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March 30, 2012

Overthinking It

Are the Phillies Too Old to Win?

by Ben Lindbergh

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It’s been six seasons since the Phillies finished anywhere other than first in the National League East. Last year, they led the major leagues with 102 wins, their highest total during their recent run of success. Over the winter, they signed Jonathan Papelbon, the top closer available on the free agent market, and saw their jilted former closer, Ryan Madson, blow out his elbow before he could throw a meaningful pitch for a competitor. Their starting rotation will be headlined by Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels, who project to be three of the 15 most valuable pitchers in baseball. Their lineup will be bolstered by a full season from Hunter Pence. On the surface, most signs point to continued success. But the Phillies’ competitive window may be closing quickly.

There are four Phillies ranked between 51 and 100 on ESPN’s list of the top 500 players for 2012: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Shane Victorino. It’s conceivable that none of those four will be both ranked in that range and in uniform for the Phillies in 2013. Howard was worth less than two wins in each of the past two seasons and finished 12th on his team in WARP last season, so he’s already out of place that high on the leaderboard. This could be the season his reputation starts to reflect his recent performance: Even after he recovers from the ruptured and subsequently infected Achilles tendon that could cost him the first two months, his on-field decline will likely accelerate at age 32.

As a group, second basemen tend to decline quickly once they reach their thirties, and Utley seems to be following the same pattern. Last season was the worst of his career, as knee inflammation delayed his debut until mid-May, and age, infirmity, or a combination of the two took a toll at the plate. This spring, he’s been sidelined once more by knee problems that may prove to be chronic, placing both his season and his career, let alone stardom, in jeopardy.

Rollins had a strong 2011 season but was either injured or unproductive in two previous campaigns, and he’ll turn 34 in November. Victorino is the youngest of the four and coming off a career year, but he (and Hamels) will hit free agency at the end of the season, barring an extension signed before then.

The advancing age, declining performance, and increasing fragility of Howard, Utley, and Rollins are reflective of the roster as a whole. The average age of the Phillies’ pitching staff has hovered around 30 throughout the team’s playoff streak, dropping into the 20s when injury removed Jamie Moyer from the roster last season. However, while Phillies position players were roughly average in age (weighted by playing time) when the team returned to the postseason in 2007 for the first time since 1993, they’ve been the oldest of any club’s for the past two seasons. Based on the projected playing time in our Depth Charts, they’re about to be older than ever.

Year

Batter Age

Pitcher Age

2007

28.7 (18)

30.5 (6)

2008

30.0 (9)

30.3 (3)

2009

31.2 (2)

31.0 (2)

2010

31.9 (1)

30.9 (1)

2011

31.6 (1)

29.4 (6)

2012 (Proj.)

32.1 (1)

30.1 (2)

According to Nate Silver, “the steepest part of the aging curve—when a hitter experiences the most manifest decline in his abilities—tends to come between ages 32 and 34.” It can be devastating enough to an offense when two or three hitters enter this period of accelerated decline at the same time. The Phillies are entering it as a team.  

Will the graying of the Phillies prove fatal? Since 2001, only a handful of teams have made it to October with a collection of position players at least as old as the Phillies’ are projected to be this season:

Year

Team

Batter Age

2002

Giants

32.3

2003

Giants

32.3

2001

Diamondbacks

32.3

2005

Yankees

32.2

2004

Yankees

32.2

The 2002-2003 Giants were led by Barry Bonds, who perplexingly peaked in his late 30s, as well as Jeff Kent, one of the few second basemen who improved after leaving his 20s behind. Betting on players to age like Bonds isn’t a sustainable blueprint for success. The 2004-2005 Yankees didn’t have Bonds, but they were an outlier in another sense: They spent just under $400 million in combined player payroll, which can erase a lot of age-related imperfections.  Of these five clubs, the one most akin to the current Phillies was the 2001 Diamondbacks, the only team since ’01 to win a World Series with a batter age above 32.

Like the Phillies, the D-backs made up for an old, lackluster offense with solid defense and overpowering pitchers. But Arizona’s example is encouraging only up to a point: Even as it celebrated the title, dark clouds were gathering. Only three years after Luis Gonzalez’ Series-winning hit, the Diamondbacks were the worst team in the majors, finishing with only 51 wins as they languished between the demise of a successful group of a veterans and the beginning of a youth movement that would bring them back to contention.

There’s no youth movement on the horizon for the Phillies: If and when their current core finally falls apart, they’ll face a fallow period of their own. Years of buying at the deadline and drafting at the end of the first round have left them with a system that ranked 29th in Kevin Goldstein’s recent organizational rankings, and they have even fewer position players than pitchers on the way.

Gone are the 2007 and 2009 editions of the team that led the NL in TAv. This year’s unit is projected to tie for sixth, even assuming two-thirds of a season from Utley, putting Charlie Manuel and his charges in the unfamiliar position of embracing small ball. That weakness will make the Phillies vulnerable.

Of course, it’s much too early to count them out: PECOTA projects them to tie the Braves and Cardinals for the NL’s best record. The comfortable cushion they enjoyed last season is likely out of reach, but that projection suggests they could easily win the division. It also suggests that they could easily lose it. BP’s Playoff Odds give the Phillies a 33.7 percent chance of a division victory and a 54.1 percent shot at the playoffs. If the end doesn’t come this year, it will only delay the inevitable: The Braves, Marlins, and Nationals are all on the rise, but the Phillies are running on fumes. 

​Thanks to Bradley Ankrom for research assistance.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Ben Lindbergh is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

42 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

ttt

I agree.

Mar 29, 2012 12:35 PM
rating: -2
 
amazin_mess

I don't think they're that good. They have three fantastic pitchers and a horrendous offense.

Mar 29, 2012 13:55 PM
rating: 1
 
esentman

I wouldn't say the offense is horrendous. It's more like middle of the pack.

Mar 29, 2012 16:11 PM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

Yeah, probably.

One thing that will happen in the next couple years is a fan backlash on Amaro. He has decimated their farm system and is responsible for the Howard contract.

He's going to pay the piper a couple years from now.

Mar 29, 2012 18:35 PM
rating: 1
 
jrbdmb

The offense is middle of the pack with a distinct chance of being horrendous depending on what types of years Howard / Utley / Rollins have.

Mar 30, 2012 13:06 PM
rating: 1
 
kmbart

The Phillies success in 2012 hinges on the performance of their pitchers, particularly the starters; but if Freddy Galvis (or whoever replaces Utley at 2B) and Domonic Brown produce offensively, they have a pretty respectable squad. Granted, the "Galvis will hit" and "Dom Brown is back in town" likelihoods are pretty small, but that's where the payoffs for the Ruby Red Pinstripers will be found.

Mar 29, 2012 14:44 PM
rating: 0
 
bflaff1

Zig when they zag, Ben. Rather than write the 'Philly is probably too old to repeat' article, which has been an ongoing rite of spring for at least the last three years, it may be worth trying to analyze why Philly is defying the conventional wisdom and still winning loads of games, despite an increasingly unreliable core.

Mar 29, 2012 17:15 PM
rating: 0
 
apbadogs

"The 2002-2003 Giants were led by Barry Bonds, who perplexingly peaked in his late 30s"
***
Perplexingly indeed. LOL.

Mar 30, 2012 05:47 AM
rating: 5
 
lmarighi

I'm assuming that you are implying that it was all due to PED-use by Bonds in his 30s. At which point, it becomes very perplexing that we didn't say tens if not hundreds of players do the same thing so that we could have had several 70+ HR seasons. Unless one admits that PEDs don't actually make players become superstars on their own, but then one couldn't just make jokes about head size and call it "fact". . .

Apr 01, 2012 06:18 AM
rating: 1
 
BrewersTT

With all due respect, please let's not start down this road again. It's been debated ad nauseum here and of course there is no resolution possible through debate. apbadogs made an offhand and fairly obvious nudge-nudge joke, which could easily be ignored, no matter where you stand on PEDs.

Apr 01, 2012 15:52 PM
rating: 0
 
phuturephillies

Teams with $180M payrolls (and a new television deal on the horizon) do not go through "fallow" periods. The end may be near for the current core (Howard, Utley, Rollins), but they will sell out every game for the foreseeable future, and when you add in the new revenue from their new tv deal they will negotiate in the next few seasons, they aren't going to stop spending money. $180M+ (Dave Montgomery, team president, made comments this winter that the luxury tax threshold won't preclude them from re-signing Hamels) in payroll can help you paper over a lot of cracks.

The Yankees were an "aging" team in the 00s, and they didn't have much help at all coming through their farm, yet they just went out and signed Tex, Sabathia and others. The Phillies aren't a mid-market team who will slash payroll if Utley and Howard lose their effectiveness overnight. They will continue to spend, they will continue to sign marquee talent, they will continue to sell out their ballpark, and they will continue to remain competitive even as they transition to a new core.

Much like people were begging for the Yankees to fall in the last 10 years after their dominating run in the mid-late 90s, people are now openly rooting for the Phillies demise. I think a lot of non-Phillies fans are going to be disappointed.

Mar 30, 2012 06:13 AM
rating: 0
 
One Flap Down

And do well really expect Ruben Amaro Jr. (a/k/a Ruin Tomorrow Jr.) to spend that money wisely? Money alone is not a path to dominance - there are only so many impact free agents available in a given year. And the Yankees have had a strong farm system to use in trade to supplement their free agent signings, enabling them to deal for Granderson, Swisher, Pineda, etc. while they also had the homegrown Jeter, Cano & Gardner.

I'd say it's more likely they end up approximating the pre-Madoff Mets than the Yankees here.

Mar 30, 2012 08:18 AM
rating: 2
 
rcrary

It remains to be seen how Amaro will do. He's made some smart moves and some not so smart moves.

But, with respect to the rest of your comment, they have also had a strong farm system, which they have also used for trade pieces to supplement their signings. Granted, the system is at a low ebb now, but there's no reason to assume that's permanent. Will the Phillies be as successful in navigating this territory as the Yankees have been? That remains to be seen, but they have the resources to remain competitive.

Mar 30, 2012 08:37 AM
rating: 1
 
ttt

The Phillies have nowhere near the revenue stream as the Yankees have. Plus the Yankees core in the 00s was nowhere as old as the Phillies current core. Utley has a degenerative condition and is clearly on a steep downward slope. Howard's contract is a behemoth, he's on a downward slope, and who knows how well he'll come back from a freak injury. They overpaid for Rollins due to his popularity and the complete dearth of SS on the market. Hamels and Victorino are free agents after the season who will want (and get) raises, possibly from the Phillies.

Also, the Yankees brought up a few prospects during the late 00s. Some guys named Cano and Gardner. The comparison fails on its face and Phillies fans will go back to not coming to the ball park, like the season they were almost out drawn by the 76ers.

Mar 30, 2012 08:29 AM
rating: 0
 
rcrary

You make some good points, the best one being the Phillies core being older (also, Rollins was not an overpay, but just about right). But it's not clear why the alternative to being the Yankees has to be being outdrawn by the 76ers.

Phuturephillies point was less that the Phillies will be the *Yankees* necessarily, but that they have the resources to not crater.

Mar 30, 2012 08:45 AM
rating: 1
 
amazin_mess

Ruben Amaro is no more than another Omar Minaya, except he was handed a pennant winner and Omar was given a rebuilding team. He signs free agents and excels at trading away great farm talent. Imagine Travis d'Arnaud and Anthony Gose on the 2013 Phillies? And Singleton a year later after they let Howard walk (assuming they didnt sign him to the massive extension)?

They may have the willingness to spend, but there is next to nothing in the minors. As far as signing marquee talent, haven't you noticed that teams are locking up their great young players before they hit free agency?

What will really hit Phillies fans is when they don't extend Cole Hamels and he takes mega-money from someone else willing to give him the years. And you'll be able to thank Amaro and Howard.

Mar 30, 2012 14:08 PM
rating: 1
 
John Carter

"Imagine Travis d'Arnaud and Anthony Gose on the 2013 Phillies?"

You wouldn't have traded that for the current Roy Halladay, while they've been worthy of him?

Mar 31, 2012 11:11 AM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

I would have for sure, but I'm just using them as examples of their former prospects that are gone.

Apr 01, 2012 06:48 AM
rating: 0
 
phuturephillies

The Phillies opening day payroll in 2012 will be about $15M less than the Yankees. And so far, the Phillies have made it a point to not go over the luxury tax threshold. But they've indicated they have the money to spend to retain their players, and they will do it if need be.

The 2009 Yankees team that won the WS had this core group of guys, sorted by age

39 - Rivera
37 - Posada, Pettitte
35 - Matsui, Jeter, Damon
33 - Rodriguez
32 - Burnett
29 - Teixeira
28 - Swisher, Sabathia
26 - Cano
24 - Cabrera (who was an average to slightly below average MLBer in 2009)
23 - Chamberlain (who sucked), Hughes

5 of their starting 9 were 33 or older, and 4 of those 5 were 35 or older. Their closer, the ageless one, was 39. Pettitte was 37.

They won the World Series. Cano is the only home grown stud in that group to come up after the late 90s glory days. They moved Melky on because he wasn't very good, Joba fell apart and got injured, Hughes has gone backward.


The point is, most people seem to assume that the Phillies "window" is closing, and they are going to get lapped by the Braves, Marlins and Nationals in the coming years. This is a ludicrous argument for a number of reasons:

1. The Phillies have shown a commitment to spending money that the other 3 have not. The Braves are not going to spend on big free agents, and their "incredible young starting pitching" is filled with a ton of question marks right now. The Marlins made a big splash this winter, but they've also shown the willingness to firesale at a moment's notice, and in a year when the park is half empty (because no one in South Florida cares about baseball), they will be selling off assets again and re-tooling. The Nats are the wildcard, because their ownership group has shown a willingness to make a splash (Werth), but they don't appear to be in the Phillies neighborhood with regard to spending yet, and its unclear if they will get there. To spend a ton of money, you need solid attendance and great marketing/tv deals. I'm not sure they have either just yet.

No one has the Yankees revenues, but the Phillies have the highest attendance in baseball, and as I mentioned, they are preparing to negotiate a new, lucrative tv deal. The big question is whether they are comfortable smashing through the luxury tax ceiling. Even if they don't, they will be in the range where they can comfortably address their needs with their financial muscle.

2. The Phillies current core will eventually move on. But as they move on, so do their contracts. The Phillies are paying Utley $15M a year. When his contract expires after 2013, they aren't just going to replace him with a minor league stiff making the league minimum. That money will be allocated to sign a replacement, or to acquire a replacement in a trade and sign him long term. The names will change, but as long as the payroll remains in the upper 3% of all baseball payrolls, they will continue to run out talented teams.

3. The Phillies farm system has consistently ranked in the middle to bottom of the pack for the last 5-6 years. Which hasn't stopped them from using those prospects to acquire the likes of Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Pence, and others. Prospect value and status changes in the blink of an eye. Jon Singleton went from unheralded 8th round pick in 2009 (an afterthought mention by the likes of BA) to highly rated prospect in 2010 to the centerpiece of the Pence deal in 2011. The Phillies have traded a ton of prospects, but to date, none of them have really come back to bite them. A few (d'Arnaud, Gose, Drabek, Singleton, Cosart) might prove to be costly, but until they produce at the big league level, they are just theoretical assets, assets which gain and lose value very rapidly.

I simply don't see the logic in "the Phillies are at the end of the line"...the current core, maybe. But the team as a whole? I don't think so. They are absolutely nothing like the Mets in 2005-2006. The Phillies have a stable ownership group, the highest attendance in MLB, a new tv deal on the horizon, and an aggressive GM as well as a solid scouting department that has consistently gotten more for less in the draft than most organizations.

Phillies fans should feel fine about the future, and should take comfort in the fact that everyone else is rooting really hard for them to fall.

Mar 30, 2012 09:29 AM
rating: 1
 
Aaronjs27

The biggest issue isn't the aging core. It's that the aging core is still locked up for several years. They're committing $100M to Howard, Halladay, Lee, and Papelbon until 2015. Howard's life as a useful player is on the verge of ending, and the other 3 are all in the decline phases of their careers. Roster construction like that relies on inexpensive internal players to fill the gaps and provide nice value, and the Phillies farm system is completely devoid of that kind of talent aside from Domonic Brown whom they seem determined to mismanage. Spending a ton of money is nice, and there are some players who are certainly worth the big bucks because having that much value locked up in one roster spot is very valuable, but this team has no flexibility to bring in good players from outside the organization via free agency.

Utley was the cornerstone of the franchise for several years because he significantly outplayed his contract, an that allowed them to lock up Halladay and Lee long term, but players of Utley's 2005-2009 caliber at that price are only available internally to those teams fortunate enough to have them. This team isn't on the verge of losing 90 games but 2012 may be their last chance for several years to win 90.

Mar 30, 2012 10:53 AM
rating: 3
 
phuturephillies

I think its a bit disingenuous to talk about Halladay, Lee and Papelbon being in the decline phases of their respective careers, given that they are showing no signs of dropoff at all. This is the age where players normally decline, but we're talking about the cream of the crop, and they've shown no signs of dropoff at all.

Howard is not worth $25M a year. Utley, if he can't recover, is not worth $15M per year. But Utley is only signed for 2 more seasons. The biggest earners on the team, outside of Howard, will be the elite pitchers in Halladay, Lee, Hamels (when he signs) and Papelbon. Sure, its risky being so heavily invested in pitching given the nature of pitcher injuries, but if you're going to pick 4 pitchers to invest heavily in, the Phillies have 3 of the top 12 SP in baseball and one of the two best closers in baseball locked up.

I understand the point about needing to have cheap role players. Then again, the rest of the Phillies bullpen outside of Papelbon will be filled by guys making the minimum up to about $3M. And considering the projected number of innings the rotation will throw, its wise to not spend a ton of money here. The Phillies AAA team also has a stocked bullpen, which will prevent the big league club from having to give out multi year deals for 7th inning guys going forward.

Mayberry and Brown will be cheap for the foreseeable future. If the Phillies don't re-sign Pence, Brown may get his shot. Or in a year from now, maybe the Phillies are able to trade a prospect that no one cares about now for a solid position player whose team can no longer afford him. The point is, the Phillies have the muscle to stay where they are now and for the future. There isn't a "window", and its highly unlikely the team will crater. They scored the 2nd most runs in the NL after the AS Break last year with an old and injured core, including Raul Ibanez and a gimpy Placido Polanco. With their pitching staff being what it is, just an average offense will yield 93-96 wins, which will be enough to get in to the playoffs.

The Phillies have considerable resources, and if you look at it objectively, they have more resources than any of their division competitors. The Nats have two stud youngsters and a few other nice players, with a developing rotation. But they have a bunch of question marks and dead spots. And outside of Harper, their farm system has a lot of question marks. The Marlins are a joke of a franchise, and again, I expect that in 2 years when it turns out no one is going to games, even inside, they will be back to running $50M payrolls and consistently trading away their ARB1/ARB2/ARB3 guys. The Braves aren't spending money and are hoping/praying their glut of young pitching pans out. Teheran and Delgado might be awesome. Or they might hit a wall and not develop. Or they might go the way of Vizcaino and miss an entire year with TJ.

Everyone is always looking ahead and saying the window is going to close. Current evidence says that it isn't closing, and that the Phillies have a number of competitive advantages over their rivals. Anything can happen, but I'd bet on what we know right now, not on what might happen in 2013 or 2014 or 2015.

Mar 30, 2012 11:08 AM
rating: 3
 
amazin_mess

You Phillies fans just don't want to let go off the peak, do you?

Listen - it was worth it - your run won a title.

But the reaper is coming.

Apr 01, 2012 18:03 PM
rating: -1
 
rcrary

Do phuturephillies comments really read like someone simply unable to "let go"? The answer is, no they do not. They are well thought, well reasoned, very smart. Of course, what he argues could not come to pass, but that doesn't make his arguments little more than wishful thinking.

Apr 02, 2012 06:49 AM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

Just my take, but they read like a fan who will not admit the win cycle for his team is turning. He believes they will keep on chugging along. Personally, with a shallow farm and aging core, I don't. That's all.

Apr 02, 2012 12:20 PM
rating: 0
 
rcrary

Still an unnecessarily obnoxious comment.

Apr 02, 2012 18:17 PM
rating: -1
 
lmarighi

By basic arithmetic, the only way for a baseball team to be in the "upper 3% of all baseball payrolls" is to be the highest-payroll team in MLB. So, unless I missed something, in 2011 the Phillies were in the upper 7% of payrolls, but until they surpass the Yankees, they will not be in the upper 3%.

Apr 01, 2012 06:41 AM
rating: 1
 
bflaff1

While you're at it, can you go through the other comments and let us know if anyone wrote your when they meant you're, or mixed up its and it's? And start it with something like, "Grade school grammar says..." That would be super helpful.

Apr 01, 2012 18:30 PM
rating: -1
 
amazin_mess

Ah....Baseball America ranked the Phillies farm in the Top 5 in 2008. Kind of shoots down #3.
#25 this year, by the way.

Apr 01, 2012 19:40 PM
rating: 0
 
dom

Wouldn't the Yankees be older than the Phillies this year, just looking at position players?

Mar 30, 2012 09:44 AM
rating: 0
 
HonusCobb

Let's assume Utley, Howard, and Rollins all miss at least 30 to 60 games this year. Can the Phillies win the division?

Mar 30, 2012 12:19 PM
rating: 0
 
phuturephillies

In 2011, Utley missed 59 games, Rollins missed 20 games, and Howard missed 10 games. They won 102 games.

In 2010, Utley missed 47 games, Rollins missed 74 games, Howard missed 19 games and they won 97 games.

The SABR community has gone to great lengths to say how bad Howard is, so losing his bat for 2-3 months shouldn't impact the Phillies all that much. Their pitching staff will mask a lot of flaws. And their offense, even without Utley and Howard, is still markedly better than the Giants offense last year, for instance.

Mar 30, 2012 13:32 PM
rating: 3
 
HonusCobb

I see your point and it makes sense. But in addition to missing games, they're also getting older. Let's say they're only slightly worse than they were last season...the rest of the division (besides the Mets) are getting better. I just wouldn't be that surprised if they didn't win the division whereas I would be surprised if they won 96 games or more.

Mar 30, 2012 13:51 PM
rating: 0
 
phuturephillies

Yeah I get that. But it also assumes everything goes right for the Marlins, Nats and Braves. On paper, those teams are solid. But what happens if Reyes gets hurt? And his injury history over the last few seasons is pretty damn sketchy. What if Werth doesn't bounce back, Morse ends up losing most of his power due to his lat injury, and Zimmerman has an off year? What if Gonzalez morphs all the way in to Ollie Perez? And the Braves....well, lest we forget they pulled off one of the most epic chokejobs ever last season, overshadowed only by the high spending Red Sox chokejob. Fredi G ran that bullpen in to the ground, and there's no way of knowing what kind of lingering effect it may have.

Every team has issues. I'd still take the Phillies 40 man roster and their willingness to go out and get another piece they need in July over any other team in the division.

Mar 30, 2012 14:02 PM
rating: 2
 
bflaff1

On Opening Day last year, the Phillies started Raul Ibanez in left, Ben Francisco in right, and Wilson Valdez at 2nd. J.C. Romero, David Herndon, and Danys Baez all pitched out of the bullpen in that game. Chase Utley's knee was shot, Jose Contreras was the closer, and Dom Brown had a broken hamate bone. Somehow, despite the decline-phase core, prospect mismanagement, lousy contracts, and stubborn resistance to statistical analysis, the Phillies still won 102 games. They've gotten better every year since 2007, even as Utley, Howard, and Rollins all got worse. And got injured. The idea that the window for this team is closing only makes sense if you somehow imagine that the team won't change. Or that they decide to stop spending money. Or that they haven't already shown the ability to overcome the flaws mention in the article and its comment thread.

Mar 30, 2012 14:45 PM
rating: 0
 
smitty

Last year, the Phillies got 756 PAs from Wilson Valdez, Mike Martinez, Ross Gload and Pete Orr. They were all awful. Brian Schneider had 139 PAs with an OPS + of 38. From May 1st to the end of the year, Placido Polanco had a .591 OPS while playing with a sports hernia.

This team won 102 games and won its division by 13 games. They have been battling the very issues brought up here as evidence of their downfall for a few years now. Injuries and decline from key players. And yet they continue to win more games than the season before.

Utley is an important factor here. The Phils were the number 2 run scoring team in the NL after his return last season. But they were still 28-18 before he returned. Further, they will have Hunter Pence for a full season instead of Ben Francisco in the outfield. All the news isn't bad for this club.

Their minor league system isn't highly rated but they have some good young relievers who are close to big league ready and some young aces and plenty of tool sheds in the lower-mid levels. A few of those guys pan out and we're talking a pretty good system as has happened pretty much for the last many years starting with Rollins; Utley and Howard and continuing to Dom Brown and Vance Worley.

Mar 30, 2012 15:07 PM
rating: 0
 
smitty

bflaff's comment regarding the Phils' resistance to statistical analysis reminds me they are pretty good at many of the things the SABER types love. Record setting base stealing success. Solid defense. Great K/W rates from most of their pitchers. Getting the best guy (by far most of the time) in trades. Not using sac bunts or intentional walks much at all.

For an old school club they fielded a pretty durned new school team over the last 6 or 8 years. And I'll take that over an organization that employs a team of computer toting folks that fields a 75 win team year after year ten times out of ten.

Mar 30, 2012 15:16 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

I've enjoyed this discussion--one of the reasons it's so nice to read and write for BP is that the comments sections often offer as much food for thought as the articles.

I don't think the Phillies are about to fall off a cliff--as I mentioned in the article, we're projecting them to tie for the best record in the league. It's true that they've been old for a while now, and so far, it hasn't hurt them. But they've never been quite this old, at least on the offensive side. They may very well spend themselves out of their predicament, as the Yankees have done--I can't claim any special insight into their budget, and they can look forward to a big TV deal a few years down the road. But it's not easy to swap out most of your core for equally productive replacements without missing a beat. Even the Yankees fell short of the playoffs in 2008.

Mar 30, 2012 15:32 PM
 
smitty

Ben, you're article was a good one. We Phillie fans have been reading about our club's demise for most of the spring and have been offering counterpoints for a while now. The biggest thing they've done is gone from a great offense, led by Rollins, Utley, Howard and Werth to a team built around dominant starting pitching and a good bullpen. They haven't developed any position player who equal Rollins, Utley and Howard. Not many clubs have. So they are a different team now.

The key to the team is Halladay, Lee and Hamels. It will be interesting to see how they deal with their aging position players. It is absolutely a concern. But not one that can't be overcome.

Mar 31, 2012 12:26 PM
rating: 1
 
Duranimal

Good article and good comments.

What seems amazing to me about Last year is that the Phils had just 2 losing streaks. Both were just 4 games, and one was in late September when it didn't matter.

Good pitching makes up for a lot.

Mar 31, 2012 09:02 AM
rating: 1
 
rcrary

Actually, the second one, late in the season, was 8 games; it began the game after they clinched the division... the combination of post-clinch easing up a bit, and key guys like Howard sitting out (the lineup was even more patchwork than it will be to start this season). Then they got their act together and won the final four games of the regular season.

Alas, the first two of those eight games were against the Cardinals.

Apr 01, 2012 13:17 PM
rating: 0
 
John Carter

Are we completely back to the old aging curve now that we have presumably screened steroids out of the picture? It doesn't seem so. I expected both the Yankees and Angels to collapse last year. Only the Angels did, but not to the extent that I thought they would. Omar Vizquel is still a useful middle infielder at 44. Jamie Moyer can still pitch at the Major League level at 49. Every year Baseball knows more and more about nutrition and exercise that will prolong an athlete's peak performance.

Mar 31, 2012 11:21 AM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

I am still surprised no one is picking them not to win the East.

Apr 01, 2012 06:49 AM
rating: 0
 
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