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Does Chase Utley Have a Future with the Philadelphia Phillies?

Chase Utley has been a Philadelphia Phillie since 2003. Utley was 24 when he made his debut with the Phillies, and over the next ten seasons fans would get to see one of the best second basemen to ever lace up his cleats.

Utley plays the game like everyone should. Hard, fast and with grit. 

If injuries were not an issue, Utley was on the fast track to a Hall of Fame career. He was consistently among the top players in baseball from 2005-2009 and then the chronic knee issues began to surface. 

Since 2009, Utley has not played in over 115 games due to his chronic knee problems, and some are questioning just how long he has left in his baseball career.

At the end of the 2013 season, Utley’s current contract will expire and he will become a free agent. He will also turn 35 in December.

Will the Phillies re-sign Utley to a short-term deal, or will the Phillies move in another direction and let Freddy Galvis or an outside candidate take over at second base?

I see this playing out in one of three scenarios.

One, Utley gets his knee issues under control and is able to play in 140 or more games in 2013. He posts above-average numbers and returns to the All-Star game.

As a result the Phillies decide to offer Utley a 1-2 year extension, which he accepts at a significant pay cut from the $15 million he made in 2013.

Two, Utley’s season is again cut short by injuries. He plays in only 50-70 games and struggles to find any consistency.

As a result, Kevin Frandsen and Freddy Galvis take over the majority of his playing time and show they can contribute.

This forces the Phillies to let Utley walk in free agency and look elsewhere for their 2014 second baseman.

Three, Utley’s career averages, age and injury history suggests he will most likely finish somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. Play 90-115 games, bat around .270 and hit anywhere from 10-15 home runs.

Unfortunately for Utley, this is not enough for Ruben Amaro Jr. to seriously consider bringing him back to Philadelphia.

The Utley era in Philadelphia ends and we see him sign with an American League team in the offseason.

In order for the Phillies to bring back Utley past the 2013 season he must produce at least 80%-90% of what he has in the past over a 140 or more game season. 

Also, bringing back Utley will cost the Phillies a lot more money than letting a younger player like Galvis take over.

For this reason, along with his age and injury history, it will be very difficult for the Phillies to want to bring back Utley after his contract expires.

If the Phillies do not see improvement in Utley’s health and production, we will see him play his last game as number 26 for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2013. 

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Why Phillies’ Second Half and Recent Acquisitions Show They Can Win in 2013

The 2012 Philadelphia Phillies had their worst record (37-50) at the All-Star break since the 1997 Phillies. What many fans don’t realize is that without Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence and Joe Blanton, the Phillies were able to finish the season with a record of 44-31, which correlates to a .586 winning percentage.

During the Phillies’ second half, they also saw Vance Worley hit the disabled list in late August and Roy Halladay pitch as a shell of what he has been for the Phillies in the past. 

Chase Utley and Ryan Howard were both back in the everyday lineup, but everyone watching them knew they were not playing close to 100 percent, leaving even more room for the team to improve in 2013.

On a positive note, one player who helped the Phillies turn it around in the second half was Kyle Kendrick. When Kendrick became a fixture in the starting rotation in August, he finished the month with a record of 4-1 and a 2.95 ERA. He completed the season with a career-high 116 strikeouts.

The second half of 2012 also gave us a small glimpse into Darin Ruf, who could potentially take the reins in left field and bring the 2013 Phillies a much-needed power bat from the right side. In Ruf’s 33 major league at-bats he hit .333 with three home runs, 10 RBI and an OPS of 1.079. 

So what does all this mean?

If the Phillies can play the type of quality baseball they played in the second half of 2012 throughout the entire 2013 season, get their core players healthy and receive solid contributions from the recently acquired Ben Revere and Michael Young, not only can they compete for a playoff berth in 2013, but they can challenge the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals to retake the NL East title.

With their holes at third base and center field filled—at a very cheap rate I might add—the Phillies should have enough cash to go after a quality corner outfielder or starting pitcher and still bring in some bullpen help.

Revere is said to play excellent defense and brings a true leadoff hitter to Philadelphia. He has the potential to swipe more than 40 bags and hit .300 in a season. Plus, he will turn just 25 in May, giving the Phillies some much-needed youth. The Phillies’ starting outfield in 2013 could potentially not have one player over the age of 26 when the season begins in April with Ruf, Domonic Brown and Revere.

Bringing Michael Young in to play third base is huge for the Phillies. He is a career .300 hitter who has won a Gold Glove and is a true veteran. Young played games and first base, second base, third base and shortstop in 2012. He also gives the Phillies some right-handed balance to a lefty-heavy lineup. 

The Phillies will also be looking to add some starting pitching depth with the departure of Vance Worley in the Ben Revere deal. A guy like Kyle Lohse would look great in a Phillies uniform.

2013 is beginning to look very promising for Phillies fans. With one or two more moves the Phillies should have the depth to seriously contend for a title in 2013.     

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4 Reasons Darin Ruf Could Be Philadelphia Phillies’ 2013 Everyday Left Fielder

Going into 2013, as it stands right now, the Phillies do not have one legitimate outfielder that is guaranteed a starting job next season. reports that the Phillies are making a strong push for center fielder B.J. Upton, but beyond that, the Phillies have a lot of questions regarding who will make up their outfield in 2013. Upton is being pursued heavily by other clubs, including the Atlanta Braves—which I did an article on yesterday.

Darin Ruf really made a name for himself in 2012, bashing home runs left and right in Double-A Reading as well as with his brief stint with the Phillies, and he has added even more homers playing fall ball in Venezuela.

The type of power numbers that he put up simply cannot be ignored, and I believe that Ruf is going to get his shot in 2013 to become an everyday player.

Here are five reasons why Darin Ruf could get the opportunity to become the everyday left fielder in 2013 for the Philadelphia Phillies.  

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Philadelphia Phillies: What Kevin Frandsen’s Contract Means for Phillies

Coming off his best stint in the major leagues, the Philadelphia PhilliesKevin Frandsen has recently agreed to a one-year contract worth $850,000, a source confirmed according to’s Jim Salisbury.

From the time Frandsen was called up to the big leagues, he worked his tail off every play of every game to earn his new contract.

Spring training will be an important time for Frandsen, especially if the Phillies do not acquire any third base help this offseason. All eyes will be on him to see if he can maintain his success at the plate.

Frandsen hit a career-high .338 in 195 at-bats, with two home runs and 14 RBI. His .834 OPS was also a career high. In the 55 games he started, he consistently made solid contact, striking out only 18 times and earning himself a starting position for the Phillies during their late-season surge, which ultimately fell seven games short of the last wild-card spot.

His signing shows that Ruben Amaro Jr. and the organization are at least committed to keeping Frandsen on the 25-man roster unless his production completely falls off.

In 2013, Frandsen will most likely be used as a utility infielder and may be a part of a platoon situation at third with Freddy Galvis if the Phillies do not decide to add a third baseman through free agency or by trade.

As an everyday player, Frandsen can provide the Phillies’ lineup with a consistent contact hitter that can contribute from the bottom of the lineup. For his defense, Frandsen has shown glimpses of above-average play along with the inability to make routine plays on a consistent basis.

Freddy Galvis is a much better defender, but if Frandsen can continue to hit, he will earn the bulk of the playing time at third in 2013. 

The third base free-agent market this year is extremely weak, with Kevin Youkilis and Eric Chavez as the only legitimate players available.

Look for Frandsen to get his shot at an everyday job if he continues to hit in 2013. If I had to make a prediction, Frandsen will probably be the Phillies’ opening day third baseman.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Darin Ruf Continuing Power Surge in Venezuela Fall League

Through the first 20 games of the Venezuela Fall League, Darin Ruf‘s unbelievable season of power has continued. He currently leads the entire league in home runs with nine through the first 20 games. If he could maintain that home run rate over a 550 at-bat season, he would hit 68 homers.

Ruf is currently batting .264 with a league leading 19 RBI and an OPS of 1.039. 

The power he is demonstrating will earn him a long, hard look for an everyday job come spring training, all depending on who the Phillies acquire this winter through free agency or trades.

Ruf has hit 38 home runs in Double-A Reading, three in the major leagues and another nine in the fall league, accumulating a grand total of 50 long balls in 594 at-bats.

Also, Ruf has been playing left field consistently as of late. Ruf has only made two errors so far, both coming in the same game, one by throw and the other on a missed catch. Ruf will surely not be in the running for a Gold Glove Award anytime soon, but if he can limit his mistakes, it will only benefit his chance to play on a regular basis.

The Phillies are in desperate need for some power and consistency from the right side of the plate. Ruf may be that solution and at a very low cost. Spring training is going to be huge for Ruf and the Phillies for that matter. There is a lot at stake because the Phillies will be pushing hard for a championship with Chase Utley and Roy Halladay up for free agency after the 2013 season. 

If they can add a quality center fielder like a Michael Bourn, B.J. Upton or Angel Pagan and then add another quality corner outfielder like Torii Hunter or Cody Ross, the Phillies could have a very productive outfield come 2013. 

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Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Realistic Offseason Moves

With the 2012 World Series coming to an end, the offseason is now upon us. Ruben Amaro Jr. and his staff will begin the daunting task of trying to rebuild the Phillies into a championship team.

The Phillies have already cut ties with Placido Polanco, Ty Wigginton and Jose Contreras while picking up Carlos Ruiz’s 2013 option.

In order to compete for a title in 2013, the Phillies will have to fill most, if not all of their holes, which includes at least two outfield spots, third base, the bullpen and maybe even a back-of-the-rotation starter.

Here are five realistic offseason moves the Phillies should seriously consider. 

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Philadelphia Phillies: Can Ryan Howard Return to Form in 2013?

When Ryan Howard ruptured his Achilles tendon on the final swing of the 2011 NLDS, a silence swept across Phillies nation like nothing heard since Joe Carter ripped a 2-2 Mitch Williams slider over the fence in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series.

Rumors swirled that Howard might never return and if he did, he never would be the player he once was.

When Howard returned to Philadelphia in early July of this past season, optimism began to pulse through the veins of Phillies fans. But through 71 games and 260 at-bats, Howard put together the worst campaign of his entire career, resulting in many fans believing that he shouldn’t have returned at all.

Howard finished the season batting just .219 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI. He also struck out a disgraceful 99 times, or 38 percent of his at-bats.

For his career prior to 2012 season, Howard struck out 1207 times in 3794 at-bats, or 31.8 percent. So he increased his strikeout ratio by over six percent in 2012. That may not seem like a drastic increase, but over a 600 at-bat season, that’s 36 more strikeouts.

One of the most fascinating statistics in Howard’s 2012 season was his batting average when actually making contact, or what I call “Batting Average By Contact” (BABC). Howard’s BABC in 2012 was .354. To find this number, I subtracted Howard’s number of strikeouts from his total at-bats, then divided the number of hits by this result.

260 AB – 99 K’s = 161 at-bats. Dividing Howard’s number of hits, 57, by 161 comes to a .354 average.

When Ryan Howard actually made contact in 2012, he batted .354, as compared to his .219 line with his strikeouts included. A remarkable statistic, to say the least, and something positive Phillies fans can draw from an otherwise disappointing 2012 season for Howard.

So what does all this mean?

If Ryan Howard can make more consistent contact, his offensive numbers across the board can dramatically increase. Hits, RBI, home runs, extra-base hits, everything. Which would ultimately lead to more Phillies wins. 

If new Phillies hitting coach Steve Henderson can decrease Ryan Howard’s strikeout rate by, say, 25-30 percent over a full season, Howard’s batting average would return to right around the .260-.270 range.

These statistics are far from an exact science, but from them we can see that when Ryan Howard does make contact, he has the potential to be one of the top hitters in baseball.

If Ryan Howard can decrease his number of strikeouts in 2013, he has the potential to return as one of the most dominant forces in all of baseball.

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Philadelphia Phillies Should Consider Shutting Down Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard’s highly anticipated return following his devastating Achilles tear was the talk across Philadelphia for quite sometime, but once Howard took to the field, it was clear that he was not same player he once was. The injury has definitely left a hitch in Ryan’s step and the Phillies are left with a player they owe a lot of money to in the coming years. $20 million in 2013 and $25 million from 2014-2016 and a 2017 $23 million club option with a $10 million buyout. 

Is Ryan Howard really going to be the difference maker in whether or not the Phillies will make the playoffs in 2012? Probably not. The Phillies should protect their investment, let him sit the remainder of the season and get a head start on rehab for 2013.

Since Howard’s return, he has struggled immensely to make solid, consistent contact. Through 227 at-bats, he is batting a career low .225 with 85 strikeouts. He’s even worse against lefties, hitting just .163. His WAR (wins above replacement), is a -1.0, which in laymen’s sabermetric terms means he is doing more harm than good for the Phillies in 2012.

Also, Ryan has appeared limited in his ability to play first base. His range and mobility are both suffering from the injury and it is costing the Phillies outs. 

Is there any really upside to letting him play at 75%?

Doesn’t seem like it, but if the Phillies somehow pull off a miracle and make the playoffs, by all means, they should let him play. That doesn’t mean he should be playing as much as he has been. Days off are critical to helping muscles heal and by his performance he could use the rest.

The Phillies also brought up Darin Ruf who still hasn’t had a chance to start one game. So much for seeing what you have for next year. They could also have the right-handed hitting Ty Wigginton or John Mayberry spell Ryan at first base against lefties if they are not comfortable with Ruf. Both hit lefties very well, a lot better than Ryan’s .163 mark this season.

Don’t get me wrong, this year is important and there still is a fraction of a chance the Phillies make the playoffs. The fact is that the Phillies owe Ryan Howard a ton of money. Next year, the year after that, and the year after that are much more important than a pipe dream playoff push.

Let’s hear what everyone else thinks.

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World Series Preview: Philadelphia Phillies VS. Boston Red Sox

Starting Tuesday of next week, one of the most anticipated series of the 2011 season comes to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The majority of MLB analyst believe that the June series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Boston Red Sox will be a preview of the 2011 World Series.

Here is how the clubs line up as of June 25: The Philadelphia Phillies have the best record in baseball at 48-29 and the Boston Red Sox rank second and are right on their tail with a record of 44-31.

As far as pitching is concerned, the Phillies rank first in MLB in ERA at 3.06 and quality starts with 51. They are third in WHIP 1.19 and sixth in BAA .242. Also, three of their starting pitchers have over eight wins. Cole Hamels go for a major league-leading 10th win this evening.

The Boston Red Sox pitching staff is having a slightly above average season. They are currently ranked 20th in ERA 3.98, 23rd in quality starts with 38, eighth in WHIP 1.28 and a BAA of .239 which ranks fifth in MLB. Josh Beckett leads the Red Sox pitching staff. His ERA this season is 1.86, which is one of the best ERAs is baseball.

Now for the offense. This is an area that the Philadelphia Phillies must improve if they even want to get to the 2011 World Series. They are getting little to no production from their corner outfielders and find themselves at the bottom of almost every offensive category.

They currently rank 14th in runs scored with 316, rank 20th in BA at .246, 15th in OBP .320 and 22nd in SLG at a weak .375. If the Phillies wish to compete with the Red Sox, one or two runs a game will simply not cut it.

Boston ranks first in almost every single offensive category in all of MLB. They are currently first in runs (401), BA (.279), OBP (.353), total bases (1,178), RBI (378), OPS (.801) and SLG (.448). There isn’t more I can really say. This team is the best offense in baseball by a long shot.

This series will be the classic big arms vs big bats. Tune in starting next Tuesday, June 28 to find out if great pitching can beat great hitting.

Here are the predicted starting pitchers for each game:

Tuesday: Josh Becket vs Cliff Lee 

Wednesday: John Lackey vs Vance Worley

Thursday: Jon Lester vs Cole Hamels

With the Phillies off day Monday, the starters for the second two games could be changed with the recent injury to Roy Oswalt. Spot starter Kyle Kendrick could be thrown into one of those games.

Look for these three games to be as exciting as any regular season game this season. It will be a playoff like atmosphere at Citizens Bank Park. Don’t miss out.

ESPN 2 will be broadcasting the Wednesday night game starting at 7:05 EST.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Why It’s Time for Ben Francisco to Leave

At the beginning of the 2011 season, the Philadelphia Phillies and their fans had high hopes that RF Ben Francisco could fill the void after Jayson Werth signed a mega-contract with the division rival Washington Nationals.

Unfortunately, Francisco has done everything but impress so far this season. He currently is batting .218 with six home runs and 25 RBI. He has only 12 extra-base-hits in 170 AB and has 30 strikeouts. The only good part about his game is that he sees a lot of pitches and has a decent OBP at .343.

I almost can’t say enough bad things about Francisco. He plays terrible defense, has a poor arm, and has been caught stealing more times that he has been safe. Sometimes he just looks lost out there—he is like the Forrest Gump of baseball, just without all that natural talent.

So why is even on the Phillies roster?

Honestly I have no idea, especially when John Mayberry Jr. does everything better than Francisco—Mayberry hits better, plays better defense, has an arm that’s 10-times better, and has more speed.

It just doesn’t make sense.

Since he has lost his starting job to rookie Domonic Brown, what use do the Phillies even have for Francisco?

Let’s see… We could use him as a pinch hitter, but he can’t hit… We could use him as a pinch runner, but he can’t run… Maybe we can have him come in to play defense…

Wait—he stinks at that too.

The answer is: release him.

He is making only $1.175 million, so he is not a huge financial obligation. Besides, there has to be someone out there who can fill his void. If not John Mayberry Jr., then the Phillies could bring up another Triple-A outfielder, like Delwynn Young. 

At this point, almost anyone could produce more than Francisco. He is a waste of a roster spot and simply isn’t playing at a major league level. 

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