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November 22 2006

In 1993 the Phillies scored 877 runs.  They won the NL East before falling to Joe Carter and the Blue Jays in the World Series.  The 877 runs in '93 was the last time the Phils posted more than the 865 runs they scored in 2006.

That's the good news.  The bad news is that last year the Phillies' pitching was so bad it simply didn't matter.  Despite the offensive surge that made the Phillies the highest scoring team in the NL, the difference between the number of runs the Phillies scored and the number of runs they allowed was the worst it had been since 2002 when they allowed more runs than they scored.

Here's a look at the runs the Phillies have scored and allowed over the past five seasons:

 
Year Runs allowed Runs scored RS-RA W-L Pythagorean W-L
           
2006 812 865 +53 85-77 86-76
2005 726 807 +81 88-74 89-73
2004 781 840 +59 86-76 86-76
2003 697 791 +94 86-76 90-72
2002 724 710 -14 80-81 79-82

The Phillies seem sure to allow fewer runs next season.  All signs indicate they're going to add a fifth starter and they've already committed to bring back Jamie Moyer.  Out with the awful starts from Floyd and Madson and in with the starts from Moyer and Pitcher X seems sure to give the Phillies a boost. 

It's hard to know how the pen will look by the time April rolls around.  By the end of 2006 the Phils' pen was clearly a problem, but over the course of the season only four NL teams' relievers allowed fewer runs.  The pen may be worse in '07, but overall you would still expect the improved starting rotation is going to mean the Phillies allow far fewer runs than the 812 they allowed in 2006.  The last time that the Phillies allowed that many runs was 2000 when the team allowed 830 on its way to a 65-97 mark.

If the team seems sure to allow fewer runs in 2007 it also seems likely they will score fewer.  Bobby Abreu is gone after playing 98 games for the Phillies in '06.  Ryan Howard's '06 was spectacular, a historically magnificent season.  But it may have been the best year of his career.  The Phillies will, I expect, add a right-fielder and a catcher before the season starts, and those two players will play a significant role in the Phillies offense in 2007.  If they don't, however, and go with what they have now, we're looking at Victorino and Conine in right and Wes Helms at third, replacing Abreu/Dellucci and Bell from last season.  Victorino and Conine are a lock to produce less offense than Abreu/Dellucci.  Helms is a bigger question mark.  If he hits the way he has as a part time player over the past two season he'll improve the Phillies offense significantly.  There's a real chance, though, that he will produce at around the same level that Bell did in his 324 at-bats with the Phils in '06.  Bell hit 278/345/398 with the Phillies last season. 

In 2006 the Phillies' offense got better and their pitching got worse than it had been during the previous year.  The overall effect, however, was a worse team.  The offense didn't improve enough to offset how bad the pitching had gotten.  The difference between the number of runs they scored and the number of runs they allowed decreased.  More importantly, as a result they lost more games.

There is a point here, and here it comes.  Having a good offense or good pitching isn't a binary state.  It's a matter of degrees, which is why a team can't decide their offense is good already so it's okay to put a player at another position with limited ability to create or prevent runs.  Every run that player doesn't create is another run your pitching staff has to prevent to wind up in the same place.

The Phillies have a bunch of moves left this off-season.  While the pitching moves are the most critical, I think they have at least two left for hitters, one in right field and one at catcher, and those moves will go a long ways to determining the success of failure of the '07 team as well.

Carlos Lee doesn't want to play on the West Coast.  Wasn't there something about Soriano wanting to play on the East Coast?  The Orioles may offer Lee between $80 and $90 million over six years.

The Cardinals waived 29-year-old Larry Bigbie.  Bigbie has had two straight bad years in a row and missed time last season with a hernia.  In 2004 he got 478 at-bats for the Orioles and posted a 280/341/427 line with 15 home runs.  Even in Bigbie's best year Conine was a tiny bit better -- Conine hit a remarkably similar 280/340/432 in 521 at-bats in a much less hitter-friendly Pro Player Stadium in '04.  Bigbie wins in a who's-not-about-to-turn-41 contest, though.

The Yankees might make Ted Lilly an offer soon.  In all honesty, when you get right down to it a lot of things might happen.

On a related note, the Nats and the Red Sox might be discussing a deal that would involve sending Wily Mo Pena to the Nats for Chad Cordero.  Apparently Jim Bowden is the only person on earth other than Wily Mo's blood relatives who likes Pena more than I do.

The Mets may be in on the Padilla hunt.

Justin Morneau was named the MVP of the American League.  He edged out second-place finisher Derek Jeter, getting 15 first-place votes to Jeter's 12.  Morneau hit 321/375/559 with 34 HR and 130 RBI.  Travis Hafner, who hit 308/439/659 with 42 HR and 117 RBI, finished eighth and was in the top five on just one ballot.

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