With just under three weeks to go until opening day at Citizens Bank Park, KU students won’t see much more Spring training action after spring break, so it’s judgment time for Philadelphia fans. The team, which had a few questions heading into Clearwater, Fla. to say the least, has done their best to keep a city split down the middle of doubters and believers interested in their play. The team is currently sitting just under .500 with a record of 7-8 and is eighth in the National League, above the Washington Nationals and the LA Dodgers.
Obviously, spring training is a little early to be watching the standings, and most statistics go out the window on April 1, but the Phillies have a few stats that are sure to bring a promising start to their season. First, Philadelphia has three batters who are in the top 20 so far in spring training: Right Fielder Dominic Brown, Third Baseman Michael Young and Third Baseman Kevin Frandsen. Ryan Howard and Ben Revere also sit just over the 20 spot, in 21st and 23rd respectively.
This early success is key for the Phillies, who are coming off a less-than-stellar season. Towards the end of last season, Philadelphia especially struggled in slugging and hitting percentage, so early run support is huge for the team’s confidence, even if they aren’t a “winning team” just yet.
Possibly the biggest confidence boost comes in the Phillies slugger, the “Big Piece” Ryan Howard. Howard is currently tied for first in HR with San Francisco Giant Brandon Belt, each boasting four bombs. With Howard coming onto the scene late last year after a particularly nasty Achilles injury, any kind of early confidence is sure to be big.
Also, pitching for the Phillies was a big question at the end of last year, with new closer Jonathan Papelbon finishing hot but starting average at best. Over the off-season, the Phillies acquired Mike Adams who, paired with Papelbon, is giving fans hope for the later innings of the regular season. As far as spring training goes, Cole Hamels has been nothing short of unbeatable so far, sitting second in the NL with a .90 ERA in 10 innings pitched.
The early production in Revere is big for the Phillies too, given the fact that this is his first pre-season run with the team. Revere, who was signed over the off-season, was .294 at the plate last year for Minnesota, before being sent down to AAA, where he was .330.
The Phillies open the regular season against their NL rival Atlanta Braves, so the early slugging percentage will be huge. Howard, Revere and the rest of the Phillies who are looking to turn around a recent stretch of bad luck can do so and get back to their post-season dominance of the past decade if they get off to a great start and don’t look back. Given the recent injuries and the aging of stars like Chase Utley, Howard and Jimmy Rollins, this will prove to be no easy task, but the Phillies do appear to be on the right track so far. After all, they didn’t have the best Spring Training record in 2008, and Phillies fans all know what happened that year.
By Nicholas Carson