Saturday, April 23, 2011

Thoughts on the Phillies: As things stand tonight, the Phillies are 13-6. They are tied with the Colorado Rockies and Cleveland Indians for the best record in baseball.

They have one of the best rotations in the history of the game. A rotation that includes Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt seems more like a child's dream or one of a fantasy team rather than reality.

And so why do I have so much unease about my team? Let's start with the corner outfielders.

The loss of Jason Werth is immeasurable. Two years ago, he hit .268, 39 HR, and 99 RBI. Last year, he hit .296, 27 HR, and 85 RBI-- while also leading the league with 47 2B. Besides his numbers, Werth ran the bases well, played superb defense, but most important of all, hit behind Ryan Howard the last few seasons-- making sure that Howard got some pitches to hit. This season, Howard has so such protection.

Werth is now gone, leaving via free agency to the Washington Nationals.

In the meantime, left fielder Raul Ibanez is a player in decline. In 2009, he hit .272, 34 HR, and 93 RBI. Last year he declined to .275 BA, 16 HR, and 83 RBI, although he also hit 37 doubles. Now at age 39, Ibanez is battling to hit .200, albeit although we are only 17 games into the season. His defense, never stellar, is suffering as well. But still, the team has made no contingency to replace him.

If the team's management is not looking at who can be potentially fill at least one of the team's corner outfielder positions, some fans and sportswriters are. This column on Bleacher Reports discusses who is available. Unfortunately, there is not a lot there.

There are a couple of interesting names bandied around there and elsewhere: Carlos Quentin and Ryan Ludwick. One of them could be a regular outfielder for the Phillies, and bat behind Howard-- giving Howard some protection although not as much as he had when Werth batting behind him. With Quentin or Ludwick filling one outfield position, Dominic Brown (when he comes back from injury), John Mayberry, or Ben Franciso-- we hope-- might fill the other.

The problem is that the team right now is not concerned. Halladay, Lee, Hamels, and Oswalt might yet prove to be the best pitching rotation in the history of the game. But the four aces are making the team complacent.

Ask the Phillies management why they are not more concerned that their two corner outfielder positions are not producing much offense, and their response is that it is less of an issue for them than for other teams because of the four aces. Similarly, ask the Phillies if they are concerned about the prospects of their relief pitching as the season progresses, and they say not to worry because of their aces.

The complacency of having perhaps one of baseball history's best rotation might just turn out to be the team's downfall.