The Philadelphia Phillies have been a National League East juggernaut from 2007-2011. They finished in first place in the NL East all five seasons and made it to the World Series back-to-back in 2008-2009, winning it once in 2008. Then out of nowhere the mighty Phillies hit a brick wall in the 2012 season. They finished with an 81-81 record, good for a third place finish in the division. This was the first time since 2006 that the Phillies did not finish in top spot. Poor play and injuries to key players such as pitcher Roy Halladay, second basemen Chase Utley and first basemen Ryan Howard, lead to a slow start, and although there was a small push for the wild-card, the poor start ultimately lead them to the sub-standard finish.
This year is a new year for the Phillies. Their slate has been wiped clean, and you can bet a strong push to regain their top spot is in the works. There are however, two obstacles in the way of Philadelphia – the Washington Nationals and the Atlanta Braves. The Nats finished first in the division and have a young, talented team who just had a taste of the playoffs and will want to take the first place title again this season. They have a great chance to do so with Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg as their co-aces. You can bet that Strasburg wont be shut down at the end of the season either this time around. The Atlanta Braves finished runners-up, but lost the Wildcard game to the St-Louis Cardinals. This time around they bolstered their lineup by signing out fielder BJ Upton and acquired his brother, Justin Upton, in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks. They did, however, lose Chipper Jones to retirement, but the team’s core players are still intact for the upcoming season.
The Nats and Braves look to be the top two teams, but do not count out the Phillies just yet. With Howard, Halladay and Utley back in the lineup completely healthy, and the new additions such as outfielders Delmon Young, Ben Revere and third baseman Michael Young, they could make a good run at the top spot in the East. Also I still think the Phillies have the best rotation in the East with Roy Halladay, Cole Hammels and Cliff Lee as the 1-2-3 pitchers, and of course they have Jonathan Papelbon as their closer. Last season saw poor play against their division which didn’t help the cause, as they went 33-39 against NL East opponents. If they can improve that record things could be smooth sailing for Philly.
The Phillies could also benefit being under the radar since major focus this season will be on the Braves and Nats battling for the division. This way the Phillies might not have as many expectations and pressure on them and they can hopefully just focus on playing baseball. Again, as long as they stay healthy the Phillies could be a force to be reckoned with, and with the way the season ended you know everyone on that team wants to prove that they are better than last year.
That is why the Philadelphia Phillies are my National League East team watch for this season.
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