Do back-to-back World Series trips equal a dynasty? To paraphrase Winston Wolf, let’s not go there just quite yet.

During the recently-completed World Series, Bart Hubbuch, the New York Post’s beat writer for the Mets, wrote an article about the Phillies becoming a dynasty.  Hubbuch cited a young core, solid support players and young pitching as reasons for the Phillies becoming a team to reckon with over the next few seasons.  He wrote:

“This is a dynasty in the making, an NL team with an offense built like an AL team and a deep well of young pitching (look for J.A. Happ to win NL Rookie of the Year) that few in baseball can match. If the Phillies can get their bullpen in order, and the struggles this season might just be a one-year aberration, then the Mets and a lot of other teams could be wandering in the wilderness in quite a while.”

It is one thing to respect the Phillies, they have certainly earned that the past three seasons.  However, it is another matter entirely to bow down before them and call them overlords.  Let’s check out each of Hubbuch’s statements and see how they stack up in real life.

An offense built like an AL team

The starting shortstop had an OPS+ of 85 while the starting third baseman posted an 80.  Those are American League numbers; the problem is that they belong on the Royals.  But it is not really fair to pick on the two worst hitters.  Instead, let’s look at each player and see how they rate and how likely they are to repeat those numbers going forward.

C – Carlos Ruiz (OPS+ 103) – His two previous seasons in the majors his OPS+ checked in at 86 and 63.  Perhaps this was a career year.

1B – Ryan Howard (139) – He is likely to continue at this level for the next few seasons.  However, his .207/.298/.356 line versus lefties is worrisome.

2B – Chase Utley (135) –  He is likely to continue at this level for the next few seasons.  His World Series performance let the whole world know what a great player he is.

3B – Pedro Feliz (80) – Matches perfectly what he’s done the previous four seasons.  At his age, he will only get worse going forward.

SS – Jimmy Rollins (85) – Beneath what he has done recently.  Could rebound some going forward but he is nowhere near the star the mainstream media thinks he is.

LF – Raul Ibanez (130) – This was the highest mark of his career. After the All-Star break, he posted a .232/.326/.448 line.  He’s also 37-years old.  Likely to regress going forward.

CF – Shane Victorino (109) – Essentially what he hit the year before.  Likely to repeat this the next few seasons.

RF – Jayson Werth (127) – A slight improvement on what he did the year before.  Likely to repeat this going forward.

So, the Phillies have very good production from Howard, Utley, Victorino (relative to position) and Werth.  Feliz, Ibanez and Ruiz are likely to regress, Rollins should improve but not by an outstanding amount.  That makes four very good hitters.  Rollins and Ibanez are likely to be above-average for position but not at an elite level.  Ruiz and Feliz are likely to be anchors.  This is a good offensive squad but not one that rivals the 1927 Yankees.

A deep well of young pitching

Joe Blanton (age 29) – A solid #3 SP

Cole Hamels (26) – Took a giant step backwards last year.  Could return to an elite level or could continue putting up Blanton-like numbers like he did last year.

J.A. Happ (27) – One of the luckiest pitchers in baseball in 2009.  His ERA was 1.40 runs lower than his FIP, the biggest discrepancy in the majors.  Likely to regress significantly next year.

Jamie Moyer (47) – Tied for the team lead with 12 wins.  It is a risky bet to assume he will do that again next year.

Cliff Lee (31) – Was masterful when first acquired.  His last six starts he was 2-3 with a 5.45 ERA.  Opposing batters put up an .837 OPS against him the final month of the season.  I like Lee and I have no problems assigning him as a #1 SP.

Three other pitchers under 25 started a game for the Phillies last year.  Kyle Kendrick piles up wins despite lousy peripherals, Antonio Bastardo has a great name but gave up 17 ER in 24.2 IP and Andrew Carpenter is a righty who averages under 90 with his fastball.  This is a nice group of #6-#8 pitchers, but nothing to get excited about.

Lee, Hamels and Blanton are a nice top three and Happ should be acceptable as a #4 SP.  This is a good staff but not one that should strike fear into NL East opponents

Wandering in the wilderness

The Phillies have a good team, one that no NL squad should look forward to facing.  But it is erroneous to expect them to bury the rest of the division for the next few years.  The Braves have built a much better pitching staff, arguably the Marlins, too, and the Mets when healthy in 2008 had an offense similar to what the Phillies have.

And speaking of health, the Phillies enjoyed an extremely healthy year in 2009.  Each of their five starters made at least 30 starts (Lee made 34 combined between Cleveland and Philadelphia).  Their infielders and outfielders each had at least 500 ABs.  Ibanez played in the fewest games with 134.  As Mets fans can vouch for, it is unlikely they will be that healthy in 2010.

The Phillies’ bullpen is still a giant question mark.

It’s difficult to project teams when off-season moves have just barely started.  As of right now, the Phillies have to be considered the favorites to win the division.  Barring a blockbuster move by the Braves, it will probably be the same way on Opening Day.  But just because they are the favorites to win the division does not translate into a dynasty.  There are enough question marks on that team to keep things interesting throughout the 2010 season in the NL East.

Calling the Phillies a dynasty is premature.

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