Comparing '09 roster with men of 2010

Posted: February 17, 2010

FOR A TEAM that has been to the World Series each of the last 2 years, bringing home one world championship, the Phillies haven't been afraid to shuffle the deck. While the lineup remains unchanged except for Placido Polanco replacing Pedro Feliz at third base, the bench has been almost totally revamped, the bullpen has seen several changes and, oh yeah, Roy Halladay is now at the top of the rotation. Here, then, is a look at the areas where the defending National League champions appear to have improved, regressed or stayed the same in the last year.

Starting rotation

Spring training 2009: LHP Cole Hamels, RHP Brett Myers, RHP Joe Blanton, LHP Jamie Moyer and LHP J.A. Happ, RHP Kyle Kendrick, RHP Carlos Carrasco or RHP Chan Ho Park.

Currently: RHP Roy Halladay, Hamels, Blanton, Happ and Kendrick or Moyer.

Analysis: At this time last year the Phillies' rotation looked set. It included Hamels, who seemed to have come into his own in the postseason the previous fall. The seemingly ageless Moyer, who had gone 16-7 in 2008. Myers had been the Opening Day starter the previous 2 years and, with free agency looming, appeared poised to have a big season. Blanton was an above-average No. 3 starter. It didn't take long for things to change. Hamels never hit his stride. Myers needed hip surgery. Moyer looked every bit of his 46 years. Chan Ho Park, who won the fifth spot, needed just eight starts to pitch himself back into the bullpen. And the Phillies needed a bold trade for lefthander Cliff Lee, the emergence of Happ and the improbable acquisition of Pedro Martinez to make it back to the World Series. So you never know what's going to happen with pitching. Except for one thing: Halladay is one of the best pitchers in baseball, so putting him at the top of almost any rotation makes it better.

ARROW: UP

Bullpen

Spring training 2009: RHP Brad Lidge, RHP Ryan Madson, Chad Durbin, RHP Clay Condrey, LHP Scott Eyre

Currently: Lidge, Madson, RHP Danys Baez, LHP J.C. Romero, RHP Jose Contreras, Durbin

Analysis: On one hand, Lidge almost has to be better than the guy who was a mirror image of the perfect closer of 2008, blowing a major-league high 11 saves with a 7.21 earned run average. On the other, he is coming off knee and elbow surgery. On one hand, the Phillies should benefit from having Romero for the entire season after he missed the first 50 games of '08 while suspended for violating baseball's performance-enhancing substances policy. On the other, when he did come back he experienced elbow problems, missed the postseason and required surgery. On one hand, veterans Baez and Contreras were signed as free agents. On the other, the dependable Condrey and the occasionally electric Park are gone. It appears that the Antonio Bastardo, Mike Zagurski and Sergio Escalona will compete for the second lefthander's spot. Keep an eye on RHP Scott Mathieson, coming back after double Tommy John surgery.

ARROW: DOWN

Infield

Spring training 2009: 1B Ryan Howard, 2B Chase Utley, SS Jimmy Rollins, 3B Pedro Feliz

Currently: Howard, Utley, Rollins, 3B Placido Polanco

Analysis: Polanco replaces Feliz and that figures to be an offensive upgrade. Defense might be a different story. Even though Polanco earned a Gold Glove last year it was at second base. Howard improved his consistency in 2009 but Utley's numbers have taken a downward turn. His average has gone from .332 to .282 and his OPS from .976 to .905 since 2007 and his total bases (290) and RBI (93) were the lowest last year of any full season he's had in the majors. Rollins survived a horrendous first half but still finished with the lowest average and OBP of any Phillies regular.

ARROW: SIDEWAYS

Catcher

Spring training 2009: Carlos Ruiz

Currently: Ruiz

Analysis: After following a disappointing offensive season in 2008 by batting .235 in the first half of 2009, Ruiz stepped up and batted .276 with six homers and 25 RBI after the All-Star break. That helped convince general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. to reward him with a 3-year, $8.85 million extension to avoid what would have been his first arbitration.

ARROW: UP

Outfield

Spring training 2009: LF Raul Ibanez, CF Shane Victorino, RF Jayson Werth

Currently: Ibanez, Victorino, Werth

Analysis: Ibanez got off to a torrid start and made the All-Star team for the first time, but slumped in the second half while playing through what turned out to be a sports hernia that required postseason surgery. Since he's 37, he'll bear watching through spring training and into the regular season. Victorino is expected to be moved down in the order with Placido Polanco batting second. One storyline will be how he responds to that plus having the first long-term contract of his career. Werth is coming off a breakthrough season and is an important righthanded bat to offset the team's big lefty hitters like Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. But he's the only regular position player currently unsigned beyond 2010.

ARROW: SIDEWAYS

Bench

Spring training 2009: IF Eric Bruntlett, IF-OF Greg Dobbs, C Chris Coste, C Ronny Paulino, OF Geoff Jenkins, OF Matt Stairs, IF Miguel Cairo

Currently: Dobbs, IF Juan Castro, C Brian Schneider, OF Ben Francisco, 1B-OF Ross Gload, OF John Mayberry Jr.

Analysis: Stairs, squatty folk hero of the 2008 NLCS, is gone. So is Bruntlett, who scored the winning running in Game 5 of the World Series when the Phillies won the second championship in franchise history. So is underdog favorite and best-selling author Coste. So is Jenkins, even though it cost the team $8 million to release him last spring. The bench has been given an almost complete overhaul. Schneider provides veteran savvy. Castro replaces Bruntlett. Gload is a proven pinch-hitter and Francisco contribute after being acquired from Cleveland as part of the Cliff Lee deal. But manager Charlie Manuel has to get the reserves a little more playing time if he expects them to produce in the pinch.

ARROW: UP

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