The now four time reigning National League East Champions clinched their Playoff birth in almost story book fashion on Monday night as Roy Halladay , their big acquisition last off season, hurled a complete game two hit shut out against the Washington Nationals on Monday September 27th. After keeping their head above water for most the season as one player after another hit the disabled list, the Phillies got healthy in August and finished the season stronger than any other NL, to leap frog divisional foe Atlanta Braves to win the East.
2010 MLB Playoff Preview - Philadelphia Phillies
Tuesday September 28th, 2010
After each team clinches a Playoff Spot Baseball Press will break down their strengths and weaknesses as they head into the post season.
Going into the 2010 season this offense was touted as an American League offense in a National League park. The Phillies had appeared to build a line-up that had the perfect balance of power, (Ryan Howard , Chase Utley , Jayson Werth ) speed (Shane Victorino , Jimmy Rollins ) and average (Placido Polanco among others) that every fan and manager would want. The problem came when one player after another went down to injury. Hit by pitches, ankle rolls, thumb injuries - the list goes on and on for why these guys were sidelined, but on August 17th when Chase Utley was activated from the DL, things really started clicking for the offense again. All of those injuries lead to a lot of guys getting every day starts for a period of time that are normally role players and guys like Wilson Valdez and Ben Francisco didn't put up the same kind of numbers as would the regulars, they were able to provide enough to keep the Phillies within striking distance until they got healthy.
Defensively speaking the Phillies are only noticeably lacking at two positions. Raul Ibanez in left field has some range issues as well as an aging arm. Luckily for the Phillies, the speed that is found in center and right field (Victorino and Werth) allows Ibanez to cheat a little towards the line and hide the deficiency. The other potential hole is at first base. Ryan Howard has worked hard to improve his defense since entering the league, and it has improved, but is still not near Gold Glove caliber. The Phillies have also hidden this well by having a very good defensive infield to surround Howard, probably eliminating potential opportunities he would have to make errors while receiving throws over at first.
As mentioned before, most of the Phillies bench has seen considerable at-bats this year as they have been called on to fill in while starters have been sidelined with injuries. This experience of course benefits the team as a whole, and manager Charlie Manuel didn't have to force off days onto starters to accomplish getting those innings and at-bats in for the back-ups. Even though guys like Domonic Brown , Ben Francisco and mid-year addition Mike Sweeney have not really hurt the team at the plate when filling in, they have not got the job done when coming off the bench. As a team this year when pinch hitting, the Phillies have only managed a .183 batting average with 47 strike outs in 230 at-bats. Their value definitely lies in being able to sufficiently fill in and not coming through "in the clutch".
Going into the 2010 Postseason the Phillies Starting pitching has to be one of the - if not THE - most feared to face. 21 game winner Roy Halladay, red hot Cole Hamels (1.70 ERA over last 7 starts) and new comer Roy Oswalt strike fear in any team entering a 5 or 7 game series with the Phillies. And even though their 2 remaining rotation guys - Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick - have undesirable stats over the course of the season, Blanton has stepped up since mid-August and should get the nod if/when a fourth starter is needed through the playoffs. From September 1st until the day they clinched the East those 4 starters have combined for 15 wins while posting a 2.61 ERA over 134.1 innings pitched. Depending what the Reds do for the rest of the season, there is a very strong chance that the Phillies will draw a NL West team in the Divisional series, which would be very good news for the Phillies considering the offenses those teams have to offer.
There has to be a weakest link to any team - some weaker than others - but for the Phillies it has to be their bullpen. Highlighted this year by blowing a combined 19 saves in 59 chances, it makes guys like Halladay that can pitch a complete game that much more valuable. Closer Brad Lidge has had a roller coaster of a season when it comes to effectiveness, but if there is a bright spot to be seen in the pen right now it is him. Since August 1st Lidge has only allowed 2 earned runs and converted 17 of 18 save opportunities. The other positive to look at for the pen is the experience that they have in post season play. Ryan Madson and J.C. Romero have been in post season pressure situations before, and once starter now reliever Jose Contreras has also succeeded in post season play earlier in his career.
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