Philadelphia Phillies Flirting With .500 Line Again

By Sean O'Brien
Philadelphia Phillies Charlie Manuel
Derick Hingle – USA TODAY Sports

Charlie Manuel knows that his 2013 roster appears to have deeper flexibility than his 2012 Philadelphia Phillies team did. But he also understands that if a variety of factors don’t break his way, that he’ll be flirting with the .500 line again this season.

Everything doesn’t hinge on Roy Halladay this season, as is currently thought. If “Doc” is able to get by with his reduced velocity and Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee take a dive, this team is still in trouble.

If, or until, the “Philadelphia Mashers” return to town, Manuel’s squad will need to have stellar starting pitching to make the playoffs.

If a healthy Ryan Howard and Chase Utley truly can secure the middle of the Phillies’ lineup again, there’s a chance that this team won’t have to depend on its top three starting pitchers winning a combined 50-plus games this season.

Domonic Brown has been the story of the spring. Beyond Grapefruit League hype, this young man has been noticeably effective and efficient. Both qualities indicate that he’s ready to finally make a legitimate, full-season major league push. His productive presence in the lineup could be a game-changer.

The bullpen was improved in the offseason and should be a team strength. Jonathan Papelbon needs to deliver again. However, this time around he’ll be backed by a terrific eighth-inning man in Mike Adams and a number of other middle-inning men. That improvement should allow games to be shorter.

However, there is an outside issue that must be addressed as well. If the National League were still relatively weak, a mixed Phillies’ squad might be able to top the 90-win mark with relative ease. Beyond their two main divisional rivals, there are at least four other teams in the League that are better (on paper) than Philadelphia is right now.

Where will 90-plus wins be found on the 2013 schedule?

Unless two or three wild-card challengers falter and the majority of the Phillies’ roster rises to the occasion, it’s reasonable to project that 81 wins (or less) could be posted this year.

Because April hasn’t even arrived, no firm conclusions can be made. But seeing the baseball world for what it is, rather than what fans want it to be, will allow a balanced perspective to be maintained throughout the spring and summer months.

Follow Sean on Twitter @SeanyOB, Facebook, Google+ and read his blog Insight.

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