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Team Preview: Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies
2007 W-L: 89-73
2007 Pythag W-L: 87-75
2007 Payroll: ~89
2008 Payroll: ~84 (depends heavily on Ryan Howard arbitration case)

Coming: Chad Durbin, Pedro Feliz, Geoff Jenkins, So Taguchi, Brad Lidge, Eric Bruntlett, Chris Snelling

Going:Tadahito Iguchi, Jon Lieber, Aaron Rowand, Michael Bourn, Geoff Geary, Chris Roberson

Sliding In:

The Phillies were the first playoff victims of the rolling Colorado Rockies, getting swept 3-0 in the Division Series.

Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins form perhaps the best offensive infield in the National League. Howard is 27 and while he didn't hit 58 homeruns like 2006 he was still pretty damn good, not .313/.425/.659 good, but .268/.392/.584 was good enough for fifth in Most Valuable Player voting and the fifth best OPS from a first baseman.

Utley lead second basemen in OPS, and Rollins finished second to Hanley Ramirez. With the average age of the holy trinity of offensive threats being around 28 that puts each player in their assumed "prime", suggesting the Phils should have another huge year from each barring injuries or unforeseen falloffs.

Pedro Feliz doesn't add much offensive value, but his glove is solid, and it's not like he can do much worse than Abraham Nunez or Wes Helms did last year. Carlos Ruiz should be solid enough behind the plate, and Chris Coste will back him up with Rod Barajas up in Canada. On the bench ex-Astro Eric Bruntlett will back up short and second while Greg Dobbs and Helms do duty between first and third.

The outfield will have to replace Aaron Rowand's year, and between Pat Burrell, Shane Victorino, Geoff Jenkins, and whatever combination of Werth and Taguchi get thrown out there on any given day.

It's hard to not like Burrell's .400 OBP, and for all the grief he got about being broken in 2003 he's put together four straight truly solid seasons with a steady slugging the past three years between .502 and .504. It's a bit disappointing that he doesn't get much attention, but alas I suppose that's the difference between playing in Philadelphia and New York, at least in New York his boos would've been exchanged with billboard ads by now.

Starting Rotation:
Cole Hamels and Brett Myers are really good. As a 23 year old Hamel posted a 3.39 ERA and a 1.124 WHIP with more than a 4:1 K:BB ratio, that's pretty damn impressive, and it came with his home games being in a hitter's park. Myers never should've been moved from the rotation, but in the end it seems like everything will work out for the best, even though it gives off the impression that the last three outs are different from the first three.

Kyle Kendrick and Jamie Moyer form the soft tossers for the group - I feel like J.P. Howell should land here just to learn from these two how to live without blazing heat. Kendrick is hopefully taking notes from Moyer, he's going to need to have a large K:BB ratio than 2:1 if he expects to be above average in the bigs, something he showed in the minors, if just barely. Moyer's probably entering his last season - I wouldn't expect much from him, but it wouldn't shock me if he had a few 7 inning shutout performances like he did last season before riding off into announcing or whatever it is he wants to do.

Adam Eaton is slotted in as the fifth starter, his performance last year was, in a word, unspectacular.  J.D. Durbin the swingman who will no doubt get at least 10 starts this year, like he did last year.

Lidge is a pretty nice addition to any pen, and the fact that he allowed the Phils to undo that mistake of putting Brett Myers in the pen is even better. For all the talk of his early season struggles (read April) he was actually better in the first half (2.34 ERA) than in the second half (4.45 ERA).

Tom Gordon has been around forever and figures to form with J.C. Romero and Ryan Madson as the late inning relievers. Romero's career WHIP is 1.5, his WHIP in Philly was 1.1, something tells me he's not nearly as good as that 1.1 suggests, that something being an absurdly low LD% and xBABIP / BABIP, without a doubt those numbers are going to return to their average range, and when they do he's not going to look like a four million dollar annually pitcher.

Some mix of Scott Mathieson, Chad Durbin, J.D. Durbin, Clay Condry, Mike Zagurski, and Francisco Rosario will fill out the bullpen, frankly any pen with a pair of Durbins is one worth watching, and keep an eye on Zagurski, he's a true blue LOOGY, in splits at least, not usage: 50 AB v. RHB 1.051 OPS against, 37 AB v. LHB .502 OPS against.

The Hook:
The Phillies look improved, although I'm not sure how much, I don't doubt that they'll finish in playoff contention, but the division title is going to require a ton of things going right for them, and you never know with Wild Card spots - see the Rockies.

NL Up Next: San Diego Padres on Wednesday