Most experts and pundits figured that the Phillies threw in towel near the trading deadline & waved the white flag for surrender. The players had other plans as the team was white hot from late summer into September and were wild card contenders until the last week of the regular season under the tutelage of manager, Charlie Manuel.
Thanks to the emergence of Ryan Howard as one of the premier run producers & home run hitters, to the equally amazing Chase Utley, who carried a 36 hit streak and had a career year, the Phillies should be in great shape to contend in the National League this upcoming season. The Phillies under the guidance of GM Pat Gillick made some big moves in the winter adding Freddy Garcia, Adam Eaton to shore up a rotation that should help the team improve on their 85 win season.
The starting pitching has gone through a number of changes which were made to improve the team. The rotation has gone through a complete makeover, with Brett Myers being the only pitcher who started the season with the team in ’06. Jamie Moyer came to the Phillies via trade and Cole Hamels was brought up from the minors last season. Meanwhile, the Phillies got Freddy Garcia in an offeseason trade and Adam Eaton came to Philadelphia in a controversial free agent deal.
The anchor of the rotation will be the newest member of the team, Freddy Garcia. Coming off a 17-9 campaign with an ERA in the mid-4 range, he’ll need to perform like he has in the past while in Chicago for the Phillies to compete. Brett Myers had a decent 2006 with 12 wins and an ERA under 4, but had problems with his marriage during the season which led him to having to take time off. If he can perform or exceed his numbers last season, the team will accept that.
Well traveled veteran Jamie Moyer returns again to the team after a good year with the Phillies. He does not have overpowering stuff, so he’ll need his curveball and change-up to be successful; therefore, the team will need him to be consistent and have quality outings. Young Cole Hamels will be expected to take his game to the next level in ’07 after having a good ’06 at the major league level.
The big unknown in the rotation right now is John Leiber. He’s coming off a subpar season in ’06 and there’s talk he’ll traded before the season for relief help. However, he has a decent track record and should still be able to help the Phillies, or could be used a a trade chip.
The wildcard in the rotation is Adam Eaton. The signing of Eaton was widely criticized in baseball, as he has never pitched over 200 innings and missed part of ’06 with injury. He’s got decent stuff, but is only a few games over .500 for his career. Eaton will need to step up his game big time and contribute to the Phillies quest for the playoffs.
The bullpen for 2007 is in flux at the moment. Well, Tom Gordon will be closing games again in 2007, after a year where recorded 34 saves. Ryan Madsen will return as the setup man after being going back and forth between being a starter and reliever in ’06. Other members of the unit will include Matt Smith & longtime veteran Antonio Alfonseca. Pitchers Eude Brito, Fabio Castro, JimWarden, Alfredo Simon & Anderson Garcia will battle for a spot for possible openings in the bullpen.
Let’s move to the starting lineup. The lineup has its core hitters in place, as superstar and National League MVP Ryan Howard returns to follow up on amazing 2006, along with Chase Utley who had a career year, Jimmy Rollins & Aaron Rowland. Pat Burrell had good numbers, but struggled at times, especially in key situations.
The main weapon in the lineup will be Ryan Howard, who had a team record 58 homers and 149 RBIs. Needless to say, the Phillies would have not been successful in 2006 without him and hopefully he can continue his great numbers in ’07 and beyond. One of my personal favorites, Howard not only hits homeruns – he crushes them, and he captured the imagination of America through his exploits. The rate he’s going now, his ceiling is limitless and we could be talking about one the greatest sluggers to have ever played the game once all is said and done.
Chase Utley also broke out in ’06 and became a household name as he hit 32 homers with 102 RBIs, as well with a 35 game hitting streak. He along with Ryan helped the Phillies come back surge for a playoff spot in the National League only to come up short. He recently got a huge contract extension and should be part of the core of the team for seasons to come.
Jimmy Rollins will play shortstop as he also had a great ’06 with 25 home runs and 83 RBIs, and was a pleasant surprise on the offensive front. If he can duplicate or exceed his numbers last season, he’ll be another part that will compliment the Philly offense nicely. With the trio of Rollins, Utley and Howard, the Phillies should not only have a great up-the-middle combo, but also one of the premier offensive infields in the game. Manning third base will be Wes Helms as he had a great season hitting .329 along with 10 homeruns and 47 RBIs. He’ll be expected to maintain that same level in ’07 at the plate. Also on the bench for the infield will be Abraham Nunez, & Danny Sandoval.
The outfield will be manned by Pat Burrell, Shane Victorino & Aaron Rowand and the wildcard in the scheme of things will be Pat Burrell. Pat Burrell, mentioned earlier, struggled in the clutch and with men on base, but he still hit 29 homers and drove in close to 100 runs. However, he was often the name used to trade talks, as he was seen as a malcontent and could not produce in key moments. As he was not moved, he’ll be expected to return and hopefully produce to his potential. Shane Victorino did a decent job while covering for an injured Aaron Rowand.
Aaron Rowand became a legend in baseball after breaking his one after making an incredible catch. He spent time on the DL for that injury and hurt his ankle at the end of 2006. He hit .262 and should be back in the fold for ’07 and man center field.
The bench for the outfield may consist of Michael Bourn, Jayson Werth, & Chris Roberson.
The catching situation is different in 2007, as longtime veteran Mike Leiberthal left the team and the Phillies signed Ron Barajas from Toronto. He had a solid year in Toronto and he’ll be expected to translate his numbers in the AL to the NL. Serving as his backup will be Carlos Ruiz, or one of the better stories of 2006, Chris Coate who batted .328.
Pat Gillick spent the winter to try to build a team that will contend for ’06, however, he may not have gotten the pieces he needed. Even though the Mets are the powerhouse team of the division, the Phillies may serve as a dark horse to win the division and as well contend for a playoff sport. The team must avoid a start like last year, and the offense needs to produce like last year. Big things are expected of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell, so if the offense and pitching can come together, Philly might have a playoff spot reserved for them in ’07.