Author and stat head Jonah Keri, who wrote the current New York Times Bestseller "The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First,” a book about the rise of the Tampa Bay Rays, spoke with Phillies beat reporter Jim McCormick about the team's outlook for the upcoming season: [Philly Sports Daily]
“I think the biggest problem the Phillies face is that they’re getting old. I actually think it’s going to be a major problem. I’m not so sure they are going to make the playoffs this year. They are going to need to begin replenishing their talent at some point."
Sans superstars like Chase Utley and All-Stars like Jayson Werth, Keri said “this creates a potential top-heavy situation, not a ton of depth to rely on, which the Yankees have been successful with over the years. But a few major injuries can derail a season. I think the Phillies have built this roster that is top-heavy, maybe its not about replacing Utley or Werth at the top, but maybe it’s being proactive and finding that 19th or 20th guy on the roster that will step up and compliment the roster.”
Add Keri to the growing list of folks who see serious flaws in the Phillies' lineup.
But are we just pickin' nit?
While the loss of Werth and the injury to Utley are very concerning, the Phillies have a couple of pieces they didn't have for most of last year: A healthy Jimmy Rollins and Raul Ibanez.
Ibanez was admittedly in less than top shape last year after he underwent offseason surgery in 2009. The rehab and recovery affected his offseason workout program, and it took him a solid three months to get back to his former, streaky self:
First half: .243/.326/.397 (AVG, OBP, SLG)
Second half: .309/.375/.494
It's clear that once Ibanez had a chance to get back into shape, he hit for a better average and with more power. This year (thanks to his offseason workout program), he is in good shape and should be more reliable, if not streaky, throughout the course of the season.
Jimmy Rollins is healthy and in a contract year. Last year, Rollins was only in the lineup for 20 games over the first three months of the season. In total, the Phillies were 54-24 with Rollins playing, 43-41 without. Big difference.
The point is that while losing Utley and Werth will hurt, the Phillies still have plenty of proven, albeit aging, talent that is capable of protecting Ryan Howard in the lineup.
Keri has a point about the Phillies needing to do a better job with their fringe players. Ruben Amaro has been outstanding when it comes to landing the big-name players, but he hasn't yet shown us what Pat Gillick did so very well, which was find key role players that made big impacts, like Jayson Werth (at the time), Joe Blanton, Matt Stairs, etc.
The Phillies ability to fill the holes left by injury is what may prove to be the most crucial element this season.
Of course, the Four Aces can probably cover-up any ones the front office may miss. Everyone seems to forget that.