Phillies Look to Find Winning Balance in 2013

2012, to say the least, was a disappointing year for Philadelphia sports fans. The Eagles struggled through a disappointing year while the Sixers have spent the season watching their superstar center sitting on the bench with injuries. For those fans who aren’t still hoping the Flyers can turn it around, this upcoming Phillies season offers them one hope of returning to the top.

Last season the Phillies stumbled to a “disappointing” 81-81 record. Now, as a Pirates fan, I would kill for a .500 record like that, but Phillies fans are spoiled and will definitely be looking for a deep run in 2013. They will be presented with a lineup that is an odd mix of veteran holdovers from the 2008 World Series team and inexperienced young players (primarily in the outfield).

Ryan Howard is still hitting homers (and striking out) at first base while Chase Utley remains the team’s best hitter (when he’s healthy). The Phils should also be able to squeeze a few more quality seasons out of shortstop Jimmy Rollins and free agent third baseman Michael Young, who will be 34 and 36 respectively.

The outfield on the other hand is a question mark, with several young players competing for starting spots. Early projections (courtesy of ESPN) have speed-demon Ben Revere, so-so hitter Dominic Brown and Delmon Young, who was a bit of a disappointment with Minnesota, taking the starting roles. All in all, the hitting might be below average for the Phils, especially with breakout catcher Carlos Ruiz banned 25 games for Adderall use.

If the Phils want a repeat of that magical 2008 season, it will have to be on the back of their pitching staff, which remains one of baseball’s best. The big three of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels are still dominant while closer Jonathan Papelbon heads up a solid bullpen. If this group performs the way they have their whole careers, there’s no reason the Phillies can’t challenge the Braves and Nationals for the division title. In a perfect world, maybe they even meet the Pirates in the playoffs (I can dream right?).

But in reality, both teams from Pa. play in a tough National League, with contenders in Washington, Atlanta, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Los Angeles and San Francisco. For the aging Phillies, the line between championship run and rebuilding year will be a fine one. Regardless of the outcome, Philly fans can always be glad that at least they aren’t the Pirates.

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