Phillies

Could this year's Phillies starting 8 be better than the 2008 Phillies lineup?

Could this year's Phillies starting 8 be better than the 2008 Phillies lineup?

The 2008 Phillies will forever have a place in the heart of every Phillies fan, for one obvious reason: they won it all. A big reason they were able to win the World Series is the strength of their offense. Led by Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins, the 2008 Phillies led the National League with 214 home runs, and finished second in the NL with a .438 team slugging percentage.

But the Phillies' offseason shopping spree netted them three starting position players who all made the All-Star Game last season, the first time that has happened in MLB history. It also gave them perhaps the most dangerous lineup in the game today.

With Bryce Harper now in the fold, I raise the question: how does the 2019 starting 8 stack up offensively with that of the 2008 World Series champs? Let's take it position-by-position.

Catcher: Carlos Ruiz vs. J.T. Realmuto
Make no mistake: we all love Chooch. But as much as we value him and his place in the Phillies' golden run, he was not strong offensively, especially in 2008, when he hit just .219 in 117 games. Ruiz managed four homers and 31 RBI on the season, numbers I expect Realmuto to eclipse by about May 15. Verdict: 2019

First Base: Ryan Howard vs. Rhys Hoskins
Hoskins has a lot of potential, especially with the protection that will be around him in this lineup, but Ryan Howard in his prime was a force of nature. Fourty-eight homers, 146 RBI. Just an absolute monster out of the cleanup spot. Verdict: 2008

Second Base: Chase Utley vs. Cesar Hernandez
This one is also not close. Utley hit 33 homers and had his fourth straight 100-RBI season in 2008. Hernandez is a good player, and a nice on-base guy at the top of the lineup, but you can't argue this one. Verdict: 2008

Third base: Pedro Feliz vs. Maikel Franco
The only reason Feliz didn't hit eighth in the 2008 Phillies lineup is because Carlos Ruiz was also playing that day. Meanwhile, Franco quietly has been productive. Three straight seasons with at least 22 homers, and he also led the Phillies in batting average last season (not a huge feat, but .270 is a good average) Verdict: 2019 

Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins vs. Jean Segura
Fairly even matchup here. Both Rollins and Segura have pop, and a lot of speed. I'll give the nod to J-Roll here, because he has more of both. And Jimmy could always bring it when the red light was on. Verdict: 2008 

Left field: Pat Burrell vs. Andrew McCutchen
McCutchen is a former NL MVP and a five-time All-Star, but I'm giving the edge to The Bat here. Thirty-three homers, 86 RBI, 102 walks, and an OPS that was just a few ticks behind Howard's for the season (.875, compared to .881 for Howard). This was Burrell's last good season, and he was an underrated force in the middle of the lineup. Verdict: 2008 

Center field: Shane Victorino vs. Odubel Herrera
The image of Victorino leaping on top of the pile following the final out in the World Series is indelible. But this one is closer to me than you may think. I feel like these two players are similar. Streaky hitters, good speed-power combo, even down to the occasional mental errors on the field. I'm hopeful Herrera shakes off last year's second half and gives the team more of what we saw in early 2018. Verdict: Push

Right field: Jayson Werth vs. Bryce Harper 
We are through the looking glass here. A player who left the Phillies to head south to D.C. against the new addition, who did the opposite this week. I don't think this is a close race. While Werth was a significant cog in the 2008 machine, Harper gives you so much more offensively that it's not a fair fight. Verdict: 2019 

Based on the individual matchups, I'm giving a slight edge to the 2008 team. I will say that the fac it's close enough to argue will make for a fun spring and summer, with the hopes for many more to come.

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Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

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Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

Most of the baseball world agrees that the Phillies are improved with the additions of No. 2 starter Zack Wheeler, shortstop Didi Gregorius, and the new contingent of manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Bryan Price and hitting coach Joe Dillon.

The question is how much improved?

The Phils won 81 games last season, a year after winning 80. Both years, they totally collapsed in September. Both years, a good number of players were simply playing out the string, though the effort level was more questionable in 2018 than in 2019.

Even though the Phillies were quiet this offseason after their two big signings, and even though the NL East is still a beast, they should still exceed 81 wins. If they don't, there's a serious problem. If they don't, the GM probably won't be here to try to rectify things next offseason.

The over/under win totals are out and the Phillies' number is 85.5 at FanDuel and 84.5 at DraftKings.

I'd go over at 84.5. Think about how many injuries the Phillies suffered last season. Think about the talent gap between Wheeler and every Phillies starting pitcher behind Aaron Nola last season. The impact of Girardi, Price and Dillon won't be all that quantifiable, but it is realistic that this revamped coaching staff can conjure a few more wins out of the 2020 Phillies, whether it's in-game decision-making or better instructions given to young players who underperformed last season.

At DraftKings, the Mets' over/under is a game better than the Phillies' at 85.5. The Braves are at 90.5 and the Nationals 88.5. The Marlins are at 64.5, higher than only one team, the Tigers.

Much more surprising are the Phillies' World Series odds. They have the sixth-shortest odds to win it all. Seriously. They're +1800. Here is the Top 10:

Yankees: 3.5/1
Dodgers: 5/1
Astros: 6/1
Braves: 11/1
Nationals: 14/1
Phillies: 18/1
Mets: 20/1
Twins: 20/1
Red Sox: 22/1
Cubs: 22/1

Apparently, the expectation is that the NL Central will be bringing up the rear in 2020. Really, the only NL Central team that improved was the Reds. The Cardinals lost Marcell Ozuna, the Brewers lost Yasmani Grandal and the Cubs didn't spend money on a single major-league free agent.

Four of the top seven teams being NL East teams just shows you how much of a battle these next seven months will be for the Phils.

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Phillies prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm make Baseball America's Top 100 list

Phillies prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm make Baseball America's Top 100 list

Baseball America’s always interesting Top 100 Prospects list landed this week and the Phillies are represented with two players in the top half.

Starting pitcher Spencer Howard ranks 27th on the list and third baseman Alec Bohm 28th. Both players are projected to open the coming season at Triple A and get to the majors at some point in 2020. Both have been invited to major-league spring training camp, which begins in less than three weeks in Clearwater. See the complete list of Phillies’ in-house non-roster invites here.

Howard, a 23-year-old right-hander, was the Phillies’ second-round draft pick in 2017. We profiled him here.

In its story on the Top 100 prospects, Baseball America offered this take on Howard: Triple-digit fastball, swing-and-miss curveball and the ability to work the edges of the strike zone, Howard flashes front-end potential.

Bohm, 23, was the third overall pick in the 2018 draft. He hit .305 with 21 homers, 80 RBIs and a .896 OPS at three levels, including Double A in 2019. We profiled him here.

Baseball America offered this take on Bohm: Even with questions about whether he’ll have to move to first base, Bohm has the feel to hit and plus power to hit in the middle of the Phillies’ order, and soon.

Shortstop Wander Franco of the Tampa Bay Rays was ranked No. 1 on Baseball America’s list for the second year in a row. The Rays placed eight players on the list. Because of a loaded farm system, the Rays were unable to protect left-hander Cristopher Sanchez on their 40-man roster and the Phillies traded for him in November. Read about Sanchez here.

The Los Angeles Dodgers placed seven players on the list and the Minnesota Twins and San Diego Padres had six each.

The Miami Marlins led National League East teams with five players in the Top 100, including former Phillies pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, who was traded for J.T. Realmuto a year ago. Sanchez ranks 16th on the list and is projected to arrive in the majors sometime in 2020.

The Atlanta Braves placed four players on the list and the Washington Nationals and New York Mets joined the Phillies with two players.

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