Philadelphia Phillies 2009 Season Preview

Leading up to the start of the 2009 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 30 teams. Today’s team is the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. Stay tuned as Diamond Hoggers will preview every team division by division until the start of the regular season.

We would like to contend that the best team did not win the World Championship last season. The Phillies were not better then the Milwaukee Brewers who they defeated quickly in the first round of the playoffs. They were not better then the Rays on paper either, even though we picked the Phillies to win it in 5 games correctly. The reason they won it; and we saw this coming, was that they simply got hotter then any other team left to play and when that happens in the postseason it is hard to stop the downhill snowball.

So Phillie nation is now ecstatic heading into the season and suddenly a crop of loud and newfound Phils fans are popping up everywhere. You didn’t know your brother-in-law was a Phillies fan? Come on! He’s been there since the Mike Schmidt days, of course.

The roster from 2008 has remained intact, except for Raul Ibanez replacing Pat Burrell in left field. The starting lineup now includes Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Pedro Feliz, Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, and Jayson Werth.

Utley is a guy who could be a darkhorse to lead the entire national league in home runs in 2009. Everyone is talking about Howard, Fielder, Pujols as frontrunners for that title but Utley just shows up and hits and he has now entered his prime.

That core lineup should be together for a while, and they play really well together. This team is once again the frontrunner in that division because of their dynamic lineup, among other reasons. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino are exactly what every manager in the big leagues dream about being able to trot out at leadoff and 2 hole every night. The headaches they cause for pitchers are nightly. Then you get to the thunder in the lineup.

The rotation is a good one, but perhaps not as strong as some think. Cole Hamels is a legitimate ace with Cy Young stuff. Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer, and Joe Blanton seem ordinary but they’re all gamers as evidenced by their postseason performances. Moyer could be nearing the end (rightfully so) and Blanton and Myers are not anything special. The fifth spot is still in debate with the top contenders being J.A. Happ, Carlos Carrasco, and Kyle Kendrick. Happ and Kendrick are the most likely candidates, while according to Phillies officials, Carrasco needs a bit more seasoning.

Brad Lidge has always been the subject of our torture and teasing ever since Albert Pujols ruined his life with that grand slam in the playoffs in Houston. Last season, he laughed at us and didn’t blow a save. That’ll teach us to mock guys drafting Lidge in fantasy drafts. From there the Phillies build a bullpen around their closer with capable arms such as J.C. Romero (lefty specialist), Ryan Madson, Scott Eyre, Chad Durbin, Clay Condrey, and likely Carrasco or Happ.

A primate could manage this team to 90 wins easily. Literally, they could. Charlie Manuel is not a strong manager but this team was talented enough to get him his one title. Although we don’t like their odds to repeat, they might just have enough of the psychological edge over the Mets and Marlins to win the division again. Their rotation (unless they add someone around the deadline) is just good enough to eventually get them beat in October. They’re unlikely to get that white hot again to roll through the rest of the senior circuit. This will still be a fun year for Phillies fans that sees them play well enough to get back to the postseason.