Over at ESPN Sweet Spot, David Schoenfield came up with 100 reasons to get excited about baseball over the next seven months. He has a lot of good reasons, including a few about the Phillies, such as the return of Jim Thome, Roy Halladay‘s filthy stuff, Cole Hamels‘ contract situation, and Hunter Pence‘s quirkiness. While I don’t think I can come up with 100 Phillies-specific items, I’d like to try my hand at ten that Schoenfield did not include on his list. Feel free to add your own in the comments.
1. Joe Savery.
Joe Savery’s inclusion on the opening day roster is a remarkable story. You know it by now, but the starter-turned-first-baseman-turned reliever will bask in it.
That’s because his stay could be short.
Savery would be the guy to go, barring another injury. But he’ll be back after that. He’s a big-league pitcher and that he’s on the radar this soon in the 2012 season is incredible.
Carlos Ruiz has quietly become one of the most consistent, productive catchers in baseball. He is one of only nine catchers to post at least 12 Wins Above Replacement (FanGraphs) since 2007, minimum 1500 plate appearances.
Ruiz posted the highest batting average and on-base percentage among the seven regulars last year, and the Phillies will be without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard for most if not all of the first half. Freddy Galvis will hit out of the #8 spot in the lineup, so Ruiz’s underrated skill at the plate will be put to more frequent use. If Ruiz continues to produce as he has in recent years, the Phillies’ offense may not be as bad as expected.
3. The Rotation
It’s obvious by now, but the Phillies’ starting rotation is something to behold. Last year, the Phillies had six starters make at least 15 starts. Roy Oswalt posted the highest ERA of them at 3.69. Three of them — Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels — finished under 3.00 and Rookie of the Year candidate Vance Worley just missed the cut at 3.01. Halladay and Lee already have Cy Young awards under their belt and Hamels could join them this year, in what could be his final season as a Phillie. With the media focusing a lot of attention on the team’s faults, the starting rotation is what makes them such favorites in the NL East.
John Mayberry Jr., or “Yayberry” as he’s affectionately known on Twitter, broke out last year, hitting 15 home runs in under 300 plate appearances. Mayberry was an under-the-radar acquisition, the first move Ruben Amaro after being named general manager of the Phillies back in 2008. While Mayberry put up good power numbers in the Minors, not many saw him being a productive Major Leaguer because he did not hit right-handed pitching well and struck out too often against breaking balls.
That changed last year. Mayberry posted a .338 wOBA against RHP and a .340 wOBA against “slow” stuff. This is what his ISO looked like, per ESPN Stats & Information:
5. Freddy Galvis, defender.
If you watched the Phillies in spring training this year, it was really hard to find something not to like about Galvis. Despite worries about his bat, he hit .280 in spring with two home runs and a team-best 14 RBI.
However, it is with his glove and throwing arm that Galvis really makes his living.
It is going to be a blast watching Galvis at second and Jimmy Rollins at shortstop turning would-be base runners into outs throughout the first half until Chase Utley returns.
6. “The Man.”
The late, great voice of the Phillies Harry Kalas always referred to Chase Utley as “the man” because he did all of the big things really, really well, but also because he did the small things that star players tend to overlook, like running out a routine grounder or taking the extra base. Observe:
In a ranking of the hardest-working players in the Majors, Utley and Halladay are near if not at the top of the list. Utley has come back from injuries long before he should have before, and that very well could be the case this year with his recurring knee problem. Utley will do whatever it takes to get back out on the field. While the smart bettor should still take the over on DL days, I’ll take the under anyway.
7. The Flyin’ Hawaiian.
If you’re not a fan of the Phillies, you likely hate the sight of Shane Victorino because he is a pest. A very productive pest, but a pest nonetheless. Victorino not only gets on base (.355 OBP last year), he steals (19-for-22 last year), and plays great defense. Oh, and he’ll do it all with a smile on his face. If you’re a fan of the Mets or the Braves, that will make you froth at the mouth in anger. He has as much fun playing baseball as anybody in the league, and that makes it fun for us fans as well. Victorino is eligible for free agency after the season, and with the Phillies focused on retaining Cole Hamels, this may be his last year in Philadelphia.
He makes the Sabermetric crowd scratch their head over some of his in-game decisions, but you’re a terrible person if you can’t find a reason to like the guy. Every player that has passed through Philadelphia has grown to love him. He truly believes in his players and will give them every opportunity to succeed, which is admirable. He isn’t afraid to say what’s on his mind, even if it involves challenging a popular radio personality to a fight.
At the end of last season, he took over the lead for the most wins by a manager in Phillies history, surpassing Gene Mauch. Under his watch, the Phillies have increased their win total in every season since 2006. Although that isn’t likely to continue in 2012, it is an incredibly impressive feat, considering the Phillies won 85 games in 2006.
He’s going to get a shot at some point this year, and all of Philadelphia is rooting for him to finally break out. The once-heralded prospect hasn’t lived up to expectations — mostly due to a lack of opportunities and a lack of confidence in his outfield defense — but the sky is still the limit for the lefty. Brown has taken it all in stride, vowing to continue to improve as he begins another season in the Minors with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. GM Ruben Amaro refused to include Brown in trades involving Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Hunter Pence. Brown will eventually be able to prove that Amaro was smart for coveting him.
10. The trade deadline.
Ruben Amaro has made a big splash at the end of July in each of the past three seasons, acquiring Cliff Lee in 2009, Roy Oswalt in 2010, and Hunter Pence last year. Who will it be this year?