In a recent column, Bill Conlin wonders whether the Phillies could possibly do better in 2oo8 than they did in 2007.He says probably not:
So everybody in Charlie Manuel’s core lineup had either a career year or made contributions that ranged between substantial (Burrell) and outstanding (Howard). Third base was and will be a black hole, the least productive offensively in the majors. And whenever Abe Nuñez was on the bench – too often – third was a defensive liability, as well.
And, as I pointed out in a previous post, Conlin isn’t too wild about the Phils’ pitching:
The rotation? Cole Hamels (knock wood) and Brett Myers (make a novena) are set at the top. Then there is Kyle Kendrick and Jamie Moyer and Adam Eaton and Chad Durbin and Travis Blackley and . . .
I’m not so sure I agree with Conlin. I think the Phils have improved their roster this offseason, and their record will be better in 2008. Here’s why.
First, the team’s rotation will be better in 2008 than it was in 2007, by virtue of having Brett Myers on board, and by not having Freddy “Mr. 1.60 WHIP” Garcia (who was 1-5 last season in 11 starts). It’s easy to minimize the impact moving Myers to the rotation will have, since he’s not new to the roster. But he’s a power pitcher with nasty stuff — 18 wins is not unrealistic.
Second, the team’s bullpen could be improved if Brad Lidge proves an adequate replacement for Myers. Also, a full season of J.C. Romero in a set-up role won’t hurt.
Third…is third. Yes, third base is a weakness for the Phils. But for how long? Among the MLB third basemen who will be free agents in 2009 are Joe Crede, Nomar Garciaparra, Hank Blalock and Troy Glaus. You have to believe that a few of those guys will be available via trade. Maybe all of them.
Of course, the Phils lost Aaron Rowand to free agency and it remains to be seen if Shane Victorino can be a capable CF or if the Geoff Jenkins/Jayson Werth platoon will be productive. But there’s no reason to think that either of these experiments won’t work.
What’s important to remember is that, when we talk about “improving”, we’re not talking about turning around a losing team. We’re talking about the Phillies winning 95 games instead of 89. That would be one fewer than the 2007 Red Sox won and one more than last season’s Yankees team.
Can the addition of a stud starting pitcher, an improved bullpen and a late-season 3B addition add up to six more wins? Time will tell. But I say yes.