The Phillies have four really good starting pitchers. We, along with every analyst, writer and baseball fan across America, know this. There is little doubt, minus unforeseen injuries, that those four pitchers will dominate the competition this year. All of them could win 15+ games (assuming good run support, which I'll get to later) and should be good for 200+ innings. Halladay and Lee, who were #1 and #2 in innings per start last year, are two of MLB's true workhorses and very well could finish #1 and #2 in NL Cy Young voting this year. I mean when Joe Blanton is your #5 starter, you don't have much to worry about when it comes to pitching.
However, this team still has some major questions. Utley's health aside (which everyone knows is a big deal), this team has questions in the bullpen, outfield and on the bench. 100 wins, which three months ago looked like easy money, is probably the max this team can do. In fact, I'm saying they win 94. A few other predictions sure to go wrong:
- Utley will play less than half the season. Injuries that are covered in this much darkness are NEVER good. Once a week the Phillies give us a little nugget of information, make up some new disease or injury name, schedule some specialist or test and call it a day. Utley can't even run yet, let alone make baseball-type moves. If he plays before the All-Star break, I'll be surprised.
- Ryan Howard will rebound to hit 40+ HR again. He, more than anyone else, knows how important he is to this team now that Werth is gone and Utley is likely to miss a large part of the season. Howard knows the knocks on his, and he can't be thrilled with his third-strike-looking end to last season. He's set for one final big year, before he likely starts to decline in 2012.
- Brad Lidge will suck. I'm not going to define "suck." But one thing is for sure, Brad Lidge is not having a good year. In fact, there's a good change this shoulder issue knocks him out for quite some time. That may be a good thing, since you never know what you're getting from him anyway. But thanks for 2008!
- No Phillies pitcher wins 20 games. I think Halladay and Lee should be good for about 18, but 20 is hard without run support. I simply don't see the Phillies scoring enough runs for their aces to have somebody earn a 'W' 20 times.
- The Phillies will win the division, but only by a game. The Braves are good, very good in fact, so I see this being a dogfight. Don't be surprised if the Braves run out to a lead, especially when the Phillies hit their usual May and June swoon. In the end I think they'll be there, but if things go right for the Braves (and wrong for our Phils) the division will probably be theirs to lose.
- World Series prediction? The Red Sox will get there from the AL. The NL? Well, I'll just let that one play out (I see a Braves-Phillies NLCS).
- Some awards: NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw; AL Cy Young: Jon Lester; NL MVP: Ryan Braun; AL MVP: Carl Crawford; NL Rookie of the Year: Freddie Freeman; AL Rookie of the Year: Mike Moustakas; NL Manager of the Year: Fredi Gonzalez; AL Manager of the Year: Ron Washington