Phillies fan panel identifies areas of concern

A few weeks ago, asked my and others’ opinions on the upcoming Phillies’ season. Below is the piece posted on Feb. 11. [To comment:]

The fan panel responds to the following question: What are your biggest concerns?

Larry Litwin, Berlin, N.J.: My biggest concern is right- and leftfield offense. Defensively – not a problem. We will know soon enough whether Raul is up to the task. As for rightfield, even with Werth’s sting, he lacked the consistency I look for. That hole can be plugged, but the offensive production calls for a .270 average and a total of 25 home runs and 75 RBI out of that position. All that said: Ryan Howard has to put last year behind him – especially that last at-bat – and practice discipline as he approaches the plate. At this stage, I’d be surprised not to see the Phillies in the World Series. But I’ve been a Phillies fan all of my life, so I am a realist. That’s why I say surprised and not shocked.

Robert Finafrock, Orrtanna: Righthanded batting success. We need to get a righthanded power man.

Rob Pino, South Philly: My biggest concern is Chase Utley. His batting average and OPS have slipped for 3 consecutive years. We need him to produce like a No. 3 hitter again if this team is going to put up big offensive numbers.

John Burgo, Eagleville: My biggest concern is an aging team, which will result in an offensive dropoff from the lineup, further depleted by the loss of Jayson Werth.

Kevin S. Prosser, Philadelphia: My biggest concern is the bench. Our team is getting older and they need to be rested every now and then. If there is an injury, we need someone to step in and give us professional baseball. A big pinch-hit wouldn’t hurt, either.

Fred Harris, Sewell, N.J.: The Phillies do not become complacent with an outstanding pitching rotation.

Bill Avington, Bensalem: My biggest concern is offense, believe it or not. Yes, their track record seems to indicate that last year was a fluke, but I worry that it may not be. I hope that Ryan Howard and Chase Utley can bounce back from years below their own expectations and that Jimmy Rollins comes back from injuries to be one of the top shortstops in the game.

Bud Shaffer, Hatboro: My biggest concern is the production of the corner outfielders. Who will be out there? How will they hit? Will they be able to protect Howard? Can they play adequate defense? Should be an interesting spring to see how that sets up for the regular season.

Jim Lyons, Northeast Philly: My biggest concern is our hitting. I don’t see our guys having enough patience at the plate. I know injuries played a big part in last year’s lack of hitting and I hope that doesn’t happen this coming year.

Ray Kelly, Yardley: Replacing Werth’s bat is a big concern for the new season. I’m also concerned about Jimmy Rollins. I’m hoping he recaptures his swing of 2 years ago. The Phillies must return to the hitters they were 2 years ago. Chase Utley has me worried. His hitting and fielding were off last year. I’m hoping a healthy Chase returns to form.

Bill Moore, Deptford, N.J.: My biggest concern is really twofold: Are these guys getting old too fast? And is getting old the reason for the prolonged offensive slumps and injuries? Last season was unbelievable with the injuries and the lack of offense for long periods of time. I am really hoping that if Jimmy Rollins can stay healthy all year this team can be the best Phillies team ever because he seems to be the spark that sets the team off.

Rob Kilby, Bordentown, N.J.: My biggest concern has to be who the five-hole hitter will be. I’m guessing that there will probably be a platoon situation at both corner outfield positions. Out of those four guys, they need to have a righty and a lefty step up to show some consistency and power to protect Howard. And speaking of the big guy, see the ball, hit the ball.

Mike Breggar, Cherry Hill: Can this team be relatively injury-free this year? Can the offense revive to its spectacular 2008 grandeur?

Jack Martin, Ambler: I am most concerned that the Phillies have a reasonably healthy year. They need to avoid big injuries to the starting rotation and key team leaders, Utely, Howard and Rollins.

David Chalecki, Sellersville: Offensive constancy is my biggest concern. With the exception of a few blowouts, I never thought the Phillies’ bats got hot last season.

Ed Gallagher III, Philadelphia: Bottom Line – INNINGS!!! Our “dream-team rotation” has thrown a lot of innings the last 2-3 years, and I’m just hoping they will stay healthy, and that Charlie will have the wherewithal/gusto to take these guys out an inning or two early to preserve those “million dollar” cannons for October, when the real battles begin . . .

Mike Hart, Ridley Park: The starting pitching has to stay healthy and the bats need to be consistent. Last year we would go 2 weeks blowing teams out and then the next 2 weeks we would struggle to get more than two runs. If we can be consistent and score four to six runs a game, this will be a fun-filled season. Staying healthy will be key to the team’s success.

Jonathan Finafrock, Downingtown: Offensive productivity – Will the bats provide the runs? Or will they go cold as they did in the 2010 NLCS? We can’t win all the games 2-1!! If the Phils can score four to five runs, then every game is winnable . . . the closer role is also suspect.

David B. Jones, Skippack: My biggest concern is the hitting. If the team’s offense does not produce about three runs a night, the pitching will need to be near perfect, and that may be a bit difficult on the pitching staff. If the aces go out there and have a three-or-more run lead early in the game, they will be able to pitch from ahead. That is always easier on them.

Paul Groffie, Marlton, N.J.: My biggest fear is that the team continues to struggle at the plate, thus putting more pressure on the starters to be perfect instead of relaxed.

Jeff Berman, Lower Southampton: I am most concerned that Chase Utley and Ryan Howard’s postseason hitting slump follows them into the regular season. They came up very small in the playoffs.

Kate Campbell, Exton: Will Ryan Howard rebound? Will Jimmy Rollins rebound – at least back to great defense and strategic hitting, if not blazing speed on the basepaths?
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