Let me get this out of the way and save you the troube: “You ranked the two time defending NL champions ninth, behind teams that haven’t won anything in years – you are a biased moron!”
First, thanks for reading. Second – if it’s not obvious by now, a team’s record in the past means nothing in this series. This is not a backwards-looking reward for best recent performance, in either the regular season or the playoffs. This series is not designed to identify teams who have dominated baseball over the last few years. If it were, the Phillies (and Angels) would rank significantly higher.
That the Phillies rank just ninth here is not any kind of knock on what they have accomplished the last two years. It is simply a reflection of the questions that surround their ability to play at that level going forward. And there are legitimate questions surrounding this team.
Here are the core players on this team are under 27: Cole Hamels. That’s it. Last year’s Phillies team was the second oldest in baseball, barely behind the Astros, and after a series of trades that ripped apart the farm system, they have one impact prospect left (Domonic Brown). This team is straight up old.
They’re good, certainly. They should be the favorites to win the NL East, though the Braves are catching up very quickly. But as the Yankees learned the hard way, the combination of having a lot of high salaried older players without much of a farm system to support them is not the best way to build a team. And that’s exactly the situation the Phillies face going forward.
It can work. There’s enough star power on the roster that they’re a championship team if everyone stays healthy and plays as expected. But they’ve opened themselves up to problems if injuries arise or players age earlier than they’re hoping. They’ve tied themselves to Raul Ibanez for the next two years, but may not be able to afford to keep Jayson Werth beyond 2010.
The rotation after the big three is not good, and they can’t afford to have any of Halladay, Hamels, or Blanton hit the disabled list for a long period of time. Utley and Rollins are backed up by Juan Castro. Ryan Howard’s replacement, should he get injured, is Ross Gload or Greg Dobbs.
There is a significant lack of depth here, and combined with the age of the players they’re relying on, the Phillies have taken on quite a bit of risk. Risk isn’t inherently bad, but given the amount of vulnerability here, they need to win this year to make it worthwhile, or they could end up looking more like the current Mets team than they would want.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.