COMMENTARY | Spring training stats don’t mean much come the regular season. But for the suddenly aging and vulnerable Philadelphia Phillies, productivity in March is a good sign, especially for the injury question marks from the disappointment that was the 2012 season.
It seems like ages ago when the Phillies won the 2008 World Series and with a core group all in its prime and multiple championships were a real possibility.
Four seasons have passed. Zero additional championships have been won and the season finish has progressively gotten worse. Division rivals Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals — last year’s NL East champion — continue to add stellar young players to their lineups.
Ryan Howard is 33-years-old. Chase Utley is 34-years-old. Roy Halladay is 35-years-old. All three spent significant time on the Disabled List last season, especially Utley and Howard, who started the season on the DL and didn’t get activated until June 27 and July 6, respectively.
Cliff Lee, Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz — starting the season with a 25-game suspension — are all 34-years-old. New third baseman Michael Young is 36-years-old and coming off the worst season of his career since 2002.
Utley, Halladay, Young and Ruiz will be free agents after this season.
It seems like the championship window is closing at an alarmingly fast rate.
Yet if Spring Training so far is any indication of what the previously injured stars will bring to the table this season then there may be another, possibly final, year of magic.
Ryan Howard is hitting .500 this spring. He is amongst the team leaders with four games played. He is hitting .500 to go along with two RBIs. He does have three strikeouts in 10 at-bats (to go along with one walk), but that’s not much different then how the rest of his career has gone.
“It felt good to be able to cut back and forth, plant, go, reverse,” Howard said in a story on the team’s website.
Chase Utley hasn’t played in a Spring Training game since 2010 because of injuries. He had an RBI single in his first at-bat this spring and is 1-3 with one walk and one RBI.
“I feel good,” he said in an article on the team’s website, when asked about his knees. “Perfect.”
That statement can be taken with a grain of salt, but it is still an encouraging.
Roy Halladay has pitched in one game so far in Spring Training, going two innings, striking out two and walking no one. He gave up only one hit, which did happen to be a home run to Detroit’s Victor Martinez.
“I felt good. I’m happy with where things are,” Halladay told the media after the game.
It’s hard to imagine either player saying anything negative unless they were in an extreme amount of pain. Still, seeing the early production and hearing the encouraging words about their health is a good thing, a step in the right direction.
If the Phillies can get their ace and No. 3 and No. 4 hitters back to normal, or even a little less-than normal but healthy, then their fortunes could be very different from last season.
With a little extra health, this team may just have one more World Series run in them.
Phil Shore lives in New Jersey and is the creator and editor of Shore Thing Sports blog. He’s been published in The Boston Globe, Philly.com, FoxSoccer.com, LaxMagazine.com and New England Lacrosse Journal.