If you weren’t sure, the Philadelphia Phillies are pretty good.
Philadelphia made the most daring and surprising move of the offseason when they usurped Cliff Lee from the Rangers and Yankees. Lee has become the final piece to what is potentially one of the best starting rotations in recent baseball history and has automatically made the Phillies one of the top three favorites to win the World Series.
However, if you think back over the last 10-15 years, how often does the team that made the biggest splash in free agency ever end up winning the pennant or the World Series that year? That answer is not often. Especially when you are talking about the National League, where Wild Card teams and underdogs have thrived in October.
Philadelphia is one of the most talented teams in the Majors. But they are also starting to creep up there in age. Guys like Chase Utley (32), Jimmy Rollins (33), Placido Polanco (35), Raul Ibanez (38), Roy Halladay (33), and Roy Oswalt (33) are all approaching the back nine of their careers. They all still have some prime years yet and their experience is irreplaceable. But injuries have derailed plenty of teams in the past and could zap this team of some of its strength.
Here is Doc’s Sports 2011 Philadelphia Phillies Predictions and MLB Futures Odds:
2010 Record: 97-65
2011 Wins Over/Under: 97.0
Odds To Win 2011 NL East: 1/9
Odds To Win 2011 NL Pennant: 1.8/1
2011 Philadelphia Phillies Odds to Win World Series: 2.5/1
Pitching: Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton. Any questions? Honestly, that is simply dominating. And the fact that those aces are all throwing in the National League, against weaker lineups and with no DH, means that they should absolutely decimate the competition. Philadelphia’s bullpen will be fine as long as Brad Lidge doesn’t revert to his 2009 form (11 blown saves). This team has plenty of specialists and a nice eighth inning guy in Ryan Madsen. From top to bottom this is the best pitching staff in baseball.
Hitting: Philadelphia was No. 2 in the National League last year with 772 runs. That seems outstanding until you consider that it is 120 runs fewer than they scored in 2007 and 50 runs fewer than what they had tallied in 2009. They do still boast one of the deepest and most potent lineups in baseball. However, all of the danger is from the left side of the plate and they can be neutralized. Their .260 team batting average was just No. 12 in the league last year and there were 74 games in which they scored three runs or fewer. To put that in perspective, Cincinnati (64), Colorado (64), Atlanta (66) and a majority of the other “good” teams in the National League had fewer “power outage” games. I am not saying I would rather have the lineups of those other teams. But I am pointing out that although explosive, this Phillies lineup can be streaky. That’s a problem.
Player To Watch: Ben Francisco, OF. While all of the hype around the Phillies is going toward their starting staff and rookie Dominic Brown, it is actually Francisco that is in line to be the Opening Day starter out in right field. He has four years of experience under his belt and has shown some pop (over four years he has projected to 18 home runs per 162 starts). He could really blossom in this veteran lineup and could enjoy the transition from the A.L. to the N.L. Or he could flop and make way for Brown.
Key Stat: Philadelphia’s 29 wins in one-run games were the most in the National League and their 29-17 overall record in one-run games was the best in baseball. Those 29 wins also represent nearly 30 percent of Philly’s total wins in 2010. That is important because in order to bet on the 2011 Phillies you are likely going to have to play a lot of run lines.
2011 Philadelphia Phillies Predictions: Philadelphia really has a chance to have a special season. Their pitching staff is as talented as any in recent memory and this veteran team already has a plethora of postseason experience and success. However, as I mentioned, runaway favorites – in either league – haven’t fared very well in this sport. And the pressure of expectations has really overwhelmed better teams than this one. The window for this team to win a championship is open. But it is closing. I think they have maybe two years here before age, injury, finances and any other manner of destruction will bring an end to what could be a dynasty.
2011 Philadelphia Phillies MLB Season Win Totals Predictions: ‘Under’ 97.0. I know that this seems like lunacy. But the reality is that you always want to fade the public and right now the public is going to want to pound the ‘over’ on this team. Since 1900 Philadelphia has only won more than 100 games two times and that was back in 1977 and 1978. This is an older team so injuries could factor in and if this team is just blowing out the rest of the division late in the year they will likely rest some starters and save them for the postseason. If this team wanted to it could go out and win 100 or 105 games; there is that much talent. But everyone on this roster has just one goal: win the World Series. Regular season marks are irrelevant. Now, I am not going to be running out to put a wager down on the ‘under’ for this team. But if I had a gun to my head I would play ‘under’ and hope that the gun wasn’t loaded.