The 4 time NL East champions come into 2011 with high hopes (no pun intended), and high expectations. They've assembled maybe the best rotation since the 1997 Braves, and still have the offense to boot, but will the result be different?
What they Have: The rotation is obvious and needs no introduction. Whatever nickname you want to give this staff, they are still the best in baseball. Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, and Hamels are all number 1 starters on almost any team, and in Philly, they could be truly in any order. Joe Blanton helps round out the rotation, and he's no slouch in the 5th slot either. The rotation will be asked to do more this year than in any other year, though. Offensively, the Phillies do have plenty of offensive firepower in the usual places. Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, Raul Ibanez, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins are all mainstays in this powerful lineup. Add in guys like Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz, and this lineup 1-9 is as formidable as any in baseball. The bullpen has good pitching too, lead by closer Brad Lidge. Ryan Madson is a very good set-up man, and is even a decent closer, and that should help with Lidge having injury troubles. Jose Contreras became a very good reliever last season, and he'll see even more action this year. There are other guys that can help out the middle relief, like Vance Worley and J.C Romero. From top to bottom, this is an impressive team.
What they Don't Have: Despite all the ringing endorsements of this team, there are still some issues to be found. One is the injuries that popped up big time during spring training. Chase Utley could be out for an extended period of time, and so could closer Brad Lidge. Roy Oswalt, Placido Polanco, and Domonic Brown have all had injury problems, so that could prevent the Phillies from starting out fast. Also, age is a problem, as the average age among the 7 regulars is 32.9 years old, and depth is a slight issue. And, there is no true replacement yet for Jayson Werth, whose right-handed power bat will be missed.
Any Help Coming? OF Domonic Brown has seen major league action last season, and it didn't go too well. Even so, he is still one of the best hitting prospects in quite some time, and is destined to be a 30/30 guy at some point. 1B Jonathan Singleton is a plus defender, and can hit well and has good maturity for an 18 year old. RHP Trevor May is a polished 20 yeard old prospect in Lakewood, and has 3 good plus pitches.
Outlook: Basically, World Series or bust. There would be few excuses if this team did not win a 5th straight NL East crown, and anything beyond that. The rotation is scary, and as long as they hold up, they will be awfully tough to beat. The offense is a bigger question now due to the injuries, and as long as they stay healthy, they will be the favorite to win it all.