Off the Record (OTR)

Will Phillies sink or swim in 2013?

JonathanPapelbonPeople keep asking me for my take on the 2013 Philadelphia Phillies, and I’m torn. I can look at some aspects of the team and think, ‘oh, they’ll be fine.’ And then I look at other aspects and think, ‘they are in serious trouble.’ So, let’s break this down a bit:

Reasons the Phillies will sink:

-The outfield is atrocious. I mean, absolutely awful. GM Rueben Amaro, Jr. has even suggested a double platoon at the corners. That is not good. Dom Brown was once untouchable as the Phillies traded for big name after big name. Now, it’s fair to wonder if he can even be an everyday player at the MLB level. They need him to be very good and I don’t know if that is going to happen.

Everyone has high hopes for Darin Ruf. He’s a power bat that they desperately could use in the lineup. He’s probably a statue in the outfield, but I’ll live with that if he’s crushing bombs. He’s got potential, but he’s a question mark.

And what about Ben Revere, the centerfielder they acquired in the offseason? He’s fast as all get out (and will have to be to cover for the buffoons to the left and right of him), but has a rag arm. He’s a good hitter for average, but it’s all slap singles. This is odd to me. You’d think he could stretch a single into a double once in a while, but he rarely does.

-Roy Halladay is a year older. He’s been a horse his entire career, but everyone loses it at some point. He’s 35-years old, his velocity has dipped and he was injured last year. This does not inspire confidence heading into 2013. Could he bounce back and be fine? Sure, but that is not guaranteed. If he stumbles hard, it could make this Philadelphia Phillies-baseball team very difficult to watch.

-No Chooch for 25 games. Yes, catcher Carlos Ruiz was busted for taking a banned substance that he was already warned about once. That means you get a 25-game suspension. Pretty stupid and it really hurts the lineup for all of April. Ruiz was an MVP candidate for most of last year and was just raking. This lineup needs him. I like Erik Kratz and all, but Chooch was hitting in the .380’s for a period of time. If it causes a prolonged funk in the lineup, they could dig a hole (again) that they can’t get out of.

-How is the bullpen going to be? You can argue that a lack of runs cost this Phillies teams a lot of games last year, and you’d be right. But, the main culprit was the absolutely horrific bullpen. Just terrible. Other than Jonathan Papelbon, everyone in that outfield pen was awful. If they can’t get a bridge from starter to Papelbon, forget about this season entirely.

Reasons the Phillies will swim:

-They have two (maybe three) stud starters you can absolutely count on. Cole Hamels got a huge payday last year and he deserves every penny. He’s a homegrown talent that has been cultivated and now is an unmitigated stud. He’s most likely your Opening Day starter. And how about that awful season Cliff Lee had last year? Reports of his demise have been grossly exaggerated. Sure, he couldn’t buy a win, but that wasn’t on him. He didn’t get any run support and the bullpen blew lead after lead. He had a 3.16 ERA last season, so his lack of wins was hardly his fault.

-They may have fixed the bullpen? They added Mike Adams in the offseason and he could be the guy who can work through the eighth inning so Papsmear can come in and do his thing. If he can stay healthy and pitches well, that’s probably 10 more wins right there.

-Look at how the finished last year. As bad as the Phillies were in 2012, as disappointing as they were (and oh boy were they disappointing!), they still almost made the playoffs. Having Chase Utley and Ryan Howard back provided some spark to the offense and they were able to win a few games. Losing three of four to the Houston Astros though…that’ll do it.

-Michael Young? Yes, he’s some 36-years old and isn’t what he used to be. But, he’s not far removed from seasons where he raked at the plate. If he can find his bat, he’ll be a huge upgrade over what the Phillies were throwing out there at third base last season. I mean, I liked Kevin Frandsen and all but…c’mon.

So what do you think? Are the Phillies making the playoffs? Or are they toast already?

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