MLB Preview: Can the Phillies score runs?

There is much debate on whether the Phillies’ window of opportunity is closing.

They’re too old. They can’t hit. They’re injury-prone. However, some believe that the team could go deep in the postseason this year and beyond as long as the three aces toe the mound for the Phillies.

“When you have three starters like Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, you have a distinct advantage over most other teams,” an NL scout said. “Sure, they may have some offensive issues, but you don’t have to score a heck of a lot of runs when you have that kind of pitching. They may have overspent for Jonathan Papelbon but look for him to be a terrific closer in Philly.”

The Phillies have the pitching. But someone has to drive in some runs to enable that staff to win games. According to Baseball Prospectus, the offensive decline for most hitters strikes when players are between 32 and 34, which is where many of these Phillies fall. Factor in that gaping hole in the heart of the order to start the season.

Remember, no Ryan Howard. And no Chase Utley.

“Nobody’s felt sorry for us in the past,” Phils skipper Charlie Manuel said. “I don’t think our guys feel that way. I feel like that’s what we have and that’s what we’re going to play with.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who won a World Series in 2009 with a Yankees squad led by stars in their mid-30s, thinks the Phillies’ offense will be just fine.

“I think that’s a team that can still go to the World Series,” Girardi said. “Not every team has a Jimmy Rollins, a Shane Victorino or Carlos Ruiz. Those guys are clutch guys. Look at the big hits Rollins and Ruiz have gotten in big situations and especially in the playoffs.

“I think most guys would take their chances managing a team like that. And at some point this season, they’ll get [Ryan] Howard back. I don’t think it’s all over for the Phillies by any stretch.”

The Phillies also have a GM willing to do whatever it takes to get to the postseason. When the Phillies needed arms, Ruben Amaro acquired the best, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. When the Phillies needed a bat, they scored the finest available last July by trading for Hunter Pence.

“That’s another reason to believe that the Phillies will be a strong contender every year,” the NL scout said. “They have a general manager who will go for it. Add that to a strong nucleus and good things should happen.”

Projected lineup

1. Jimmy Rollins, SS — J-Roll has had problems staying healthy and needs to up his .268 2011 average.

2. Placido Polanco, 3B — Chose not to upgrade. Need Polly to return to his 2010 form.

3. Shane Victorino, CF — Victorino is in his prime entering his walk year. Led Phils in OPS (.847) in 2011.

4. Hunter Pence, RF — He’s the key with Utley, Howard out. A full year of Pence should translate to big (Triple Crown?) numbers.

5. Wigginton, 1B — Journeyman batted .180 this spring. He’ll platoon with Mayberry, Laynce Nix, Jim Thome.

6. John Mayberry, LF — Has to prove he can hit righties: .236 vs. them for his career.

7. Carlos Ruiz, C — Phils will take .283 in the 7-hole. You can’t put a value on his defense.

8. Freddy Galvis, 2B — Can he hit big-league pitching? We’ll find out. Batted .256 this spring.

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