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Phillies 2016: We've Got Our Predictions

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When we last left the Phillies, they were coming off their worst season in more than half a century. Their manager (Ryne Sandberg) unexpectedly resigned in the beginning of the year, major changes were made in the front office, their closer (Jonathan Papelbon) did everything possible to get traded out of town, and two franchise cornerstones (Chase Utley and Cole Hamels) played their final games in Phillies pinstripes.

 

Fast forward to spring 2016. Sandberg’s successor, Pete Mackanin, is now the Phillies’ official manager and just received an extension, an infusion of new players has kicked off the team’s rebuilding phase, and the team finished Spring Training with a 15-11 record.

It’s time for the official games to begin, and Philly2Philly’s “experts” took the time to weigh in on the state of the team, as well as offer insight into what they think the Phightins are capable of accomplishing this year.

Photo: mccall.com

 

Steve Olenski   @steveolesnki

 

I liken the 2016 Phillies to the Eagles' first year under Chip Kelly. Going into that season, I had relatively low expectations for they were clearly in a rebuilding year. I stated several times during the preseason that patience would be key and if we saw progress during the year, I would be more than satisfied.

 

Of course, Chip & Co. went onto win 10 games and make the playoffs, more than likely raising the bar too fast for us insanely impatient Philly sports fans. I am taking the same optimistic approach to this year’s Phillies' team. I expect a slow start, hope to see some progress during the year and finish strong - strong in comparison to the start, that is. Then head into the offseason on a high note with higher (yet realistic) expectations for 2017.

 

And no, I don't expect an unforeseen run to the playoffs (ala the Birds).


steveolenski@yahoo.com  


Matt Goldberg  @tipofgoldberg

 

102...81...73...73...63...???

 

It hasn't been fun witnessing the Phils' win totals plummet, sometimes dramatically, from their regular-season peak of 2011 (a franchise-record 102) to last season's near-100-loss campaign. And nearly all of the heroes are gone from that magical 2007-11 five-year run of awesome baseball -- everyone other than Ryan (platooned?) Howard, and Chooch Ruiz as a backup. Toeing the hill on Opening Day is Jeremy Hellickson, who's not exactly inspiring me to do any cartwheel spins, and the NL East will probably be demolished by the pitching-wealthy Mets. Indeed, the Nats could also return to the playoffs. So, can the rebuilding Phillies stop their recent bleeding, and actually win more games than they did last year?

 

It says here that they will. Okay, I'm not going out on a limb to say that they will win at least 63, but I'm actually slotting them for 73. They are not a threat to make the playoffs, or even finish .500, but I do like some of their younger talent. Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, Aaron Nola and Jared Eickhoff all are 25 or under, and have lots of potential, and while I do not cling to the hope that Galvis and Hernandez will make anyone forget Jimmy and Chase, I like them both. A little, anyway. Enough to look at the 2016 season with some sense of optimism...also buoyed by what may be a Flyers postseason appearance and possibly, a Villanova NCAA championship.  After enduring the last few dreadful seasons of Philly sports, can you blame me for thinking that the Phils can win 10 more games than last year?  I hope not!

 

So...73 it is. On the other hand, noting that my predicting a 73-89 season is a statement of optimism is, well, a bit depressing.

 

-Matt Goldberg, author, speaker and co-author of A Snowball's Chance

matt@tipofthegoldberg.com 


Earl Myers  @EMyersIII

 The Philadelphia Phillies are officially rebuilding, which is hard to believe because the organization, the media and the fans, avoided the R-word like a plague.  

In some ways, it made sense. Starting over isn’t sexy, doesn’t create much interest and certainly doesn’t fill Citizens Bank Park.  But it is always better to rid yourself of veteran players too early instead of too late.  

Since the prior leadership chose to latter, the Phils start anew with manager Pete Mackanin and general manager Matt Klentak, who values sabermetrics far more than his predecessor.  

So what does that mean for the 2016 season?  Simply put, it means lots of losses and tickets aplenty.  But growth and direction mean more to this outfit than win/loss record.

However, I am charged with submitting a prediction, and I believe the magic number is 66.

Anything more than that, and Mackanin deserves consideration for Manager of the Year. 

emyersiii@gmail.com  

 

Joe Vallee  @JoeVallee214

 

For the first time in my 38 years on this earth, I can 100% honestly say that I am comfortable and confident that the Phillies’ ownership has established a gameplan for a hopeful (as well as eventual) model of consistency for this franchise over the next several years.

 

To be fair, I was just a child when the Carpenter family sold the franchise to the group of investors headed by Bill (the Phillies are a “small-market franchise”) Giles in late 1981, and I’m not even going to bother rehashing what happened between 1984-1992, 1994-2000. While the Carpenters treated the business like a family, there’s many stories from Giles’ tenure (despite the loyalty he has from many of his ex-players) that insinuated otherwise. To be fair, David Montgomery did a great job of helping to right the ship, and even that wasn’t always a bed of roses (see: Mike Arbuckle v Ruben Amaro, firing Charlie Manuel).

 

From the minute John Middleton was seen at the podium when the Phillies introduced Andy MacPhail as the team’s new President of Operations last summer, the team gave themselves a new identity. The days of the Phantom Five were over, and Middleton, previously best-known as the cigar mogul and minority owner who was overheard saying "We want our f*cking trophy back" after the Phillies Game 6 World Series loss to the Yankees in 2009, is indeed the new face of this ownership. From what I gathered from that press conference (and I could be totally off here), Middleton is big on accountability, something this franchise has historically been short on. The above quote alone makes me want to root for him. This franchise has needed an owner who wants to win that badly, and wears his emotions on his sleeve when they don’t. Frankly, I want that guy as the owner of my team!photo: delawareonline.com

 

Of course, fire and desire mean nothing if you don’t field a winning product. However, the Phillies, who finally seem to have a grasp on what it might take to usher out the old era and start anew, appear to be on that path. After fielding a winning team for a tremendously long stretch by club standards (remember, the Phils had been competitive for almost a decade before they finally ended their postseason drought in 2007), the team’s subsequent collapse, which culminated in almost 100 losses last year, is inexcusable. Yes, there were long-term deals that shouldn’t have been made, but the bottom line is that teams like the Cardinals (and even the Red Sox) consistently field a great product year in and year out.


While Ruben Amaro Jr. isn’t entirely to blame for failing to keep the Phillies afloat, moves like trading Cliff Lee in December 2009 signify a series of ill-advised decisions that took place on his watch. Decisions that very well might have cost the Phillies another title. His demotion to coaching first base in Boston is akin to Captain Stillman getting reassigned to an Alaskan weather station in the movie Stripes. And no, I’m still not convinced that Amaro had much to do with the late-season house cleaning prior to his firing (which was highlighted by the Phillies securing top prospects from the Rangers in the Cole Hamels deal).


Taking Amaro’s place is Matt Klentak, who seems to have a strong relationship with MacPhail. Even though Klentak still has to prove himself (and I sometimes wonder why Anaheim would let him walk away from their organization), MacPhail is a respectable baseball man who worked with Klentak in Baltimore, so there’s familiarity there. The trade of Ken Giles to Houston in exchange for five players (including former No. 1 pick Mark Appel and pitchers Brett Oberholtzer and Vincent Velasquez) was a bold one, as it shows he’s not afraid to pull the trigger on what might be a potentially impactful deal in the early stages of his tenure in Philadelphia.

 

In a nutshell, cleaning up the mess MacPhail and Klentak inherited won’t happen overnight, and it’s no secret that the Phillies will struggle again this year. Will they lose 100 games? No. The loss of Maikel Franco made the 100-loss potential closer than it should have been (did you SEE the ball Franco hit against the Orioles last weekend?!). On the flip side, the subtractions of closers Giles and Jonathan Papelbon severely hurt the back end of this team’s bullpen. As we all know, games are lost in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, so the Phils will most likely rely on Jeanmar Gomez, Dalier Hinojosa, as well as lefty Oberholtzer to relieve an all-right-handed rotation of Jeremy Hellickson, Charlie Morton, Aaron Nola, Velasquez and Jerad Eickhoff.


Much like Matt Goldberg, I believe that Franco, Odubel Herrera, Nola and Eickhoff have the potential to be solid contributors to this team, with Franco becoming one of the game’s next superstars. With outfielder Nick Williams, shortstop J.P. Crawford and several other highly touted prospects waiting in the wings, it’s going to be fun again to root for the Phillies in the next few years. There’s going to be growing pains during the development process and it won’t happen overnight. When weighing everything out, I feel the team can win 68 games (with a chance for possibly 70 if things “go well”) in 2016.


jvallee@philly2philly.com  

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Franco photo: mccall.com

Middleton photo: Delawareonline.cmo