Welcome to our MLB Fan Previews. Peter Gammons can give you all the inside info, John Kruk can remind you not to eat that extra donut and Steve Phillips can give you hope that you'd make a great GM ... but all these 'experts' combined can't top the true passion of the everyday fan. So that's what we're trying to provide you with here. Real thoughts and predictions from real fans. Hope you enjoy! We continue today with Ryan and the Philadelphia Phillies.
For once, there is optimism in Philly. After last year's near playoff berth and Ryan Howard's monster season, the notoriously fickle Philly fans finally expect a big season. The players, most notably Jimmy Rollins, have bought into the mantra that this is Philly's year. Do they have what it takes to win the NL East from the Mets and Braves?
A COMMON FAN'S 4 QUESTIONS FOR THE 2007 PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
1. Can the stars match their output in 2006?
I really think this is one of the biggest issues facing the Phillies in 2007. They nearly made the playoffs last year on the backs of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. In order to get over the hump in 2007, the rest of the team is going to have to contribute what they can to the cause. Aaron Rowand is going to have to produce again this year (and stay healthy). Abraham Nunez and Shane Victorino are going to have to contribute in the bottom part of the order. Of course, I think Utley and Howard (along with Jimmy Rollins) are going to have to come close to matching their numbers from 2006. That's a pretty tall order for both of them.
2. Can Pat Burrell be a feared hitter?
There's been a lot of debate about whether Burrell's that bad or whether the Phillies fans just have unreasonable expectations of him. I'm not going to waste time debating that here. BUT, I do feel that the Phillies need him to be consistent this year. He cut down the strikeouts last year, but it was in 100 fewer at-bats. The Phillies need someone to make opposing pitchers pay for not pitching to Howard. I don't really think that Victorino or Nunez are the answer, so Burrell's going to have to step up.
3. Can this pitching staff lead Philadelphia to the post-season in 2007?
On the surface, this staff looks solid but not spectacular. Brett Myers returns to lead the staff. He led the team in strikeouts and wins in 2006. The addition of Freddy Garcia and Adam Eaton should bring some stability to a rotation that at times seemed like it was lacking consistency. Cole Hamels is the future of this staff. He only had 9 wins last year, but he struck out 145 batters in 132 innings. I don't think these guys are going to be world-beaters, but they should be able to keep the Phils in most games. With Gordon closing out, they should be competent at the end of the game as well. Will competence be enough?
4. The Phillies believe they can win the NL East. Can they convince the rest of the league?
One thing I really like about this year's team is that they truly seem to think they can win. They've been close to the playoffs in each of the last two years. They're going to have to overcome that swoon that seems to hit them every year. That's where I think the acquisition of Eaton and Garcia can really help. Even though neither of these guys is a premier pitcher in the league, they both can eat up innings when needed. If they can manage not to allow the slumps to get too long, then I think they have a great shot making the post-season for the first time since 1993.
(Ed Note: Of course, we don't have all the answers, so give us your insight in the comments.)
Projected Lineup (2006 stats)
SS Jimmy Rollins (.277.334/.478, 25 HR, 83 RBI)
RF Shane Victorino (.287.346/.414, 6 HR, 46 RBI)
2B Chase Utley (.309/.379/.527, 32 HR, 102 RBI)
1B Ryan Howard (.313/.425/.659, 58 HR, 149 RBI)
LF Pat Burrell (.258/.388/.502, 29 HR, 95 RBI)
CF Aaron Rowand (.262/.321/425, 12 HR, 47 RBI)
3B Wes Helms (.329/.390/.575, 10 HR, 47 RBI- 240 AB)
C Rod Barajas (.256/.298/.410, 11 HR, 41 RBI)
Freddy Garcia (17-9, 4.53 ERA, 135 K)
Brett Myers (12-7, 3.91 ERA, 189 K)
Cole Hamels (9-8, 4.08 ERA, 145 K)
Jamie Moyer (11-14, 4.30 ERA, 108 K)
Adam Eaton (7-4, 5.12 ERA, 43 K)/Jon Lieber (9-11, 4.93 ERA, 100 K)
Closer: Tom Gordon (3-4, 34 SV, 3.34 ERA)
RH Setup: Geoff Geary (7-1, 2.96 ERA)
LH Setup: Matt Smith (8.2 IP)
Phantic Phollow Up
The Good Phight
Share your thoughts on the 2007 Philadelphia Phillies. What are your bold predictions for them this season?