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What to Watch for: Early Season Storylines

Posted by Pat Gallen, Wed, April 04, 2012 02:30 PM | Comments: 18
Analysis, News, Opinion, Posts

What can Galvis provide with the bat?

Throughout Spring Training, guesses have been made as to who would make the 25-man roster. Now that the decisions are final, we can definitively hone in on some of the storylines we’ll see – at least early on in the season. It’s impossible to look too far down the road, but for the immediate future, here is what to keep an eye out for:

GALVIS AND HIS NEW POSITION

-It’s insane how quickly things can change in this world. In early March, Freddy Galvis is nothing but a helper; a guy going through the motions, attempting to impress the Phillies brass while getting some at-bats before he’s sent back to minor league camp. At that time, he was an understudy to Jimmy Rollins, nothing more. Then, chondromalacia befell our fair second baseman and Galvis sprung into action.

The 22-year old changed positions and finds himself the opening day second baseman, a position he has never played at the minor league level. It’s sink or swim for Galvis. He can prove his worth to the team with a great start to the season. And Galvis won’t be asked to do much; just provide solid D and and occasional base knock here and there.

It would be sweet to see him hold down the fort until Utley returns.

LEAKY PEN

-They haven’t even thrown a meaningful pitch and already there are questions about the bullpen. Never a good thing.

It seemed like a positive early in Spring Training, but has since become anyone’s guess. Will Jose Contreras contribute? Is Michael Stutes shoulder OK? What’s wrong with Antonio Bastardo? Can Chad Qualls be a solid 8th inning reliever? Is Joe Savery ready for the big show? Will David Herndon progress?

Behind Jonathan Papelbon is a bit of a dark cloud.

CAN Hunter Pence BE “THE GUY”

-I’ve argued this point numerous times with many on, and off, the radio. Some wonder if Hunter Pence can be the focal point of an offense. They point to his team’s record in Houston with him as the middle-of-the-order bat that was responsible for putting the offense on his back.

Last season proved to be a major step forward for Pence, who hit a career high .314. His 22 homers were the lowest in four seasons, but he was a beast from the moment he donned the red pinstripes.

What will Polanco provide? (MLB)

His .954 OPS with the Phillies shows what kind of presence he can be. But without Ryan Howard in the cleanup spot, can Pence help clean up the mess? Eyes will be focused on him. I’m sold that he can be a 25-30 home run threat with a high average. They’ll need every bit of that.

LEANING ON THE ACES

I’m worried. Not so much about Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, or Cole Hamels. They’re all the best at what they do. I’m worried about the off chance that the Phillies lose them for an extended period of time. Are they stable enough to get through a monumental loss like that?

Sure, injuries can happen to anyone at anytime, but the Phillies have been lucky to have great health with most of their starters recently. Will the Phillies decrease the workload of the Aces early on? Or will they ride them just the same as before?

FREE MAYBERRY

If you’re reading the tea leaves prior to the start of the regular season, it appears John Mayberry will continue to be a platoon player. Juan Pierre is the apple of Charlie Manuel’s eye, but can Mayberry free himself from part-time player status? I’m more interested in how he can build off last year’s breakthrough. But the question remains, will the Phillies provide him opportunities to do so?

WILL POLLY STAY HEALTHY?

This is more important than people realize. A healthy Placido Polanco is imperative for the Phillies to have a strong season. Not just the first month (you remember how he scorched the ball last April). If he goes down, the Phils take a defensive hit at third base by having to use Ty Wigginton full-time.

When Polly is right, he’s a perfect sidekick to Pierre, Rollins, or Victorino; whomever Charlie Manuel decides to use as the leadoff hitter. Getting a speedy leadoff hitter from first to third with a slap hit the opposite way is exactly what the Phillies need. Polanco can provide that – that is, if he doesn’t break down again.

Avatar of Pat Gallen

About Pat Gallen

Pat Gallen has written 1710 articles on Phillies Nation.

Pat is Editor-in-Chief of Phillies Nation. He also covers the Phils for 97.5 FM in Philly.

 
 
  • Posts: 1076 betasigmadeltashag

    Avatar of betasigmadeltashag

    I must be reading different tea leaves when it comes to JMJ, Charlie just said he was going to every chance to become a full time player, and we all know how loyal Charlie is to his players so I have to believe him. Even if it mostly at first waiting for Ryan to come back which at the earliest is maybe June. Poly health is always a concern but this year I think offensivly the bench is better as long as it not at the sake of steady defense which is what I am concernded with.
    As far as Hunter goes I think a lot is going to depend on the start Vic and JRoll or JMJ get off to if they are going to bat 3rd and fifth sandwiching Hunter if they get off to a slow start offensivly I think Hunter’s aggresive bat might be easily pitched around.
    Super excited to see Freddie, hoping if only bats 240 he can get some timly base hits, ala Valdez who had a pretty good avg aftre the 7th inning. If he can go 1 for 4 most nights and have that one be in the eighth to start the offense I will be fine with that(a lot to ask I know) But he seems to have a baseball mind smart base runner and super solid glove, which to me means he may be able to work some counts and knows situational hitting pretty well.
    Five O Clock on Sunday can not get here soon enough to so I can be in my car for the 61/2 hour drive to be in Bucks County and ready for Cole and the Home openier. GO PHILLIES

     
    • Posts: 1376 Pat Gallen

      Avatar of Pat Gallen

      Maybe I’m reading them wrong, but it seems as though he’s basically lost his LF job to Pierre. So that means playing maybe 50% of the time at 1B and maybe 20% in OF? I was hoping to see 500 AB’s out of him, but that might not happen.

       
      • Posts: 1076 betasigmadeltashag

        Avatar of betasigmadeltashag

        Why do you think he lost his LF? I See Pierre in LF while JMJ is at first and if he is hitting well will take over lf when Ryan comes back cause I do not see pierre being much at the plate.

         
  • Posts: 1110 Manny

    Avatar of Manny

    Just saw this on The Phillies Zone.

    “Taking 12 pitchers was a minor surprise. Joe Blanton won’t start until April 13, but maybe as late as April 15. The Phillies will probably have him sit in the bullpen during the season’s first few games, so that adds an arm to the bullpen.”

    a) Makes sense… especially when there will be 2 off days in the first week of baseball.
    b) So excited.. I got tickets for Opening Night in Philly and was dreading the thought of watching Blanton pitch. (Hopefully Charlie/Dubee will do what the beat writers think they’ll do.)

     
    • Posts: 442 Ian Riccaboni

      Avatar of Ian Riccaboni

      @Manny – Cole has already been told he is throwing the home opener. Worley is pitching game 3 in Pittsburgh.

       
      • Posts: 1110 Manny

        Avatar of Manny

        I know. I meant Opening Night, not Day… Talking about the game following Cole’s… I hope they push Blanton back and give the ball to Doc instead.

         
      • Posts: 0 schmenkman

        Manny, while it hasn’t officially been announced, David Murphy’s likely matchups showed Halladay pitching Wednesday, with Blanton first pitching on Thursday.

        http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/phillies/Mark-your-calendars-Phillies-pitching-match-ups-for-first-four-series.html

        (btw, I think there can only be one “opening” day or night, i.e. this year there is no “opening night”, because the first home game is a day game.)

         
      • Posts: 1110 Manny

        Avatar of Manny

        Thanks for that link! There’s hope!

        They’re definitely marketing it as Opening Night. They’re even giving away Opening Night T-shirts to all fans. Also, I’m sure I went to an Opening Night Game in 2007/2006 and it was not the home opener. Also got a t-shirt :)

         
  • Posts: 0 Jaron B

    Polanco: it’s Charlie’s responsibility to rest Polanco once per week during the season. The same goes for the other guys in their 30s. If Polly goes down because he played in almost every game in month one, I will put 110% of the blame on Charlie (and Greg Gross partly) and 20% on Polanco himself. I’d rather have Wiggington’s poor defense once a week than have a career-.300 hitter with well-above-avg. defense go down for weeks at a time.

    The ‘pen: I think the pen is ok. Yes, they had a rough spring. But you have to let them get the experience and not worry about their mistakes… as long as they learn from their mistakes. That’s why we have veterans in the ‘pen as a safety net. Plus, we need to get younger!!!

    Aces and offense: I think team ERA minus team RPG will be above zero; hence, the staff and offense will do just enough to win games. It may not be pretty sometimes, but we can get by without our 3 & 4 hitters for two to three months.

    Final thoughts: I worry about Charlie’s management of his players, not their performance. We should win 93 games if Charlie rests his guys DURING the season (I may make an adjustment if Howard and Utley are delayed any further).

     
  • Posts: 0 Teen Wolf Blitzer

    FWIW, Jayson Stark told Missanelli today that he now thinks the Phillies will NOT be able to re-sign Hamels. Up until this point he had been thinking that they’d get it done…

     
  • Posts: 0 joe444

    “we can definitively hone in”

    Are you sure you don’t want to home in?

     
    • Posts: 0 George

      “M” and “N” lie right next to each other on a keyboard, and on top of that look enough alike to get past a proofreader. I wouldn’t be so critical, and would concentrate on the essence of the article.

      Although we all might try to hone our writing skills, mistakes happen and it’s not always productive to “home in” on them.

       
  • Posts: 546 Bruce

    Avatar of Bruce

    I agreed with most of what Pat Gallen wrote in his column on the early season issues with the Phillies. I paid close attention on some of the newly aquired relievers and how they fared in spring training games. At the conclusion of S.T. exhibition games, there are more questions than answers as Pat pointed out. That’s one concern. Another is the likes of Wigginton and Nix and whether or not they are able to play the role of situational hitters in Charlie Manuel’s new approach for “smallball” tactics? And once on base, are they cloggers or speedsters? I can see Pierre as a good role model for playing Manuel’s new approach on offense. No doubt, he will get a lot of playing time. That would probably leave Mayberry with a part time role in LF and 1B..unless he has a hot bat.

    Hunter Pence will provide power but he too like his teammates, are into the manager’s thinking about situational hitting and not the 3-run HR of days gone by when we had a healthy Utley and Howard. In my view, every member of this team will have a important role and need to step up in the lengthy absence of Utley and Howard.

    After all, pitching will carry the day in combination with defense, aggressive speed on the basepaths and sound fundamental baseball that we like to describe as “smallball”.

    I do want to predict that it will take a 92 win season to take the NL East division title. There is so much parity in this division with ALL the clubs making improvements (yes, the Mets too). It will be a tightly fought race among 3 or 4 contenders going down to the wire. I’ll go with my heart and pick the Phillies to squeak by a game. With just 92 wins for the division winner, there will be no wild card in the NL East. There, you have my prediction. I’ll withhold the playoff picture till later in the season.

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    the emergence of Pierre (if we want to call it that), means that he’ll get most starts in LF vs RHP ….. (though as Corey pointed out on Phillies Nation TV – Pierre actually hits LHP better than he does RHP

    Mayberry could play 1st against RHP – but with Thome and NIx available – it’s more likely they will go with the LH-bat vs. RHP

    so I think Pat is correct here when he says that Mayberry might not get 500 ABs … for a team that will struggle to score runs, the best option is to play to the numbers, and the numbers should show that playing RH bats vs LHP… and LH bats vs. RHP is the way to go in many cases

     
  • Posts: 1110 Manny

    Avatar of Manny

    Opening Day lineup:

    Shane Victorino CF
    Placido Polanco 3B
    Jimmy Rollins SS
    Hunter Pence RF
    Ty Wigginton 1B
    John Mayberry Jr. LF
    Carlos Ruiz C
    Freddy Galvis 2B
    Roy Halladay RHP

    Don’t like Wigginton batting 5th, though it’s no surprise Charlie has him there based on ST lineups. On top of that, Wigginton and Mayberry back to back… could be ugly. Chooch should be higher up but oh well. Also, NO RIGHTIES ON THE BENCH. Sure, we have Pierre who’s good against them but still…

    I do like that our best 4 hitters are at the top of the lineup.. they’ll probably get one more at-bat than the other dudes.

     
    • Posts: 0 schmenkman

      As much as I like Polanco, and his defense makes up for a below average bat, he is more likely the 6th best hitter, behind Ruiz and Mayberry, as opposed to one of the best 4.

       
      • Posts: 1110 Manny

        Avatar of Manny

        I’d agree but he seems healthy and is coming off a solid spring training. Gotta take him over JMJ right now…

         
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    WHEN HEALTHY* …. Polanco is one of the best hitters on the team … not for power, just pure contact hitter – good bat control, doesn’t K often .. fly ball when needed, moves a runner when needed ….. a pure #2 hitter .. again, when healthy*

     
 
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