The Phillies Phanatic drives a mean Big Red Machine. Too bad the Phillies team can't do the same. Last year the Phillies had the chance to duplicate what the Reds accomplished in 75-76. Back to back World Championship titles. Both teams faced the Yankees, the Reds in '76, the Phillies in '09. We know who the real Big Red Machine is.
The Phillies could save face in '10 with a return to the Fall Classic. If they make it to the World Series, they become the first National League team in nearly seven decades to win three straight pennants. For that achievement, we have to go back to the 1942-44 St. Louis Cardinals led by Stan "the Man" Musial . Yeah, that’s the same Stan Musial who hit five homers in a doubleheader, won three MVPs and came in second on four MVPs. If the Phillies win the pennant this year, then Phanatic gets himself a Big Red Monster Truck.
The Phillies want to make sure no one stops them from achieving baseball immortality, so this winter they went out and acquired the services of Roy Halladay. The 'Doc' is no ordinary pitcher. Last September, he pitched three complete game shutouts, and ended the year with a streak of 24 scoreless innings. He has posted an ERA of 2.73 over the last 65 games he's started, pitching in the DH friendly American League, in the same division with the Yankees and Red Sox. Imagine what Halladay can do in Philadelpha with the run support and quality defense the Phillies provide. And pitching against teams like the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets and the Washington Nationals.
WILD PREDICTION #1 Halladay will join the 25 win club. Only two pitchers have won as many as 25 games in the last 30 years, Steve Stone in 1980 and Bob Welch in 1990. We're overdue for another 25 game winner.
The Phillies hope to improve on their 93-69 record in '09, and possibly even break the 100-win sound barrier. Consensus says they have the Right Stuff to do it. But there's a caveat to this storyline. With the acquisition of Halladay, the Phillies could have had the best one-two punch in baseball with him and Cliff Lee. But they chose instead to trade Lee to the Seattle Mariners for prospects. The trade of Lee did not sit well with the Phillies’ faithful. Considering the high expectations on the team to return to the World Series in 2010, I predict this trade could potentially turn the City of Brotherly Love into the City of Sisterly Mood Swings.
The Phillies’ have an Achilles Heel to contend with. It's called their bullpen. They lost mainstays Chan Ho Park and Scott Eyre during the off season. Brad Lidge and set up man J.C. Romero are still battling injuries and may not be ready for the season’s opener. So there's the possibility the Phillies could stumble out of the gate, losing big leads in the late innings. Too bad the Reds don’t play the Phillies early on. To alleviate the loss of Park and Eyre, the Phillies picked up journeymen, Danny Baez and Jose Contreras. Not too much to write home about.
The Phillies will make room for prospect Antonio Bastardo to replace Eyres as their situational lefty. Bastardo disappointed the Phillies last year in 23 innings of work. But then posted a 1.50 ERA with six strikeouts in seven innings during the Dominican Winter League this off season. Then, during the Dominican championship series, he struck out 12 batters in 7 1/3 scoreless innings. It may not be the Nasty Boys, but a combination of Bastardo and Contreras coming out of the bullpen has a nasty ring to it.
The offense that led the National League in runs scored in '09 is still intact except for the lost services of third baseman Pedro Feliz. The Phillies plugged that hole by bringing back Placido Polanco who will play the hot corner. Polanco should be an improvement to a lineup that hardly needs any improvement. Last year, he had an OBP of .331 compared to .308 for Feliz. He also adds stellar defense to an infield defense that's already one of the best in baseball.
Last year’s hitting leaders against the Reds were, well, everyone. Shane Victorino (BA .393, OBP .485) Chase Utley (RBI 11) Jason Werth (4 homers) Raul Ibanez (SLG .833) Rollins ate us up with a .387 BA. And Howard was no slouch either with 3 homers and a .280 BA. Do we really want to face this lineup again? Certainly Micah Owings (14.73 ERA against the Phillies in ‘09) and Johnny Cueto (15.26 ERA) don’t. Neither do Masset (13.50 ERA) or Herrera (11.25 ERA). I mean, Owings and Cueto basically threw batting practice against this lineup. The Phillies hit .412 in two starts against Owings, and .353 in two starts against Cueto. Ouch!
Are there any hitters on the Phillies the Reds look forward to facing? Well, even though Jason Werth hit four homers off us, he did that in Philadelphia. At GABP, he was a mighty 0 for 10.
As for the pitchers, the Reds would love to get some revenge on Joe Blanton. Blanton gave up five runs in five innings against the Reds last year, but still won the game. So let's light him up in 2010. Let's also light up Jamie Moyer. He'll be turning 50 in a few years. To put it in perspective, Moyer was two years old when the Beatles first invaded America.
There are some pitchers we don't want to face, Cole Hamels beat us twice last year, posting an excellent 2.77 ERA. He didn’t fair so well against the rest of the league, so that qualifies him as my official Tomo Ohka All Star selection. Hamel’s added a cutter and sinker to his repertoire this spring. The pressure’s off him, too, with Halladay around, and with J.A. Happ emerging to potential stardom. This year we may be getting the H kicked out of us when we face Halladay, Hamels and Happ. We face the Phillies seven games in the days leading up to the All-Star game. That's about the time, each year, we become Big Red Road Kill. If that happens, we face the prospect of....
WILD PREDICTION #2 Harang gets traded to the Phillies before the trade deadline, giving the Phillies a 4-H rotation of Halladay, Hamels, Happ and Harang.
Worrisome to the Phillies is the fact that if someone goes down, they don't have much ready talent in their farm system to draw from. They gave up elite prospects Kyle Drabek (RHP) and Michael Taylor (OF), along with a supplemental first round pick, Travis D'Arnaud (C) to get Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays. In August of ‘09, the Phillies traded four prospects to obtain Cliff Lee, including their highly touted prospect, Carlos Carrasco (RHP). They've been able to protect their top prospect, Domonic Brown (OF) but he is still a year or two away. If things get dicey this year, the Phillies could go for broke and trade him as well. The future is now in Philadelphia.
WILD PREDICTION #3 The Phillies will go to the World Series a third year in a row. (If you believe the first two wild predictions, then believe this one as well.)
In reality, the sucky bullpen and depleted farm system will cost Philadelphia in the playoffs. I predict the Reds, as the Wild Card team, will beat the Phillies in the first round of the championship series, costing Philadelphia a place in the record books. They will love us in Philly.
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