BY ZACK BECKER
2013 Record: 73-89 (4th Place NL East, 23 GB)
Raise your hand if you thought the Phillies would finish below the Mets last season — nobody? Didn’t think so.
This team had a rotation with three aces in Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, but things fell apart quickly, forcing the team to rely on a few young and unproven pitchers. Halladay went down early with a shoulder injury that culminated in his surprising retirement this offseason. Hamels had his worst season since 2009, but his 8-14 record coupled with a 3.60 ERA speaks volumes about the kind of offensive year the Phils had — they scored two or fewer runs for the franchise ace 12 times.
Only one player on the team hit more than 20 homers, that was Domonic Brown with 27 — but only four of those came in the final 51 games of the season.
With Halladay gone and question marks surrounding an aging lineup, the Phillies’ future is again looking unfavorable.
P AJ Burnett (1yr/$16 mil)
P Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez (3yr/$12 mil)
RF Marlon Byrd (2yr/$16 mil)
Burnett recaptured his old form in Pittsburgh, invigorating the Pirates locker room en route to a short-lived playoff run last season while tying his career-low ERA (3.30). The 37-year-old will do his best to fill the hole that Halladay leaves in the rotation.
Byrd had a year to remember in his age 35 season, smacking a career-best 24 homers. However, his strikeout total ballooned to 144, by far the most he’s ever had. Despite this apparent lack of plate discipline, Byrd hit to an impressive .291/.336/.511 line. With a 2-year contract under his belt, Byrd returns to Philadelphia, where his career began in 2002.
After a reported $48 million contract fell through last summer, Gonzalez joins the team officially and will look to work his way up the rungs of the staff into what could eventually be a third starter role. He’s been a bit shaky this spring so far, but the Phillies are optimistic and see him as their fifth starter heading into the season.
P Roy Halladay — Doc will be impossible to replace. The future Hall-of-Famer went down with a shoulder injury early last season and never fully recovered. He retired as the fourth-winningest active pitcher
3B Michael Young — Young silently but nicely filled in the third baseman role last season before being dealt to the Dodgers. He is replaced by Cody Asche, whose late-season stint last year raised questions surrounding his accountability in a Major League lineup
Hope — this one speaks for itself. The Phillies never had a phightin’ chance last year and finished with their worst record since 1997. Unless their offense and bullpen — who will be without Mike Adams indefinitely — can pull together a miracle run, it looks like another woeful year is coming to Citizens Bank Park.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Jonathan Papelbon. The Phillies bullpen was atrocious last season, posting the fourth-worst team ERA (4.19) in baseball and although Papelbon didn’t inflate that number by any means (2.92 ERA), he was responsible for his fair share of losses. The $50 million-man converted just 80 percent of his save opportunitites, second-worst in the league only to former Diamondbacks closer Heath Bell. Papelbon needs to provide more return on investment this season to leave any chance of his contract being at all worth it.
Projected Opening Day Lineup
The core of the offense (Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins) is attempting to play its first full season together since the team’s NL Championship season in 2009. The team brought in some talent to replace what they lost, but it’s hard to see this team of seasoned vets and inexperienced young’uns meshing together to overtake the Braves and the Nats.