Even before Cole Hamels revealed he has a sore shoulder, question marks abound for last year's World Series champs. The jury is still out on whether Chase Utley will be as good after the hip operation. Raul Ibanez is not a major upgrade for Pat Burrell and the team still doesn't have a decent catcher or third baseman. At a casual glance, it does not seem likely that 2009 will be as successful as 2008.
The starting rotation has too many question marks. We all know Jamie Moyer's history. But we also wait for the inevitable, where he falls off a cliff and succumbs at last to his age. Blanton doesn't inspire a lot of confidence coming from Oakland where so many ex-A's seem to falter once they leave the Bay. And Chan Ho Park is a crap shoot at best. Sure, he resurrected his career a bit with spot duty out of the bullpen. But can anyone forget the Rangers years and the last time he was trusted as a starter? If Cole Hamels misses any significant time, then that makes matter worse for this rotation. Brett Myers is league average at best.
The Phillies may be comfortable with their catching corps, but the collection seems weak at best. Carlos Ruiz, who gets the bulk of the duty seems more of a backup kind of guy than a starter. And base runners had more success last year with him behind the plate than the year before. The rest of the catching corp hasn't hit at all this spring and the two young kids they had in camp seem a year or two away.
The Fan isn't real impressed with Philadelphia's outfield either. Werth had a nice year last year, but there have been some injury murmurs with him this spring and he seems more suited to a platoon situation as he doesn't hit right-handers nearly as well as left-handers. Shane Victorino is a Roy White type of player: Good, but not quite good enough, though he can go get the ball pretty well out there in center and runs well on the bases. His batting average is just league average though and he has little pop.
We've already mentioned Ibanez. This signing seemed strange at the time and after the way the market played out, the Phillies jumped the gun far too early and got too little for way too much money. He's way past his prime and he's just okay at the plate. The outfield spare parts aren't inspiring either. John Mayberry Jr. seems more suited as a first baseman than an outfielder and Matt Stairs...well...what is this DH doing in the National League anyway? Geoff Jenkins is spurty at the plate and can help when he gets on a roll, but he's not much of a fielder.
Who is going to play third? Dobbs? He's played more at first this spring than third. Youngster, Jason Donald has had a nice spring, but will they open the season with him at third? Couldn't hurt.
The rest of the infield is set with Rollins (who looks terrific in the WBC) and Utley around second and the thumper at first. But Howard has to improve his defense and all indications are that he has worked hard in the off season to do that. Last year, he made Giambi look good over there.
All in all, it doesn't feel right and it doesn't seem to all fit correctly. Granted, those are uneducated and non-analytical responses. But the Braves are better, the Marlins are better, the Mets are better and Washington...oh yeah...forget that. Anyway, the Phillies will be hard pressed to win the division, never mind the pennant or a repeat performance at the World Series.