From an immediate perspective, the most important storyline from Friday’s Cardinals vs. Phillies game was the end result. Philadelphia was favored by most people to win the World Series, but they will be watching the NLCS and World Series from home.

The second most important storyline was that Phillies’ slugger Ryan Howard suffered what appeared to be a very serious injury on the game’s final play.

Now, we don’t know the extent of the injury just yet. Still, Achilles’ injuries are very serious. Howard himself believed that it was a torn Achilles, which could have him sidelined for a year.

Since his first full season in the league (2006), Howard has averaged nearly 44 homers and and 133 RBI. His production has tapered a little bit in the last few seasons, but he is still one of the game’s premier sluggers.

If the injury is as bad as expected, Howard will miss anywhere between six and 12 months. That would have him missing some or all of the 2012 season.

Still, Philadelphia will be okay, and they are still the favorites in the National League East.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at the pitching rotation: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, and Vance Worley. While the bullpen could use some work, that is a vaunted pitching rotation that will keep them in any game they play.

Offensively, they still have stars like Chase Utley, Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, and possibly Jimmy Rollins to produce runs. Even if Rollins goes, that’s not exactly a lineup with a lot of easy outs.

Lastly, first base is a position with some depth. You can pick up a first baseman for relatively cheap in free agency that will go a long way in making up for some of Howard’s lost numbers.

Any way you slice it, Howard’s loss is going to hurt. Even if his playoff production has been less than stellar, his offensive numbers are just massive, even in down years. In his six full seasons, Howard has never failed to hit 30 home runs or drive in 100 runs.

But even without Howard’s presence in the middle of the order, Philadelphia is still a playoff team in 2012.

Of course, the hot stove season could change that, but it’s hard to see a division rival improving enough to scare the Phillies.

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