What else can baseball fans do in January but dream of October? In You May Say I’m a Dreamer, the Outside Corner staff will imagine the route to a World Series in 2012 title for all 30 teams.
After three straight years of playoff disappointment, the Philadelphia Phillies have reached the promised land, and have won their second World Championship in the last five seasons, defeating the Los Angeles Angels in five games. Philadelphia won a franchise record 104 games, topping the previous high set last season of 102.
The Phillies holy trinity of starting pitchers, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels, were even better in 2012 than they were in 2011. The trio combined for 61 wins and just 17 losses, with each pitcher keeping their ERA under 3.00, striking out at least 200 batters, and throwing at least 220 innings. Lee was the Cy Young winner for the National League for the season, with an oustanding 21-4 record, a 2.47 ERA, and 217 strikeouts in 224 innings. The team ensured that their dominance would last for at least another couple of seasons after signing Cole Hamels to a three year, $57 million extension in June.
Behind Halladay, Hamels, and Lee, Philadelphia got a solid sophomore season out of Vance Worley, who won 15 games and threw 180 innings of 3.37 ERA ball. Even fifth starter Joe Blanton held his own, with ten wins and a 4.12 ERA. In the bullpen, new closer Jonathan Papelbon lived up to his lofty expectations, saving 43 games, striking out 91 in 67 innings, and making the club forget about former closer Ryan Madson. The rest of the bullpen was quite strong too, as Jose Contreras stayed healthy all season and threw 50 innings with a 2.14 ERA. Youngsters Michael Stutes and David Herndon both had solid seasons, and offseason signees Dontrelle Willis and Chad Qualls has varying degrees of success as well.
The offense wasn’t loaded with superstar performances, but they held his own. First baseman Ryan Howard didn’t play his first game until June 17th, but still hit 24 homers with an .836 OPS. While Howard was out, veterans Jim Thome and Ty Wigginton hit 12 homers combined over the first two months of the season. In left field, John Mayberry flourished, hitting 27 homers over 400 plate appearances. Laynce Nix struggled, and was replaced in the platoon by Domonic Brown, who finally showed some of his potential, OPSing .901 in 200 plate appearances in limited duty after May. Center fielder Shane Victorino had another good season and finally had his 20/20 season, hitting 21 homers and stealing 23 bases. Hunter Pence OPSed .917 in his final year as a Phillie, and the team needs to decide whether or not to give the free agent a long-term deal.
Past first base, the rest of the infield was OK. Chase Utley continued his slide after a broken hand, only OPSing .778 and hitting 12 homers. He did steal 17 bases though. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins made Philadelphia’s investment in him look bad, as he just managed to OPS .712 and stole only 22 bases, missing about a month with an ankle injury. Third baseman Placido Polanco hit .290, but only hit three homers and walked just 31 times. Behind the plate, Carlos Ruiz had a typical Ruiz season, with plenty of doubles and walks with a minimal amount of homers, leading to a .761 OPS.
The Phillies didn’t need to do much with their 2011 team in order to return to the playoffs in 2012, and they didn’t do a lot. But what they did do was enough to give them another World Championship, and solidified Charlie Manuel as the best manager in team history, and that the team is truly the heart of Philadelphia (with apologies to the Eagles, Flyers and Sixers).