Phillies: Best Case, Worst Case

Notice anything new? Yes, I did get a haircut, thanks for noticing! But I was talking about the blog. If you direct your attention upwards, you’ll notice a navigation bar for the ESPN Sweetspot network. I encourage you to use that throughout the season to keep tabs on the other teams around Major League Baseball — I know I will.

As part of the Sweetspot expanding from 8 to 18 members today, ESPN has asked us to post a short “Best Case, Worst Case” for our respective teams. I encourage you to post your own “Best Case, Worst Case” in the comments below.

Best Case

The best case is actually a very realistic case. The Phillies have had one of the best training staffs in baseball exemplified by their winning¬†the Baseball Prospectus Dick Martin award last year. So long as the team can stay healthy — and despite the woes of Brad Lidge, J.C. Romero, and Joe Blanton, they probably will — the Phillies are the heavy favorite to return to the World Series. We all know the Phillies will hit, they just need to keep their arms healthy.

Worst Case

It can all unravel for the Phillies if their bullpen becomes a mess, and there’s a chance it will. Both closer Brad Lidge and lefty J.C. Romero will not be ready for Opening Day, and the team is desperate for a left-hander in the bullpen. They auditioned Sergio Escalona and Mike Zagurski and passed on them two weeks before the end of spring training. Antonio Bastardo won the spot by default but he is no sure thing. Furthermore, Ryan Madson was not effective filling in for Lidge in the ninth inning last year, and there’s no guarantee that he will be in 2010 despite his electric fastball and whiff-inducing change-up. The bullpen is the biggest question mark for the Phillies this year.

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5 comments

  1. David

    April 05, 2010 10:12 AM

    Bill,

    Curious to get your take on some of the starters. (If you addressed this already, I apologize).

    It’s widely accepted that Happ will regress this season, but to what extent do you envision, Bill? I’m guessing a 4.20 era or so, which still carries a lot of value for a #4 pitcher.

    Thanks.

  2. Bill Baer

    April 05, 2010 10:25 AM

    David,

    You can find my preview of the Phillies by clicking here.

    I’ll touch on a couple that have been hot topics:

    – Cole Hamels is likely to rebound. Here’s why.

    – J.A. Happ is likely to regress. Here’s why. 4.20 seems about right, and you’re correct — that’s just fine from a #4 (#3 while Blanton’s on the mend).

    – If Kyle Kendrick pitches well (caveat: and if the pitching staff is healthy), the Phillies should consider trading him when his value will be at its highest. Here’s why.

  3. FuquaManuel

    April 05, 2010 11:17 AM

    But even if Lidge was healthy, that might actually be a bad thing given Charlie’s stubborn insistence on using him as the closer despite overwhelming evidence that he should not even sniff a high-leverage situation.

    The spring training numbers haven’t exactly been encouraging either.

  4. Bill Baer

    April 05, 2010 11:37 AM

    I agree — Madson should be the closer until he gives Manuel a reason to think otherwise. Lidge could be 100% unmistakably healthy and I still wouldn’t want to take Madson out if he’s performing well.

    Not sure if I agree that Lidge shouldn’t “sniff a high-leverage situation”. Do you trust Danys Baez more than Lidge? I don’t.

  5. FuquaManuel

    April 05, 2010 12:00 PM

    Well, if Lidge is still not improved from last season, I’d obviously trust Baez more.

    As bad as Baez might be, it’s hard to be worse than 2009 Lidge.

    I think the best course would probably be to use Lidge in low-leverage situations for however long it takes for him to demonstrate he can get major league hitters out with consistency and then ease him back into higher leverage situations.

    I agree with your assessment that the bullpen being exposed represents the worst-case scenario for this team. I have been having nightmares about it for a few weeks now.

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