YOU MIGHT THINK you know the Phillies. You might be right.
You might not.
What does Cliff Lee's 2009 mean? Is Pedro the old Pedro? How do bullpen injuries help the Phils? Will Raul Ibanez need his glove again this season?
Maybe you know. Maybe not.
Either way, we're helping you know what you know, or don't know, better.
Already, Lee will be remembered as the best Phillies in-season acquisition, having gone 7-4 after arriving from Cleveland. That wouldn't be as true had he not followed an impressive post-trade performance with two spectacular playoff starts as Cole Hamels continued to struggle. Lee has another season on his contract, but, assuming good health going forward, he already has guaranteed himself CC Sabathia money. And, hey, he can even audition for his new team.
Grade Hamels on the Hamels curve, and his 2009 wasn't all that good. Grade Hamels on the Mere Mortals curve, and he wasn't that bad. Ditto his three playoff outings. He might not be an ace right now, but he's still only 25, and predictable, and emotional, and developing a curveball to offset his changeup. And this is his second World Series – neither of which the Phillies reach without him.
If nothing else, his nine regular-season starts and his dominant playoff performance resurrected a career recently left dead on the doorstep. Remember, this is the guy the Mets wouldn't re-sign after rehab; the guy the Phillies signed to a minor league contract. Joke's on the Mets and everyone else, especially if Martinez reproduces the magic of Game 2 of the NLCS in Los Angeles in Game 2 in New York.
It's almost hard to remember, but Blanton was the staff's MVP, given the state of the 2009 season. With a six-inning, four-run start in Game 4 of the NLCS, Blanton might have effectively pitched himself back into the bullpen. That's not necessarily a bad thing, considering Blanton was effective out of the 'pen this postseason and the Yankees' righthanders might make short work of Hamels. Then again, the Phils might need Blanton's bat in the lineup at the Bank.
He's a favorite for rookie of the year, having been effective both in and out of the bullpen. The surprise of the season, Happ might be the team's MVP considering that if he was even half as effective, Phillies players would be holding charity golf tournaments right now instead of recreating 1950. He's back in the bullpen, but that's just for this season, thanks mainly to Pedro.
A back injury cost him 2 1/2 weeks in the middle of the season, but the upside is that the Durbinator is actually valuable this postseason. He was burnt last October; September, for that matter. This year, he was strongest at the end: a 1.72 ERA in his last 11 games, scoreless in his last six. Now, with Durbin and Chan Ho Park, manager Charlie Manuel has two solid, experienced, righthanded, true bullpen options for the sixth and seventh innings.
He left a game against Washington with a hamstring injury Sept. 16 and returned a month later, looking like he didn't miss a beat. Giving Park the chance to make the rotation in spring training helped convince him to sign, but starting him for those seven games (7.29 ERA) was a big mistake, especially considering how well he pitched out of the Dodgers' 'pen in 2008. He is invaluable in middle relief, especially at home: 1.38 ERA.
A midseason calf strain didn't interrupt Eyre's unbelievable season. He allowed one earned run after from May 1 until the end of the regular season. He didn't allow a baserunner in his first seven outings. A calf strain that sidelined him June 12 through July 4 was sandwiched between a 14 2/3-innings scoreless streak. And this guy was thinking about retiring after this season?
An otherwise outstanding season was perhaps unfairly tainted by a seven-game stretch in late June in which Madson, filling in for struggling closer Brad Lidge, blew three saves, lost three games and sent the Phillies scrambling for bullpen help as the trade deadline approached (they didn't get it). So, maybe Madson isn't closer material yet. He was great in the eighth, and the recent rest could fix him; he's had two shaky playoff outings.
Oh, where to begin. The chronically bum knee? The ever-rising fastball? The spinning, floating, flying slider? A year after being the best closer in baseball, Lidge was the worst. He appears to have righted himself. He hasn't allowed a run in five postseason outings. His slider is tight, his fastball isn't sailing. That's an improvement.
His latest, and perhaps final, season as a Phillie finds him on the other side of midseason hip surgery, which he rushed back from only to find himself rusty. Then, after a wild outing in the Division Series, he was left off the NLCS roster. He pouted, and moped, and, voila, he's on the World Series roster – more because Miguel Cairo can't pitch and four games are in the AL city than because the Phillies value Myers.
A hard-throwing rookie who spent most of the season in the minors, Bastardo, 24, made his mark in the NLDS when he struck out baffled Rockies lefty pinch-hitter Jason Giambi. Bastardo got another chance in the NLCS against Andre Ethier, who doubled. Will he get another shot against Hideki Matsui, or Robinson Cano, or Johnny Damon?
Somehow, you always forgive Jimmy. Not so great offense in 2009? How about the best defensive season ever for a Phillies shortstop . . . and he still scored 100 runs. Not so impressive in the first two rounds of the playoffs? How about singling and scoring the game-winning run in Game 3 of the Division Series; starting the game-winning rally in the ninth in Game 4; and, of course, hitting the walkoff, two-run double in Game 4 of the NLCS.
He played 10 more games, had 50 more at-bats, produced at essentially the same level as 2008 and never faltered in the field. So much for his durability issues. A Final Vote All-Star, the Flyin' Hawaiian was the only major leaguer with at least 10 doubles, triples, homers and stolen bases. And he was clutch: 6-for-15 with the bases loaded.
Was he hurt? Did he come back from hip surgery too soon? Is his throwing a liability? These questions linger. They are mitigated by the fact that Utley compiled a fourth straight All-Star season. They are further mitigated by the fact that Utley is connecting in the postseason. So, maybe it wasn't injury; maybe it was fatigue. As usual.
Slimmer by 30 pounds, faster (eight steals!) but just as powerful, the Big Piece stormed through another season spoiled by the presence of Albert Pujols, the only man who could overshadow him. Of course, Pujols and Co. are watching MLB on Fox TV. Howard's typical late-season surge – 19 homers and 59 RBI in the last 50 games – cemented the Phils' third division crown. His postseason demolition continued the trend: his Division Series was as good as his MVP-worthy NLCS.
He won't sneak up on anyone next season. Finally healthy enough and fortunate enough to be in a position to start a full season, Werth, 30, responded with 36 homers, 99 RBI and a rightfield worthy of Gold Glove consideration. Now, despite a .281 postseason average, the perception of Werth is much grander, as it was in the regular season, when he hit .268. Why? Big hits in big wins: Games 1 and 4 in the NLDS, Game 5 in the NLCS.
Considering that, while others slumped, Ibanez carried the club with a .325 average, 21 homers and 58 RBI through June 12, sparking MVP talk, Ibanez' struggles since can be excused. He hit .224 after his hot start and .226 in the playoffs, and while his 3-week absence due to a groin strain coincided with his fall-off, Ibanez refuses to use it as an excuse. So, we won't, either.
Again, he proved himself a nearly peerless defender. Again, he proved himself a stubborn, perhaps unfixable hitter. Hitting .318 through mid-June, Feliz produced negligible power and run production. He hit .236 afterward, and, since he didn't miss time due to his chronic back issues, scratch that reason. Twenty-six homers in two seasons playing home games at the Bank? Hitting .161 this postseason? Yeah, but he sure can field.
He hit .310 after Cliff Lee arrived via trade, .223 before it. Hmm. Maybe having an ace on the staff – even though Paul Bako was Lee's usual catcher – maybe that makes it easier for the everyday guy. As for Ruiz' second straight hot October, well, that's just having his sturdy little body rested for a change.
When top pitching prospect Kyle Drabek debuted at Double A Reading this season, the entire Phillies brain trust was in attendance. They came to see Bako, a veteran playing with kids; Drabek appearance was coincidental. A couple of weeks later, Bako was called up, and, not long after that, Chris Coste was traded. And that's how Cliff Lee got his personal catcher.
The early portion of the two-headed lefthanded pinch-hitting monster, Dobbs had a chance to stamp himself as one of the game's premier pinch-hitters and an invaluable corner infielder/outfielder after a scorching 2008. However, a 9-for-54 performance as a pinch-hitter puts that reputation in jeopardy, though his value as a platoon starter (he hit .309 in his 27 starts) will secure him a place in the game.
At 41, Stairs went hitless in 30 at-bats, disastrous for a pinch-hitter . . . then, in the crucial Game 4 of the NLCS, he draws the key, four-pitch walk against Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton, off whom Stairs homered a year before to help win that Game 4. He hit just .197 as a pinch-hitter, but he led the majors in pinch-hit homers with five, tied for first with 15 RBI and was second with 16 walks – a rare talent for a bench guy. But he's a combined 3-for-22 against Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera.
A no-brainer upgrade in leftfield for Raul Ibanez when playing in New York, Francisco's defense could prove a difference-maker, especially with Cliff Lee starting in Game 1. Francisco also hit five homers in 37 games after he arrived via trade with Lee in July. He didn't impact the team the way Lee did, but he was the bench's savior.
Why? Why carry a guy with OK speed, no power, who had an abysmal season, whose bench value is mitigated by that of Ben Francisco – a capable outfielder with a better righthanded bat and better speed – and who probably won't see a speck of playing time? Because you have no other infielder on the roster to back up Chase Utley or Jimmy Rollins.