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Breakdown of Phillies’ starting eight for 2011 NLDS

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"KEEP ON PHIGHTIN' WITH JOE VALLEE"

Starting Saturday, the Phightin Phils will take that next step towards another possible parade down Broad Street.

Here is a breakdown of the Phils’ starting eight going into Saturday. Who will step up? Who seems like a liability? Feel free to review and discuss!

Infield

Jimmy Rollins- It what might be his swan song with the Phillies, the longest tenured athlete in Philadelphia is hitting .524 (11 for 21) in the first five games of the trip. As Rollins goes, so does the Phillies, so let’s hope he keeps this up.

Chase Utley-  Nobody is colder on this team than Utley, who has obviously dealt with his share of ailments this season. With only 2 RBI’sChase Utley the entire month (one of them coming on his home run Tuesday night), it remains to be seen whether Utley will remain in the number two slot  behind Jimmy Rollins as the playoffs begin. It would be a major boost if Utley could give this team a lift offensively. And with the playoffs basically a whole new season, it’s always a possibility.

Ryan Howard- Nobody can blame last week's eight-game losing streak on Howard- he has barely played due to his ailing foot. While Howard claims that his foot only bothers him while running, now his heel and right toe are giving him issues.

Not good. Especially for a power hitter like Howard.

Even though he’s hit .455 in his last 11 at-bats, Howard only has four home runs this month. Whether it’s fair or not, the Phillies $25 million dollar a year stud needs to provide some kind of production for the Phightins come playoff time if the Phillies have any hope of winning the World Series.  

Placido Polanco- It’s almost painful to watch Polanco play right now. He has a sports hernia, which makes running almost unbearable. With the myriad of injuries he’s faced the last two seasons, one has to wonder how many decent years Polly has left in the tank. Anything the Phils can get from Polanco is a plus right now.

Catcher

Carlos Ruiz- ‘Chooch’ didn’t have quite the offensive season he had in 2010, but he’s had a Carlos Ruiz will be counted on to handle the Phillies' staff and deliver some clutch hits in October.strong September and has delivered a bevy of clutch hits in the post season. On a team whose starting eight has its share of weak spots, ‘Chooch’ is never a liability, and he will continue to be counted on more than ever to oversee the Phillies’ powerhouse of a rotation starting Saturday.

Outfield

Hunter Pence- Where do we begin with this guy? The missing piece? Perhaps. That remains to be seen until all is said and done, but Pence has become a fan favorite over night in this town with his all out hustle and all-star caliber play. Pence gets ‘it,’ he gets the fans, and the fans get him. If you don’t think that’s one heck of an accomplishment, Mike Schmidt went almost 20 years before the fans ‘got him,’ and he’s the greatest Phillies player ever who has ever lived.

Pence hasn’t let his recent knee injury slow him down, but hopefully his lack of playoff experience is not an issue. This was a worry of mine as I campaigned for Carlos Beltran all summer. Chances are the Phils will need him to step up in case this offense goes inexplicably cold again.

Shane Victorino- Despite being on the disabled list twice this year, Victorino has really put together a strong season. Strong enough to where he was voted the Phillies Most Valuable Player. He has slumped in September, but like Ruiz, Victorino is an experienced post-season veteran who has delivered his share of memorable moments in October. Charlie Manuel can put Victorino in several slots in the batting order, which comes in handy if any of the other Phillies fall into a slump.

Raul Ibanez- Ibanez is only hitting .246, but 20 home runs and 84 runs batted in at 39 years of age is nothing to sneeze at. Hitters like Victorino and Pence get most of the attention for their strong showings this season, but Raul Ibanez might be the Phillies’ most unsung hero of 2011. He’s only missed 18 games all year and has delivered many important hits for this team. One of the classiest guys in the game, chances are almost 100% Ibanez won’t be back next year, so let’s hope he can finish strong and we see him on a float sometime at the end of October.

Tune in Thursday, when we evaluate the Phillies’ bullpen and their bench!

We want to hear from YOU in the playoffs. Send your videos of the playoffs to videos@philly2philly.com  and ALL your playoffs pics to info@philly2philly.com!! It doesn’t matter where they’re from, we just want them!!

In the meantime, Keep On Phightin'

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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