The injury prone, Philadelphia Phillies of last season, might be one of the only highlights in Philly sports in the next year or so.
It sounds crazy at first. The Phillies have an aging in-field and a bunch of questions in the out-field, and fans have almost no idea where the run support is going to come from this season. However, when you take a closer, slightly more optimistic look, some bright spots for this coming summer can be seen.
Pitching is an area that saw quite a few downs last season for the Phillies. Cliff Lee, arguably the biggest fan-favorite in years past was a letdown at best. He finished the season a mere 6-9, with an ERA of 3.16. However, what the statistics don’t show is a lack of run support for Cliff in what seemed to be just an overall off year for the 35-year-old leftie.
Roy Halladay was also a big problem last year, as fans watched in agony as he suffered through back and shoulder problems all season. Halladay appears to be injury-free as we begin pitchers and catchers, and when placed in the big three with Lee and Cole Hamels, the Phillies just might once again be the pitching powerhouse they once were.
The bullpen is also an area where the Phillies have some hope this season, with the addition of Mike Adams and the second season of Johnathan Papelbon. While Papelbon wasn’t too stellar last year, he showed a lot of promise in the second half of the season, finishing with 38 saves and was nearly .500 at 5-6.
As we move back in the line-up, the Phillies might just have a couple years left in their aging stars: Ryan Howard (who looks to have his first full season since recovering from a particularly nasty Achilles injury), Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. Also, newly acquired Ben Revere has potential to be solid defensively, though it’s doubtful anyone is expecting much of him in the earned runs category. This leads us to fan favorite Carlos Ruiz, run-scoring monster for the Phillies last season. In 2012, Ruiz had an impressive 56 runs, lead the team along with Juan Pierre with 121 hits, and posted a .325 batting average. Unfortunately for the Phils, Ruiz will miss the first 25 games of the season due to a suspension for MLB banned substances. While this is a big 25 games for the Phillies, it’s not the entire season, and Ruiz will return rested and ready to go after his suspension is served.
All this leads to what appears to be a fairly healthy Phillies team, and when the Phils were healthy, they were 44-31. While this isn’t too much to brag about, it’s also nothing to be ashamed of, and with the addition of some “young” talent in Michael Young and Darin Ruf, who posted fairly impressive numbers in Double A ball, the Phillies find themselves in a somewhat scary, somewhat hopeful underdog position. After all, the Phillies are no strangers to underdog success.
Maybe the City of Brotherly Love will be shocked again by another team who refused to accept mediocrity, and maybe fans will once again see an underdog achieve glory. Maybe Philadelphia’s lack of success in the sports world as an entire city, not just in baseball, is a set up for things to come. As for this team specifically, it might not be a World Series, it might not even be a NL East title, but watch for this team to do better than people expect them too…in true Philadelphia fashion.
By Nick Carson