Phillies and Olney’s Top 10s: Are You Worried? – Phillies Nation
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Phillies and Olney’s Top 10s: Are You Worried?

http://i.cdn.turner.com/si/2010/writers/joe_sheehan/10/14/playoff.pitchers/roy-halladay-ap2.jpg

Olney sees Halladay as the linchpin of the Phillies rotation. Photo: AP

Buster Olney of ESPN has produced a pretty fun series of articles this week. Day by day, Olney has posted on his Insider blog Top 10 lists for infield, outfield, rotation, line-ups, and Top 10 overall teams. Olney’s rankings are comprehensive but can be confusing; for instance, the teams with the two highest ranked line-ups, the Angels and Brewers, are not in the overall Top 10, and the Rangers, who have the top infield and fourth best line-up according to Olney, meet the same fate. Eight of the Top 10 overall were playoff teams in 2012, with the exceptions being the number six Dodgers and number eight Blue Jays.

The Phillies appear on only one of the lists; Olney ranks them as having the fourth best rotation in baseball, behind the Tigers, Nationals, and Dodgers, in that order. I would personally drop the Dodgers out of the list and bump up the ninth and tenth teams, Oakland and San Francisco, above the Phillies. Olney seemingly considered putting them higher: “But Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels still might be the best trio of starters in the majors, and each is fully capable of winning the Cy Young Award. The Phillies led the majors in starting pitcher innings and strikeouts last season despite a miserable year that seemed to fall apart early.” Olney sites Halladay as the linchpin of the group, stating the club’s, yet alone the rotation’s, success depends on him.

What is particularly troubling, but not surprising, is not the lack of Phillies on the Top 10s but their M.I.A. status in the honorable mentions. Despite a near a career year from Carlos Ruiz and a near-career year from Jimmy Rollins in 2012 and Chase Utley and Ryan Howard expected to contribute at a much higher level than 2012, the Phillies do not appear in the Top 10 or the Next Best section, effectively placing them at 13 at best but possibly lower than that.

The infield was possibly the only other shot the Phillies had at being included in a Top 10 list and would have been their ticket, in turn, to being listed in the Top 10 line-up discussions. For the first time, I truly believe that many, many other teams have line-ups better than the Phillies. It is obvious that even with unexpected contributions, Darin Ruf, Ben Revere, and Domonic Brown probably won’t strike fear into too many opposing fans, which makes the importance of pitching in 2013 just as or even more important this year than last.

In 2006, 2007, 2008, and even 2009, it often felt like the Phillies got snubbed as a contender. In 2010 and 2011, it felt like the commentators were giving them the appropriate amount of coverage, while in 2012, there were giant question marks. This year, unfortunately, feels as just an appropriate assessment as 2010 and 2011 did. My question to everyone: are you worried? Has the fear set in that this team might not compete in 2013. Olney’s articles have set that tone for me.

33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. Ryne Duren

    January 4, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    no i’m not worried ian. not worried because my expectations for them are tird place with the braves and nats ahead of them. they’ll compete but i think there are way too many what if’s and if he’s healthy scenarios. but talent wise third. the mets and marlins aren’t going anywhere. the marlins got rid of their really good players and the mets lost a cy young pitcher. their pitching wasn’t that great with him and now without him it’ll be a dogfight between the fish and the mets. which leaves the phillies in the middle.
    if everything goes their way yes the phils could not only compete, but steall the division. it’s a hard thing to win back to back div titles. so the nats as good as they are on paper still have to play the games and the same for the braves. but my guess would be third at best.
    i just want some excitment back they were [pretty boring last year and even in the 102 win season it seemed to be blah most of the time. there were some exciting games don’t get me wrong , but on the whole they were pretty boring. 06,07,08,09 they were some exciting times. 10 wasn’t bad but not like the previous4 yrs.

    • Double Trouble Del

      January 4, 2013 at 8:07 pm

      I understand what the Nats did last year but they really could be another coming of the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays team, who every analyst was ready to designate the next dynasty.

  2. Bart Shart

    January 4, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    I am worried,but I’m worried every year. It’s part of the love I have for this team. I do not expect great things from them. But I do want to be entertained and I do want heros to root for and I do want some positive surprises. I look at this as a transition year. And, of course, hope for the best.

  3. William Rennick

    January 4, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Olney’s assessment seems reasonable…nothing really shocking. The team has a lot of question marks.

  4. Louis

    January 4, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    Olney’s rankings of the Phillies are fair, but overall his rankings seem pretty wrong. I wouldn’t give his rankings much thought.

  5. Bob in Bucks

    January 4, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    Worried no. I fully understand that the window has closed. That is the way it goes, you get good players and then they age and then you have to start again. Meanwhile bad teams get better i.e Nats. I don’t expect the Phils to give anyone a strong run. I will still root for them and watch the games but it will be a while until the Phils are back in the hunt unless Brown or Ruf become star which I don’t expect.

    • Double Trouble Del

      January 4, 2013 at 9:36 pm

      Its really a bit drastic to say the window has closed or to award the Nats the National League crown or even the divisional crown.

  6. George

    January 4, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    I’m not an Olney “insider,” so I can’t really say if he’s got as many questionable theories as he appears to (most notably, the Rangers out of the top ten overall when they’ve supposedly got the #1 infield and the #4 lineup). I can say, though, that anyone who thinks the Phils don’t have question marks is a fool.

    There are always question marks, however, and even those highly ranked infields, rotations, etc. could meet with disaster. In other words, I’m no more worried than usual. Too much can and will change between now and the World Series to be thinking gloom and doom in the middle of winter.

  7. wbramh

    January 5, 2013 at 12:42 am

    Perhaps the question is whether or not the Phillies are currently an top 20 team.

    The new and designated center fielder starter is a fine fielder but can’t throw the ball to the infield on a fly.
    He wasn’t even a starter on a non-play-off team that was 20 games out of first by September.
    The right fielder is also speedy and has a great arm – just no ball in his glove.
    The left fielder can’t field or throw but could become the right-handed power hitter the team desperately needs…so naturally, the manager won’t start him.
    All six available outfielders rank no better than mediocre – at least at this point in their careers.

    The entire infield is comprised of aging and banged up ifs.
    The reliable, durable and excellent game-calling star catcher is sitting out a chunk of the season on a performance drug suspension.
    The ace pitcher struggled mightily all season with his health.
    How is he doing now? Anybody know?
    The all star closer had trouble getting into games for long stretches because the team couldn’t get, or hold, a lead past the eighth inning.
    The talented new set-up man could be a big help assuming he has recovered from major arm surgery.
    There are no young projected Howards and Utleys in the minor league system – just long-shot 26-year-olds with still-incomplete baseball skills.

    The “if onlys” are sounding more like “how can theys?”

    But the Phillies have it better than some NL East teams.
    Not unlike a modern Connie Mack, the Marlins owner seems more interested in the sure profit garnered by selling his stars at their peak value rather than pursuing the tougher job of rebuilding a championship for Marlins fans. The Mets ownership is still reeling financially after investing their cash with Bernie Madoff and for their own reasons have been divesting themselves of talent. So far, those are the men most responsible for the fightins hanging on to third place this year.

    As I see it, the team has two choices at this point in their decline; either attempt to get back to the Series by bolstering the team with high-priced stars like Josh Hamilton (a direction already rejected) or trade their own aging stars to teams who think they can win it all now straight up for consensus top minor league prospects around the league.
    It’s important to note that a once talent-laden Phil’s farm system was instrumental in producing the greatest run in the team’s long history. Now if the Eagles could just learn to rely on and run a few thoughtful drafts and stay away from other teams’ driftwood.

    • Lefty

      January 5, 2013 at 10:12 am

      I don’t agree with much of what you said, but I commend your comment, IMO- it’s interesting and well written. Despite being very negative, it has tinges of realism and you have every right to your opinion.

      Here is where I disagree. Let’s start with your outfield assessment using this quote from Phillies.com yesterday-

      Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. continues to make calls and send text messages and emails in search of a veteran corner outfielder.

      He understands it would be risky to enter the season without one.

      “We’ve had several talks with free agents, although they’re limited now,” Amaro said Friday. “We’ve also talked about some possible trades. We’re staying active as far as that is concerned. We’re still trying to improve, depth-wise, in our outfield, if we can. We don’t have proven everyday Major League players on our corners right now. If we can create some depth there, if we can create some competition, I would like to do that.”

      It doesn’t sound like RA Jr. is convinced either, I don’t believe they are planning to go into the season with the outfield as presently set up. That doesn’t mean they won’t- the other teams involved in trade talks have to cooperate too. But it does mean they appear to believe they still need an upgrade.

      I agree with your assessment of the infield, but I guess I choose to believe some of those “banged up ifs” will surprise us with comeback seasons.

      The chunk of the season that our catcher is sitting out is a minor problem, but not so much that the team can’t stay competitive. The team was on a pretty good roll without him at the end of last season, (that’s not to say they aren’t better off with him) but the first 25 games is not a fatal blow to the season. Ruiz has averaged 117 games per season the last 6 years, he could still do that and have 20 games off. (162-25-20=117)

      The reports on “the ace pitcher” are that he will be back fully healthy, but may never have the velocity he once had. There are so many examples of intelligent pitchers that have remade their game for the inevitable aging process, I believe Doc is a pretty smart guy.

      I’m not sure about the All Star closer, I don’t like his act, or believe in him in general. His fastball is slowing, and he just seems like a head case to me. I don’t think he would have saved all the missed opportunities you mention had he got them. I hope I am wrong, but check the fangraphs velocity charts, all of his pitches are down.

      The talented new set up man- meh. All relievers are year to year, you just never know. But especially ones that had their greatest years pitching at Petco Park, I hope he works out just not as confident as some.

      I can’t address your assessment of the minor league system, I don’t have the expertise.

      Overall I really don’t think it’s as bad as you think, I’m glad RA Jr. did not overspend for marginal FA’s this winter, and I don’t think he is done with the outfield yet, and I think the infield will surprise you..

      • wbramh

        January 6, 2013 at 7:23 am

        I think you’ve made a few fair counterpoints, Lefty,

        The first being the fact that RAJ could very well have a worthwhile trade up his sleeve before April. But of course, trades often take away as much as they give, especially since teams can be one injury away from becoming lean in the same position they once enjoyed enough abundance in to trade away a valuable player to some other team. And other than the outfield at the moment, I’m not sure they have the depth anywhere else to trade for a starting player, hence they’d be back moving prospects for a veteran which is counterintuitive to the way the team built its powerhouse.

        Obviously you’re right about the catcher’s position. The team did have success with Chooch’s backup, but besides his bat, Chooch’s suspension takes two additional pluses out of the lineup. First, nobody calls a better game and that likely has some negative effect on the pitching staff. Second, he’s the type of hard-nosed spark that raises the rest of the team. Additionally, catchers take a lot of wear and tear. If his backup goes down early in the season, then the team is in trouble unless they’re willing to give their promising kid(s) a shot.

        IAs for the pitching staff, while Doc’s loss of velocity is a concern, I agree that he’s smart enough and his control may stay good enough to allow him to remain an above average hurler, but what frightens me was his drop in stamina. While relying less on his fastball may save some of that energy, it’s the pitch count that does pitchers in more than what their tossing. Your assessment of the set-up man and closer is a bit more negative than my own, but you make a good about Papelbon. There was a tinge of sarcasm in my “all star” comment. I think he performed his job pretty well this year but he’s no Rivera or Chapman- and it’s not the long-term pitching assignment for a guy who’s losing his fastball. Just ask Mitch Williams. And yes, good set-up men and closers are in general a fleeting bunch which makes Mariano Rivera something of a freak. It took shagging fly balls in the outfield to do him in, or at least interrupt his dominance. Insane!

  8. BeyondInfinity

    January 5, 2013 at 5:58 am

    i’m a bit worried cause what if halladay, utley and howard didn’t had setback years but just felt that they are getting old, wich they indeed are… maybe this is the end of our winning phils generation with howard, rollins and utley all long passed the 30?

  9. "Big Ed" Delahanty

    January 5, 2013 at 8:29 am

    I agree with George. The team has many question marks. Hopefully, those question marks will be removed for something positive. I think what remains to be seen is how healthy, gritty, determined, and lucky the team will be this year. There of been a plethora of teams that made it to the World Series on most of those factors alone – most nobody even thought would be a contender. So, although I worry about the multitude of questions ranging from: will Chooch come close to, or replicate last year?; to more serious questions, such as, will Doc be healthy?; I still have hope for a great season and that’s all I need to enjoy it! : )

  10. Chuck A.

    January 5, 2013 at 8:50 am

    I’m not worried at all. I truly believe that if Utley and Howard play those 140 or so games each that I’ve been harping about lately that the team is going to contend. Remember…they won 60% of their games after July 31st last year and I think one of the biggest reasons was having the #3 and #4 hitters back in the lineup. This year I can’t help but think they will be more of a factor…I think Utley will be out to prove something and Howard is a full season past the injury and the surgery.

    As for the rotation, Hamels and Lee will win 15+ games each (emphasis on the +) and Doc will rebound. I mean, he wasn’t the Doc of old after coming off the DL last year, but he did come off and contribute towards that 60%. He also will have something to prove and there’s no one on that team that conditions and prepares himself better.

    And if the late-inning piece of the bullpen can be cemented with the addition of Adams then they can’t help but win a few more games where they have a late lead.

    A lot of “ifs” but not so ridiculous that it could actually happen. For now, I’m sticking with my 90 win prediction and a playoff berth.

  11. Ken Bland

    January 5, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Questioner wants to know if I’m worried. Thanks for the laugh.

    Ask Utley, Howard, Hamels, Lee and Rollins if they’re worried.Ask Halladay if you wanna wrap the series with an icy stre.

    Straight across the board, the answer is no.

    Am I supposed to be worried because of the 25 things that have gone wrong since the off season started? Each game Ruiz will miss? Minimally.

    Am I supposed to be worried because spring hasn’t even sprung and not one question has been given a chance to be answered? Sure, if I’m in my 6th week as a baseball fan.

    What tthe hell is there to worry about? Maybe the year is travelling faster than usual and it’s March 20th already and the question makes sense.

    • Chuck A.

      January 5, 2013 at 9:55 am

      And besides….true “worrying” should be reserved for the far more important things in life… family, job, taxes, and I guess world peace. Being concerned about 25 grown men scurrying around on some field after a round ball with stitches shouldn’t necessarily cause one to “worry”.

      But, hey, I follow this game…and this team… so it’s hard to not get caught up in the hype and emotion that goes with it.

      I agree… if I’m going to “worry” at all it will be during Spring Training if Chase Utley declares that he can’t be ready for Opening day .. or after the season starts and we see that they’re something like 5-15

      • Lefty

        January 5, 2013 at 10:16 am

        I agree with both of these comments.

  12. Andrew from Waldorf

    January 6, 2013 at 12:57 am

    Wow someone still believes in Utley and Howard.

    The very players that killed the franchise.

    Bottom line. The GM is a disgrace.

    In 2011 this team should have won another WS but the line up is was horrible.

    Now its even older.

    How he keeps his job with the second highest payroll is beyond me.

    Add to that there is no NY tax for this team.

    Its really the most ideal situation in all of sports.

    And then the Phillies suck.

    Go figure.

    Ken when is Howards contract up?

    • Jeff of Nova

      January 6, 2013 at 10:31 am

      Wow leave it up to Andrew to rain the negativity. “Utley and Howard ruined the Franchise”. Do you actually read what you write? Come on now no Utley Howard, no WS 08 no NL champs 09.

      I sit with ken, chuck, and lefty on this one.

    • Ken Bland

      January 6, 2013 at 3:50 pm

      This post is the closest thing I’ve seen to mid season form since mid season.

      Regarding when Howard’s contract is up, I’m not sure which contract you mean. His baseball contract is up in 2036. Or at least it feels like it.

      The new contract, the marital one might be the one you mean. Those are day to day, despite the preacher types throwing the til death til yous guys part out there, just to make the atmosphere warm and fuzzy. Considering the year the Eagle cheering squad had, the wife must not be in a good mood, nd the Howards day to day deal could be tenuous. Looks like RyHo should have married a Patriot or Bronco cheertype.

      Howard and Utley killed the franchise. Well, at least Rollins got a day off from the wrath of AFW.

      Happy New Year, and congrats to the rush to mid season form. An impressive pace, for certain.

      Signed,

      The everpopular Kenny Baseball

      • Chuck A.

        January 6, 2013 at 4:37 pm

        AFW made a rare off-season appearance. I guess we all should be grateful for his generous wisdom. It will be interesting to see what he has to say in MID-season when said Chase Utley and said Ryan Howard are possibly at least partially responsible for the Phillies playing .550 baseball and being “in the hunt.” …

  13. brooks

    January 6, 2013 at 6:10 am

    AFW – you were part of my ‘wish’ list although I did not pen it here.
    Regardless of what we might hope for, the Phils, WE, are stuck with the aging stars for at least a few more years and there is nothing that can be done about it, you know they are not going anywhere. So, what we have is what I need to believe in, I don’t have a choice as a Phillies fan. If not a fan, I’d go somewhere else.

    @wbramh – your assessment is not far off. Unless RJA does something else with the OF we could be headed towards a very long season. Unless of course the ‘ifs’ come through in a big way and that is not viable if headed to the track.

    • wbramh

      January 6, 2013 at 7:37 am

      In response to your comment to AFW, I believe there is a n answer to the aging stars issue. If Howard, Utley and Rollins are healthy and reasonably productive this year the team should consider trading one or all three of them in return for as many bona fide top young prospects they can squeeze out of other systems. Trade them while they have some luster left.
      It was the farm system that won the Fightins’ all of those division championships and two trips to thee Series. Just look where free agency and trades got the Eagles while teams that drafted smarter built the powerhouses.Baseball is no different, especially in the age of salary caps.

      • Lefty

        January 6, 2013 at 10:19 am

        In a perfect world one of them would have been traded 2 years ago to keep things fresh and reload, but the reality is they weren’t. Now we have to deal with reality. Howard is virtually un-tradeable without paying out the nose to cover his extension, no one will pay much for Utley in the last year of his contract because if they really want him, they can have him for free in FA next offseason. I guess Rollins might bring back a few pieces with two years to go on a reasonable deal, but not top prospects.

      • wbramh

        January 6, 2013 at 11:51 pm

        You’re right, Lefty. There was little choice but to keep Utley and try to nurse him back to productivity since his injuries were too risky to be worth another team’s risk.
        But after his brief but reasonably successful return to the lineup, he may have some value a year ahead of his free agency.
        I mean, if the string of injuries and off-field risks that accompany Josh Hamilton were worth 5 years and a quadrillion dollars to the Angels, than Utley must be a worth some team’s risk in return for a few consensus top prospects.
        Rollins has been hobbled too but nowhere near as seriously as Utley. And like all aging stars, his worth will likely be in direct relation to the league’s wealth or dearth of available talent at SS. If pickins are slim (like they were for 3rd basemen this year) than Rollins might still be worth a top prospect and a high pick or two.
        I hate to sound so cavalier about the value of these three great players and from the heart way will hate to see any of them move on. They represent(ed) about half of the Phils billion-year-long franchise glory – and gave us some of the greatest thrills. But it’s time to groom the next Robbie, Whitey, Lefty, Schmitty, Chase, Jimmy and Big Piece.

        But like you suggested,Lefty, maybe we’ve already passed that opportunity.

      • Lefty

        January 7, 2013 at 8:28 pm

        Just to clarify, I don’t see gloom and doom on the horizon. Maybe a little break to re-formulate, but they should be competitive this season.

        I think the backlash of the second Lee trade might have made them skittish about trading away “heros” of recent past. But in general I do believe the time to trade is when a player is at their peak, not when they “appear” to be regressing. I use the word “appear” carefully because injuries can fool us, and good health can be a pleasant surprise.

        I honestly believe they still have a really good shot this season of turning it around and getting back into the race. Am I being too optimistic? I don’t know, and neither does anyone else, it just has to play itself out on the field. The reality is we don’t really know who that next new star might be and when they will shine brightly. I’m hopeful someone will step up.

  14. brooks

    January 6, 2013 at 6:46 am

    I saw that Lance Berkman signed with the Rangers. He seems to have been around forever but this DH role should keep him in baseball for at least another few years, hitting in Texas – he is a good pickup for them.
    Not that they are going anywhere Hamilton-less

    • wbramh

      January 6, 2013 at 7:55 am

      Then again, the Cards weren’t expected to recover from the loss of Puhols but surprised more than a few of us.
      But if I had to make a guess who the 2013 AL pennant winner will be, it’s tough not to pick Detroit to repeat. Too much balance.
      This may be their year to win it all.

  15. Ian Riccaboni

    January 6, 2013 at 10:49 am

    As an update: Olney posted bullpen rankings yesterday – didn’t think he was ranking them, he doesn’t usually do Saturday updates. Phillies were an honorable mention with a chance to rank very high in his opinion depending on the successes of Adams and Aumont.

  16. Ken Bland

    January 6, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    It’s funny to compare The Chaser, on the brink of thr luxury tax scrambling to fill holes, and the pretty talent drenched Chasee, with about a 100 mil payroll. The Post’s Adam Kilgore “gets it”
    and steps forward with this gem of an idea today.

    “Acknowledging it sounds crazy and doesn’t really think it’s going to happen, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post urges the Nationals to sign free agent closer Rafael Soriano. Kilgore sees agent Scott Boras convincing owner Ted Lerner the franchise has a finite window of competing for titles and Soriano is the final, missing piece.

    I don’t know whether this should bring laughter or tears. Not sure if it should allow for worr, speaking of the topic at hand, or concession. As Soriano is probably not a 1 year contract candidate, it would strengthen the Nat pen for multiple years, at least as far as projecting as consistent as can be projecte. Makes the exploration of Brian Wilson offered recently that much more sensible.

    The funny thing is if Boras needs to convince Lerner he’s in a finite championship time zone, lord have mercy. 88 year old Livan Hernandez is gone, and it’s just a touch early for Messers Harper and Strasburg to start their Cooperstown countdown.

    But adding strength to strength to offset potential weakness isn’t the most ridiculous idea in baseball history.

    • George

      January 6, 2013 at 10:50 pm

      The entire payroll thing is way overblown. The Nats have had really high draft picks since the team was formed, and naturally in the early going those picks are paid far less. (The 2008 Phils were a fairly low paid bunch, too.) In a few years, after arbitration and contract extensions and maybe a free agent here and there, the Washington payroll will climb, unless they decide to go the Miami route and trade the talent before the bills come due.

      I really don’t think it’s such a stretch for Boras to convince anyone that there is, indeed, a “window.” With free agents getting ridiculous dollars and first place finishes forcing low draft picks, and with injuries to seemingly “iron man” players, even an idiot should be able to see that his dynasty can easily go down the crapper.

      • smitty

        January 7, 2013 at 6:14 pm

        George….I agree with your assessment of the Nats for many reasons. Their stars are already making alot of money – see Werth, Zimmerman, and even the two wunderkind kids make millions per year – not 500 thousand. Add a fragmented fan attendance market, compromised radio and tv revenues by the Orioles proximity and you have a much more finite revenue stream than the Phillies.

        Boras convinced the Nat management to spend heavily in the draft(s) and they did just that as he signed most of his players to that team. Now that the fruit has ripened the salary bills are going to begin rolling in frequently. How would you like to negotioate virtually every player contract with Boras as that is almost exclusively who is the agent for that team’s players ???? I would submit their window is quite narrow – unless they can get contracts signed for long term such as Tampa Bay does routinely. Good luck on that one – Boras doesn’t do home team discounts nor other savings plans for young players ! Moreover, don’t look for Gio to be one of the top pitchers again anytime soon….

  17. Chuck A.

    January 7, 2013 at 7:42 am

    I response to wbramh from above… Just how has Jimmy Rollins been “hobbled” ??? Last year he wasn’t on the DL once…and only once in his career (2010 he had 394) did he have less than 500 ABs in a season, most of them being 600+. He’s still the best option at SS for at least this season and maybe next as well.

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