Apr 5, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard (6) hits an RBI single in the first inning of a game against the Kansas City Royals on opening day at Citizens bank Park. (Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

Phishing for Phillies – A Series Preview, Outside Looking In

It is easy to spot a team that is floundering, particularly if you’re a Reds fan and you’ve watched any of the last five baseball games.  The dichotomy of the first seven games to the last five has to leave many people scratching their heads, including yours truly.  Sure, I knew the Cardinals were a tough opponent … but the Pirates?  And a three-game weekend sweep, no less?  Yep, I admit I didn’t see that coming.
In anticipation of the series starting tonight with the incoming Philadelphia Phillies who will grace our presence and hopefully not leave us in more pain, I took time with counterpart Justin Klugh, the Senior Editor for That Ball’s Outta Here on our sister site for the Phillies in the FanSided network, to preview each other’s teams.  You can see my “half” of our Q&A over at his site with this link (“Series Six-Pack”).
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1) The Phillies come in as a “hot” team winning four of their last five games.  What has been the key to getting back to .500 for the team?
I noticed you put “hot” in quotation marks.  That was correct to do.
 
The most disappointing team in the NL East right now is the Washington Nationals, who look like human garbage compared to the tough talk and ballsy predictions they put up to start the year.  Everyone else is doing what they were expected to do (or better).  The Phillies, sitting at .500, are doing that.  The key has been Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick, and John Lannan stepping up and throwing adequate – amazing starts to make up for Cole Hamels‘ slow start and Roy Halladay‘s whole thing, both of whom made some pretty redemptive progress in their last starts in extended preseason games against the Marlins.
 
The offense has not been key.  Other than that Mets series, they seem to think they can get by coughing up one or two runs.  They can’t.  It will take a lot of Utley Death Stares to right that ship.

Apr 14, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Roy Halladay (34) throws the ball against the Miami Marlins in the second inning at Marlins Park. (Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports)

2) A lot has been made of Roy Halladay (who struggled for most of 2012 and started poorly out of the gate in 2013 with two bad starts before his 200th career win on Sunday).  Are Phillies’ fans concerned he will or will not regain the old dominant form we’re used to seeing?


The fans are all about panicking, the beat writers are convinced, mostly on hunches, that he’ll turn it around.  National writers will enjoy saying “Doc pitched well, but it was just against the Marlins” because technically that counts as “analysis” and it fills up most of a tweet.  But according to guys who were actually at the game, they complimented Roy’s rhythm, mechanics, and motion – fundamentals that had until that start also looked pretty wrong.
 
The fans’ memories are short and quick to unravel.  It takes nine good innings to convince them you’re okay, and one pitch to convince them you’re a head case.  What’s important to remember is that nobody’s thoughts matter less than brainless, reactionary fans’.

3) The series probable starters are Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick, and (2013 newcomer) John Lannan. Reds fans know Lee pretty well (as do most baseball fans know as a really tough lefty), but how would you summarize Kendrick and Lannan?

Kendrick is the staff whipping boy, or “little brother,” a role that he slid into based on the fans’ characterization of him, but also among his actual teammates.  Despite popular hatred, he has improved steadily since 2008, but due to his un-ace like status on a staff that has spoiled its people, he has never “lived up” to whatever hype he was supposed to.  Every success is taken with a grain of salt, every failure is cited as the most recent in a long line.  This is a flawed mentality to use with Kendrick, who will be very important this year, especially if he maintains his current success.  Though hating Kyle Kendrick if very, very therapeutic and fun.
 
Lannan has bizarre eye brows and I’ve actually missed every start of his.  But according to the box scores, he has held up his end of the bargain, keeping the rotation afloat, averaging over six innings per start and allowing a mere four runs.  That’s more than you can say about some of the other, better, more lucratively paid pitchers on this staff.

4) The “core” names on the Phillies have stayed constant (Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins, most notably) however other pieces most definitely have changed (seeing Victorino and Pence traded late last year). What should we expect from new additions like Michael Young (the long-time Ranger) and Ben Revere (established Twin)?

Michael Young will be a terrible third baseman and cost us runs.  Hopefully his “resurgent” offensive year will be able to knock in enough to keep us at .500.  He’s been hot of late, but then he got sick and they started Freddy Galvis, who is young and awesome.  I want Young to do well, but Charlie Manuel has to learn to use Galvis as a defensive replacement (at least) to make the most use of both players.
 
Revere I love, as I was a huge Shane Victorino fan.  Ben is talkative, fast, manically defensive, and (hopefully) going to get on base.  He’s had some abysmal ABs to start the year, after impressing in his debut as Phillies leadoff hitter, and could be of real value in front of Jimmy Rollins and a few guys who should be able to knock the rabbits in.  As a defender, he has been as advertised.  But best of all, if he begins to produce, he’s only 24 – an asset that this team is lacking as its core grows older.

5) From the “outsider’s perspective”, how do you view the Cincinnati Reds as an opponent in 2013?

Your lineup is tough to quiet, I’m jealous of Votto’s power (after watching Howard strikeout again), Phillips’ range (knowing Utley’s knees will always be an issue), and Chapman’s velocity (though relieved he’s a reliever).  I do not envy the Reds having to play in the same division as the Cardinals, who are so annoying and relentlessly playoff-bound, despite the odds, but you do get to play the Cubs and Pirates a lot (and until recently, the Astros).  I know you guys have a much better shot at the playoffs than we do, and definitely a more deserved one.
 
In the context of this series, however, I leave you with this thought, recently tweeted by The Good Phight:  “Howard is 357/407/571 lifetime against Leake, Arroyo and Bailey with 4 hr and 11 RBI in 47 PA.”
 
So. Maybe he is good for something after all.

6) What are your predictions on the outcome of this series (Phillies coming in strong, Reds struggling with a five-game losing streak after two losses in St. Louis and a weekend sweep in Pittsburgh)?

Wins are wins – you still have to defeat the Marlins when you play them, so yes, I’d agree the Phillies are technically “hot.”  It’s just… tough to convince yourself of that.  Really, we should have won all of those games.  What did we score, like six runs in three games against baseball’s deformed Miami step-cousin?  WOW THAT’S IMPRESSIVE.
 
The Phillies are a team that could be just what Cincinnati needs – a weak team, showing blinks of complacency already.  Our playoff hopes hinge on staying at .500 and getting lucky.  Your’s depend on your good players playing well.  
 
But you guys should be demoralized as well, we’re not seeing your best pitchers, and according to numbers, you ARE seeing ours (Lee, Kendrick, Lannan. 2013 is weird).  A new series, a new city may breathe new life into previously quiet bats.  I say we take two out of three, Cliff Lee dominates in the opener, Howard hits a pair of dingers throughout, Chase keeps causing trouble, and Freddy Galvis makes an impact with the glove.
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Continue the conversation with me on Twitter @JDRentz

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