoff spot.

The next big name to discuss is the One-Hundred and Twenty-Million Dollar Man, Mr. Ryan James Howard. We here at The Citizens Bankers are divided on what to expect from Ryan this year. Truly he is the premier home run hitter of our generation but does that warrant the extension he earned? It is, as of now, reasonably doubtful. The Teller (my editor) believes Ryan will be having an “average” year for him, which we will perceive as a disappointment for his contract. However, The Banker believes this is going to be a good year for Ryan. I expect him to have an above average year and get his name on the MVP Alert, solely basing this opinion off of the fact that he comes to Spring Training every year improving on his weaknesses (were not his strikeouts down considerably this year?) and I believe this is going to be a very strong year for him. You may or may not hear a counter-argument from The Teller at some point.

Just going to throw it out there, just blind hope, Chase Utley is due for an MVP award and if he stays healthy this year I’m gonna go on record as saying I think he wins it. He has been due forever and This Is It.

My thoughts on the Brown/Francisco Francisco/Brown platoon have been well documented.

With all this added attention and spotlight on the pitching rotation from a National standpoint (ESPN is going to be allll over us just like they are with the Miami Heat, scrutinizing every loss, dissecting every sub-par start, acknowledging every win) I think Carlos Ruiz finally gets the recognition from baseball fans he deserves as a stellar defensive catcher but also one that will skillfully control this amazing pitching rotation, and will be voted to his first All Star game… that is assuming he stays healthy and keeps up his blazing hot bat from last year.

Raul Ibanez… will be gone after this year. Thank God it will soon be over. Let’s stay hopeful that he stays hot like he was for a good part of the 2nd half of 2010.

So we’re all set, right? Offense and Defense: Hitting and Pitching. Not so fast. The bullpen will at least cost us 6 games, in my opinion. Right now it is non-existent and with the weight of the starting rotation, you can bet they will crumble a handful of times. In this case, 1 handful is 6 games.

The offense will most likely stutter, as it has annually, from late May to early June and then late June to mid July. They do it like clockwork and it bothers the shit out of us, but whatever, we’ll deal with it. The sky will fall and we will say “Why does this always happen during interleague play!” Ugh, whatever, I’ll take those mid-summer dog days as long as they continue to blow the competition away in September and October. On the plus side, the offense will win some games it isn’t suppose to, when the pitching didn’t seem enough and then the offense rallied like it was on fire.

All-in-all, this is going to be a very special season. I’ll be really lame and say the win total is between 94 and 100. To be honest, they went 97-65 last year… I think they will go 96-66 this year. Yep. Yep. That’s 1 less than they won last year! Maybe even 95-67! How dare I?! Because it’s a new year. A new season. They will play new teams, who will be gearing up everytime to bring us down, who are going to be improved from last year. The Phillies have won more and more games each year since 2006 but it’s only won them 1 World Series. In spite of the pitching, this is an aging offense but one that can still kick the crap out of most of these National League teams. Phils clinch the division before taking on Atlanta to end the season (just like last year) and prepare for someone in the NLDS. I won’t predict who because, honestly, at this point, it could be anyone! Even those stinkin’ Giants. Wouldn’t that be something? Knock out our new least-favorite team in baseball in the Divisional Series while we watch Lincecum, Cain and Sanchez crumble before the might of Fat Joe and the Terror Squad… or is it Baby Kyle and the Terror Squad? Only time will tell!

Merry Christmas by the way. Hope everyone stays safe and warm!

Signing out, for the first time,
The Citizens Bankers

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