Originally written on Philly Sports World  |  Last updated 11/11/14
Cole Hamels of the Philadelphia Phillies. Photo Courtesy of Renee Cendrowski.
Let’s be honest here, there weren’t a whole lot of reasons to get excited about 2012 for the Philadelphia Phillies. As such, aside from the brief flicker of hope in September, the season was made up largely of negatives. I don’t mean to steal a line from Cole Hamels, but it is somewhat comforting that this season is coming to an end. As the Phillies wind down, here are a few things to look forward to next year:
Cole Hamels – whether or not the Phillies would get a deal done with Cole Hamels this season, or whether they would trade him or let him walk was a major storyline to this season. Everyone weighed in and everyone had an opinion on what the right thing to do was. Ultimately, thankfully, the Phillies signed Hamels. Hamels will be in Phillies red pinstripes for the next 6 years and the fans were allowed to breathe a collective sigh of relief. Hamels has been the most consistent Phillies pitcher for the past few years, and now that he should be entering his prime, it will be very interesting to see how Hamels improves upon his 17-6, 3.07 ERA campaign going forward.
Carlos Ruiz – Chooch had a breakout year in 2012 at the tender age of 33. You’d be hard pressed to find many people before this season started that would have named Carlos Ruiz the offensive MVP of the Phillies, yet that’s exactly what he was. Long known for solid defense and excellent game calling, Carlos Ruiz lit up the score board this year setting career highs in batting average, doubles, home runs and RBI. Though injury slowed his pace some, Ruiz was by far the brightest spot offensively for the Phillies. Can he duplicate his offensive output next year? It may mean the difference between the Phillies competing or not.
Domonic Brown – I don’t know about you, but I’m kinda of tired of wondering what Dom Brown is. Will he be a star? Will he be a bust? Or will he be somewhere in between? It’s time to find out once and for all by seeing Brown play and play regularly. It would be a bonus if Brown was able to step up and finally be the player the Phillies believed he could be. Brown’s extended stay in bigs this year yielded some mixed results. His average hasn’t been great, but he has shown us his amazing arm, improved fielding, and got some timely hits while showing flashes of his power. It would be a coup if the Phillies could count on him in the outfield next year given his low price tag.
Chase Utley- Utley’s knees may have very well cost the Phillies any chance at competing when he missed his second straight Spring Training. When he returned, however, he did so in a big way, homering in his first at bat.
Photo Courtesy of Renee Cendrowski.
Utley played decently enough, and so far has put up pretty much the same numbers he did last year in 23 fewer games. If Utley could stay healthy for a full season his production this year would equate to around 20 HRs and 91 RBI. I don’t know about you, but I’d take that production from Utley in a heart beat. Nonetheless, Chase Utley did show an improved ability to drive the ball with power. It is a positive sign that perhaps he has finally found the answer to keep himself strong. Utley will enter the final year of his contract with the Phillies in 2013, and his performance will indicate whether it’s safe to even consider extending him or whether his career is over.
Ryan Howard – The injury to Ryan Howard’s Achilles’ tendon on the final play of the 2011 season was also critical in the Phillies failure this year. Howard returned and played 71 games, but was clearly not healthy. His strikeouts were up and his average was down in the first year of his mammoth 5 year/$125 million contract. Why is this a positive? Simple. While Howard was still feeling the effects of his Achilles’ injury and lack of spring training, he still did exactly what he is paid to do – produce runs. If you averaged out his 14 HRs and 56 RBI over a full season, Howard would have belted 31 HRS and driven in 127 runs. That’s what you need out of a cleanup hitter. If he improves his health and his average a bit, those numbers could go up even higher.
Photo Courtesy of Renee Cendrowski
Cliff Lee/Roy Halladay – both Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay had trying seasons this year. The Phillies actually managed to tread water until Roy Halladay went on the DL with a muscle strain in May. Once he did, the team went 9-25 and pretty much fell out of contention. Cliff Lee was sometimes victimized by near league low run support, and other times was just ineffective on the mound. Lee’s 6-8 record was not worth the contract he signed to come here again, but you have to expect that Lee will rebound in 2013. He’s too good and talented not to. That’s further backed up by his 3.12 ERA which may not have been stellar but was certainly not indicative of 6 win season. Halladay will be a bigger question mark for the Phillies. If an offseason of rest and a new training regimen can help Halladay regain his shoulder strength, velocity and confidence, the Phillies will have no problems bouncing back into contention. If Halladay falls short again, it could put additional strain on a pitching rotation that will likely feature Kyle Kendrick and Vance Worley coming off of elbow surgery.
If you add in an interesting offseason in which the Phillies will be faced with several key decisions and signings, it gives me at least something to look forward to next year. After all, there are only roughly 140 days until pitchers and catchers report.
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