Monday, February 28, 2011

Stuff Your Worries In A Sack

[FanGraphs] - Yes, the aches and pains are starting to add up, but a broken thumb is not the kind of injury you expect to be a lingering problem, and his 2007 problem was caused by getting hit by a pitch. The nagging hip and knee pains are problematic, certainly, but given that he was still an elite player with both problems last year, I don’t think we can claim that either has demonstrated enough severity to cause his skills to diminish all that quickly. Will Utley average 150 games per year going forward? I’d call that unlikely at best, but the Phillies shouldn’t be too overly worried that he’s going to stop producing when he is on the field. It’s quite possible that they won’t get any more +7 WAR seasons from their second baseman, but there is enough precedent to suggest that he can still be quite useful for many years to come.

Chase Utley is one of the best players in baseball. That, regardless of this latest injury, is an indisputable fact. When he is on the field and healthy, Utley produces at a rate that few other players in MLB can match. He walks, hits for power, steals bases and fields 2nd base better than any other guy in the league. But, as an article by Dave Cameron at FanGraphs today mentions, he probably can't be counted to play 150+ games anymore. Age is slowly catching up to him, and things like "knee tendonitis" and his prior hip injury are just the first signs of what may become an issue over the rest of his career.

However, what is important to realize is that the rest of the Phillies roster has been upgraded with this in mind. Rubes was smart, he realized that he had a declining offense that may never return to it's 2007-2008 levels. His response? Build a pitching staff that can help make up for that difference. Think about it, the Phillies pitching staff as a whole last year recorded 18.4 WAR (according to FanGraphs). It's reasonable to assume our four main starters, barring a major drop off in career performance, should be able to better than number BY THEMSELVES (combined last year those four totaled 22.2 WAR, so even with a drop off, or missed starts due to injury, they should surpass 2010's total). Add in a good year from Blanton and decent relief pitching and you're looking at a pitching staff that should be improved enough to handle any further drop off our offense has.

So, while we are all worried about Utley, the Phillies are still a very good team built to handle the 162 game schedule in a variety of ways. If the offense goes cold, the pitching can help them avoid long losing streaks. When the offense is hot, they'll dominate. Let's all hope Utley get healthy, but lets not worry too much just yet. This team is going to win a lot of games this year. Trust me.

Now back to your regularly scheduled funny videos and crazy news stories.

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