Atlanta Braves - Philadelphia Phillies: Series Preview

The Philadelphia Phillies are coming to town to face our Atlanta Braves for the final three games of this last homestand before the All-Star break. As part of our ongoing series of series previews, I exchanged some questions with Peter Baker of the Phillies blog, The Good Phight.

One of the writers at The Good Phight, MattS, is also in the running for the Baseball Prospectus Idol contest. If you're a member of BP, then you can vote for who you think should win. Let's show our support, even for an enemy, and help MattS win the contest. Go here to read this week's article and vote.

Now back to the series preview. Below are my questions and Peter's answers. My answers to his questions can be found here.

Q:  After Cole Hamels, do the Phillies have a starting rotation that can win enough games to get you to the postseason? Do they have enough to win in the postseason if you make it there?

A:  They're basically down Brett Myers, which is a pretty big deal, especially if he's dealing the way he was during the second half last season. Jamie Moyer had a very fortunate season last year, and now he's pitching like, well, a 46 year old. Joe Blanton can be great but he's basically a slightly above average starter (which isn't a bad thing). The team is leaning on a fairly rickety framework of a rotation based on hope and luck, which isn't a great long-term strategy. They need another starter, and I expect they'll go get one.

Q:  What in the hell has happened to Jimmy Rollins (not that anyone outside of Philly has shed a tear)? Do you think the recent time on the bench will help him?

A:  I didn't really know there was a lot of Rollins hate out there, aside from New York and Atlanta. Go figure.

As for what happened, damned if I know. A player who is 30 years old is subject to and likely to decline, but not to fall off a cliff. There isn't much discussion of injury, so I have to think there's something in his head. Rollins has tended to react favorably to managerial discipline and guidance, so I'm hopeful he can rebound to some semblance of his prior self.

Q:  It looks like we'll just miss Raul Ibanez coming back from the DL. He's been a whole lot better than Pat the bat this year, but Ibanez was coming down to earth before he got injured. What kind of player do you think he'll be for the rest of the year, the guy who hit .359 in April, or the guy who hit .254 in June? Is anyone in Philly missing Pat Burrell?

A:  It's probably a cop-out answer, but he's going to be somewhere in between. No one's deluded enough to think Ibanez became Albert Pujols, but he's certainly better than he was in most of June, and I think the groin injury had a great deal to do with that decline in performance. I expect Ibanez's performance through the end of the season to be somewhere along the lines of his career norms -- .290/.350/.500.

As for Pat Burrell, I'm certain the ladies of Philadelphia miss him, and the guy was a great teammate and openly loved Philadelphia, which is kind of rare among athletes. But thusfar, comparing the performance of Ibanez and Burrell, is there really anything to say?

Q:  Was last year a fluke for Brad Lidge? He's been pretty awful this season, is there anything that points to why? Are Phillies fans regretting that 3-year contract he signed last year?

A:  Lidge has clearly shown the ability to be great over multiple seasons, but he has this awful tendency to just melt down, like he did in 2006 with Houston and like he has so far this year. I strongly think the knee injury is a lingering problem that hasn't been properly treated or diagnosed, and that everyone is better off if Lidge takes all the time he needs to get the knee right before coming back to pitch in high leverage situations. I don't really regret the contract (yet) because I believe he's just as likely to have another 2008 next season as he is a 2009.

Q:  Is the team in a position to make a trade before the deadline, and if so, who should they trade for?

A:  It depends on how the market shakes out. They are definitely in the market for a pitcher, and they have the prospects to get it done. It's just a matter of whether they want to empty the farm for a top-level pitcher. I'm intrigued by the idea of Cliff Lee and I would support selling just about everyone (except for Kyle Drabek) to get him here. I'd also be interested in Erik Bedard, depending on his health, and Roy Oswalt, if the price is right. In reality, we're probably looking at a Jason Marquis or Brian Bannister type -- not earth-shattering, but someone who's likely to be an innings-eater. And sitting next to a shiny World Series trophy, I'm more than content to hold back and preserve the farm system in order to stay competitive in the long term than to go all-in for a longshot at a second title.

Many thanks to Peter for his great answers to my questions.

For a preview of the pitching matchups in this series, visit bigjoe's series preview at Braves Heart.

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