Sunday, April 02, 2006
2006 Phillies Prediction: 96-66 1st Place N.L. East
Myers needs to dominate
Being a Philadelphia sports fan I am naturally afflicted with the occasional inability to see the state of Philadelphia sports as they are and often instead see them as I wish they were. Therefore, take my prediction with a large grain of Philadelphia soft pretzel salt.
This will be the year that, perhaps despite themselves, the Phils will finally win the N.L. East and make it to the post-season for the first time since '93. They can do it because Bobby Abreu will be consistently on base and driving in runs. Whatever happens with Rollins' hit streak, he seems to have turned the corner and is, though not ideal, an effective lead-off hitter. Big things will come from both of them. However, the emergence of Chase Utley is going to make the real difference with the Phils this year. Utley is clutch at the plate, drives in runs, hits for power and is solid in the field. Why he was still platooning until the middle of last season is one of the inexplicable mysteries of the universe. Barring injury, a full season will allow Utley to realize his potential. Hopefully Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard can build on the success they had last year, though Burrell still hasn't proven he can do it consistently. And Howard won't see nearly the number of fastballs that he saw last season now that everyone knows he is a legitimate power hitter. If those two can have big years, along with the others, the Phils' offense will be able to overcome the inadequacies of the pitching staff and carry them into the post-season--even though conventional baseball wisdom says pitching and defense win championships.
What to watch for:
Keys To Success In '06: Myers' and Lieber's ability to emerge as effective number one and two starters, giving the pitching staff some needed stability; the return of an effective Randy Wolf sometime in the middle of the season to give the starting rotation (and the bullpen) more depth.
Glaring Weaknesses: David Bell at third base, and by David Bell I also mean Charlie Manuel who is deluded enough to play this double-play and clutch error machine if he's healthy. More time for Bell on the DL = more wins for the Phillies; the much down-graded bullpen and Charlie Manuel's questionable late-inning moves could do the Phils in this year.
Dark Horse Effect: Ryan Madsen becoming a quality starter, which hasn't happened in his limited starts over the last two years; new G.M. Pat Gillick's ability to pick up another veteran starter, so Madsen can be moved back to set-up man role in the bull-pen. David Delucci was a good last minute addition, but it came with the expense of Robinson Tejeda, a good, young arm. Manuel's lineup: figuring out how to best maximize production from Abreu and Utley while protecting Ryan Howard and even Pat Burrell will be a challenge.
If nothing else, it should be interesting season for the fightin' Phils. Can't wait.
Posted by Andrew Tavani at 2:48 PM