Comfort or Excitement: Choose Your Own Narrative

Posted by Corey Seidman, Thu, March 24, 2011 03:30 AM | Comments: 22

Two months ago, nobody wanted to discuss the process.

Most of the city was foregoing this little thing called “the regular season,” instead awarding the Phillies the National League pennant. There was no curiosity about matching up with the Braves, only curiosity about how many games the World Series would last.

But then life happened. And, as we’re all told from a very early age, if something is too good to be true, it is. Two offensive keys went down. Two months ago, the projected opening day lineup was:

  • Rollins
  • Polanco
  • Utley
  • Howard
  • Ibanez
  • Victorino
  • Brown
  • Ruiz

Today, the projected lineup is:

  • Rollins
  • Polanco
  • Ibanez
  • Howard
  • Victorino
  • Francisco/Gload
  • Ruiz
  • Castillo/Valdez

A lineup with slight question marks but few holes became one riddled with players outside their ideal slot.

It truly is remarkable how, in a few short years, the Phillies went from being an offensive juggernaut that couldn’t attract big-name pitchers to being a team reliant on starting pitching to make up for offensive shortcomings.

With the re-addition of Cliff Lee and a half-year more of Roy Oswalt in 2011, the Phillies will add an estimated 9 wins (per Fangraphs WAR.) The number would be higher if not for the canceled out win-shares from Kyle Kendrick and Jamie Moyer.

By losing Jayson Werth, that nine-win surplus is subtracted by three. Werth was worth five wins in 2010, and the combo of Ben Francisco, Dom Brown, Gload, and whoever else should contribute roughly two.

By losing Utley until July-August (yes, I truly believe that and have seen nothing to make me think otherwise,) the Phillies lose another 3-or so wins. So really, we’re looking at a team that, despite its offseason improvement, is set to start the season in the same position as last year.

That is not necessarily bad news.

I’m sure you didn’t forget, but the Phils led all of major league baseball with 97 wins in 2010 and drove in cruise control during most of September.

The Phillies will still be great in 2011. Elite. Incredibly fun to watch. Twenty-eight other fanbases would choose this roster over their own if given a choice of any team for one year. It just won’t be a six-month pleasure cruise en route to the playoffs.

There are going to be rough patches, times when we clamor for more offense or a better bullpen. There will be times that the age of this roster is rightfully called into question, and times that we shake our head at a managerial miscue.

But if forced to choose any narrative for the 2011 season, who is to say that this isn’t the best one?

Think about it. The Phillies, even with the loss of Werth and injuries to Brown and Utley, are still poised to win between 93-98 games. But to make things more interesting, they will win those games in a different way than they did in 2010. The drink was shaken up but not diluted. We have new guys and old friends to cheer for, and, hell, everybody loves a triumphant mid-season return.

By not combining the return of a top-5 pitcher with a healthy Utley and Brown to start the season, the Phillies may struggle a bit more than we surmised in January, but that will make games all the more exciting. Oftentimes this offseason, friends or family would ask my thoughts on the Phillies’ win total, and I kept responding the same way, “I hope they don’t win 105 games, 110 games,” or whatever the common projection was.

You may disagree, and I’m sure many of you will, but what is the fun in coasting during most of August and September? What is the fun of a massive lead that leads to less enjoyment of our superstars – missed starts here and there for position players and spot starts from Vance Worley or Kyle Kendrick?

To me, the fun in absolutely everything in life, is the process. We all chase that girl for years, only to find out that the years of imagination were better than the real thing. We all tirelessly maneuver to make more money, only to find ourselves hating the journey which leads to the reward.

Enjoying the good times and feeling the raw emotions is what it’s all about. And the passionate Philadelphia sports fan in me would rather sweat out late-season games in hopes of miraculously-timed healing than dismiss summer baseball waiting for the Fall.

Avatar of Corey Seidman

About Corey Seidman

Corey Seidman has written 210 articles on Phillies Nation.

Corey is Analysis Editor for Phillies Nation and also writes for CSNPhilly.com.

  • Posts: 5153 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    Great piece Corey. What most people don’t realize is that 14 wins is the difference between a great season/ likely division champion- and .500 baseball 81-81 / 95-67. That’s it, 14 games that turn a season from mediocrity to elation. I enjoy sweating out those 14 wins in the late season too.

    But (there’s always has to be a but right?) This year the late season schedule is not nearly as favorable as in past years in fact September is brutal. We don’t get an abundance of home games, we don’t get to play all the games against the division making it easier to gain ground. We don’t get to play the Nationals, and Mets 6 times each. Check it out, after a late August series at Cincinnati, we’re away at the up and coming Brewers, pesky Marlins and Houston (lord knows why they give us fits) with three home games against the Braves thrown in. Then home v the Cards, and Nats. Then to end the year away 6 games at the Mets and Braves to finish. Not many breaks in September. So for this year I was hoping we could get off to a great start, a little cushion to make it a little easier. Oh well.

  • Avatar of The Original Chuck P

    Nothing is won or lost in March or April but I’m optimistic that we can jump out to an early lead. There are a lot of guys eager to prove themselves worthy and hopefully that means an early surge. Eventually, reality probably sets in and u think that we will need some help at the deadline if the goal is to truly win a championship but for now, I think we are all fairly confident that our Phillies are good enough to win another division right now despite injury. I’ll enjoy the ride…

  • Posts: 93 Ted Bell

    Avatar of Ted Bell

    I think this Phillies offense will struggle to scratch out runs (I thought that even before it was apparent that Utley would be out for an extended period), and it seems like a lot of people are underestimating Atlanta. Right now, I’d take Atlanta’s lineup and bullpen over the Phillies. The Phillies have the advantage in starting pitching, but not by as much as some people would like to believe.

    I’m Ted Bell.

    • Posts: 193 bfo_33

      Avatar of

      I agree that it is dangerous to underestimate an opponent, but after stating that the Phils will struggle to scratch at runs at times, I struggle to find any validity in your comment above. From an eye test standpoint, the Braves have a decent advantage at right and 2nd (assuming Utley is out for a significant period), marginal in left, too close to call at catcher, and are a significant downgrade at every other position. Stat wise – projected WAR hits this pretty close. Their best reliever is no longer on the team, and with the exception of Hanson (not that he is a strikeout king either) their starting pitching pitches to contact with quite possibly the worst defensive infield in the national league (Chipper Jones makes David Bell, the late years, look like Mike Schmidt in his prime – Uggla – ‘nuf said, and a rookie 1st baseman – good luck).. The only area the Braves pitching comes even close to the Phils is that they don’t give up home runs. Every other category, they don’t even come close. They also lost their rally cry of win one for Bobby – don’t underestimate that.

      My bigger concern is the Marlins. They have decent starting pitching, an improved pen, a much better defense, and some real power potential. If the new manager can figure out a way to get Ramirez to play every day, they could be dangerous. Braves will finish 3rd, out of the wild card by early Sept.

  • Posts: 2990 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    The Phillies will make the playoffs….but maybe won’t take the division.

  • Posts: 0 Chooch Nelson

    Hey nice article; It is hard to not get bogged down with all the negative articles being written about the Phillies. There seems to be a new one on ESPN on a daily basis – Jayson Stark WTF… It’s good to take a step back and remember how good they still are. I think that people give Atlanta a little too much credit – remember, we own the division. Longtime.

  • Avatar of Dropped Strike Three

    I’m glad the fangraphs WAR values confirm what I’ve been telling friends for weeks now… The loss of Werth and half season of Utley is balanced by the addition of Lee and a full season of Oswalt. 97 Wins is still an incredibly reasonable target.

    • Posts: 2990 Chuck A.

      Avatar of Chuck A.

      And don’t forget the addition of Castillo. That HAS to account for something…

  • Posts: 1190 Manny

    Avatar of Manny

    2011: Less comebacks, more pitching duels.

    Our projected lineup is now league-average at best. Get better soon, Utley… we’re gonna need him if we’re thinking about winning a WFC. I like Ibanez in the 3-hole for now –I actually like the projected lineup 1-5. If they perform near their career averages, we’re golden. But if they start the season in a funk, we could see a lot of those frustrating games we saw last season when one our pitchers would go 7-9 innings and still not win a game. And those definitely weren’t exciting.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    This notion that the Braves have some great offense is driving me insane . . . . Chipper Jones is 74 and probably will go on the DL 3 times . . . Heyward needs to continue to adjust and needs to be careful of the sophomore slump … Freddie Freeman was a .300 hitter in the minors, but i’d be shocked if he can pull that number, or hit his minor league high of 18 HRs at the highest level … Nate McClouth, Alex Gonzalez..

    Prado is good, McCann is legit .. Dan Uggla is a glorified Pat Burrell – with similar defense only at a way more important position ..

    Braves are good, but in all honesty, i’d be surprised if the make the playoffs… They need MAJOR contributions from LOTS of 1st or 2nd year players this season if they want to play in October and i think that’s too much to ask from too many

    • Posts: 93 Ted Bell

      Avatar of Ted Bell

      They won 91 games last year, and you’d be surprised if they made the playoffs? Really??

      Heyward and Hanson are the real thing, and will only get better. Have you ever watched Martin Prado (27)? All he does it get on base and score runs. You can downplay the Uggla acquistion all you want, but adding a 30/100 bat is an impact to any lineup. (Meanwhile, the Phillies have only one player who you can definitively say will hit as many as 20 HRs). If you haven’t been paying attention, the Braves also have the top pitching prospect in the game (Julio Teheran) waiting in the wings.

      And yet you’ll be surprised if they make the playoffs. Wow.

      I’m Ted Bell.

      • Posts: 0 Don M

        Not sure where it would be in the archieves but I had Atlanta as a playoff team last year (and posted as such many times on this website)

        But a year older of Lowe . . .any chance that Hudson pitches like he did last year? 36-years-old, had a fresh arm a year after Tommy John… I highly doubt he comes close last year’s Career Year. …Jurrgens stay healthy again for a full season? … Hanson is a phenom.. expect him to be in the Cy Young voting for the next decade …but with Beachy, Minor, etc . . . they have a combination of REALLY YOUNG and REALLY OLD surrounding Hanson

        A Rookie Closer … TONS of upside, but anyone on here wish we had him as our closer this season? Didn’t think so

        SS- Alex Gonzalez with 23 HRs last year, 17 of which came while he was still with Toronto … a career .250 hitter . . .
        Prado is very soild, not spectacular…little power, little speed … hell of a 2-hole hitter if that’s where they put him..

        I just think that they have too many young guys that they are counting on for serious contention this year..losing Infante for Uggla, adds a lot of HRs … and way worse contact and defense

        Teams that I think improved from last year, weather it be with more experience, or just additions:
        Phillies, Reds, Giants (Bumgarner all year, Posey all year, Sandoval back in shape), Brewers, Dodgers

        Not saying that the Braves won’t be a good team, I just don’t think the NL EAST gets two teams into the Playoffs, and I’m damn sure not taking the Braves ahead of the Phillies

      • Posts: 193 bfo_33

        Avatar of

        Last year the Phils won 97 games, added the top left handed pitcher in baseball to an already deep staff, yet that doesn’t seem to count. Looks like selective analysis. Last year was last year. Heyward already has a bad back, and prospects mean nothing (although the Braves typically do a pretty good job with them). They won’t be walkovers, but I don’t see them making the playoffs either.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    And our own lineup

    Valdez (Castillo)

    It’s not the Yankees or Red Sox…but top-to-bottom, its still just about the best in the National League! Don’t lose Phaith just yet

    • Posts: 5153 Lefty

      Avatar of Lefty

      I think we can all agree that the lineup lacks the power we used to have. But if managed correctly, it is good enough to manufacture runs and win games.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    I think we can all agree that ALL offenses work best when the goal of each hitter is not to hit a Home Run… rather to get on base and score runs

    I don’t think scoring is going to be a problem for this team, combine that with the fact that it should take less runs to win games than it did in years past, and I think we’re looking at another 90+ win season

  • Posts: 971 betasigmadeltashag

    Avatar of betasigmadeltashag

    first I have to say Corey, this is truly one of the best post in a while. I personally live for the excitment of the regular season. The thrill of the hunt is as exciting to me as the playoffs. It is a long season and I live and die with games in April-May as the ones in August and September. It is what makes the baseball the best sport to watch and cheer for. I believe it will be a truley great season wheather they win 100+ wins or 94. I think the offense will surprise some of tne nay sayers. There is going to be one or 2 unexpected stars make big strides. I love 1-0 3-1 games as much ifnot more than 7-5 10-6 games, And I expect a lot more of the former coming this year. I am a glass half full guy when it comes to the Phillies. If they put the best defensive team behind this rotation this team will win a lot of games. Can not wait for my drive from VT to Philly next week for opening day weekend.

    • Posts: 2990 Chuck A.

      Avatar of Chuck A.

      I think the offense will actually be BETTER than people are expecting. I think Fransisco has a good year and that Raul….if he stays healthy….has a chance to make a big impact. Add in a Mayberry off the bench or starting occasionally that has some pop and Rollins and Vic doing what they can to get on base….and this team will score some runs.

  • Posts: 2069 Brooks

    Avatar of Brooks

    Corey! I’m with you pal. In 08, after the AS game, the Phils creamed the Cards 11-4 and something like 13-1 – they lost the third game but the tale was told. Right then and there I realized that winning is not everything, its how you win that generates the excitement. Any late clutch hitting (offense), defense or pitching matchups are the best.

    Look, I too dont want to see 75 games played where the Phils score 3 or less runs. And I do not want to wait for a 21 win month to take the division either. I’ll take 98 wins and a 2 game cush over the Braves for the division title. Now, as for the post season, the Reds sweep was sweet! or another 11-3 post season record (domination!) would be just fine! But the regular season? It will be long, tough and fun.

    BTW – in all seriousness – I think the only thing that needs to occur for this offense to be on top is Jimmy hitting .290 or above, scoring over 100 runs. If Jimmy gets on base, Howard and co. will take care of the rest.

  • Posts: 0 DAVE

    The Phillies scored the second-most runs in the National League last year. And they were sleepwalking for at least half of the season. I think it’s time for the doomsday talk to chill out a little bit. We all loved Werth, and it’s incredibly frustrating to watch Chase go down, but the pitching staff is just bafflingly good and this team has gotten pretty used to playing without Chase over the last few years.

    That said let’s bring on some friggin baseball. I’m pumped. The Phils are gonna be stupid good this year.

    • Posts: 16 Lyndanne

      Avatar of Lyndanne

      Dave, couldn’t agree more!!!

      I’m a long time Philly sports fan (basically I’m old) and this Phillies team is more fun than I have seen in years.. I am not worried at all about the offense they will come on when needed! This may be the best season ever to watch and win or lose I’ll be there for it all!

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