The Phillies won 71 games in 2016. Vegas odds have them ever-so-slightly improved, putting this season’s over-under at 72.5. So what’s your number? Here’s a handy guide. For each question you answer “yes” to, add two wins to 72.5. For each “no,” subtract two.
1.Will Aaron Nola and Vince Velasquez, both potential top-of-the-rotation hurlers, be able to avoid recurring arm injuries and give this team 50 good starts?
2.Is CFOdubelHerrera the All-Star slugger we saw through the firstof June last year (.319/.425/.449), rather than the impatientairheadwho played the rest of the season (.271/.328/.407)?
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3.Last year’sPhilshad the fourth-most strikeouts and fewest walks among 15 NL teams. Will the frisky hitters on this roster listen to new hitting coach Matt Stairs, who played19 MLB seasons despite having the body of a man stuck in a brewery?
4. Speaking of hitters without a sense of the strike zone,MaikelFranco’s status seems to have moved from “future superstar” to “league leader in sky-highpop-upsto short.” He’s just 24. Can he get hismojoback?
5.At one point,JeradEickhoffwas the “other guy” in the ColeHamelsdeal. But having found his curve ball in 2016 he became the best player from that haul. CanEickhoffcontinue to arc upward?
6. Gone are Ryan Howard,Chooch, CodyAsche, PeterBourjosand Darin Ruf. That alone has to be worth at least a few extra wins, don’t you think?
7.As a rookie, Tommy Joseph hit a home run every 15 at-bats. Give him 450 ABs and that’s 30 homers. Trust the math?
8.Everyone — players, fans, media — praises 65-year-old manager PeteMackanin, even though ownership has yet to guarantee his contract for 2018. Will we all still be fond ofMackaninwhen spring turns to summer?
9.ThePhilseight outfielders not named Herrera combined for just 22 homers and 107 RBIs last season. You have no doubt veteran additions Michael Saunders andHowieKendrick can surpass that measly sum by themselves, right?
10.JeanmarGomez was a solid closer last season — until he got terrible in September. So, willMackaninfind a dependable ninth-inning guy from among Gomez, HectorNerisor octogenarian Joaquin Benoit?
11. If this club manages to win a few games, do you have faith that franchiserebuilderAndyMacPhailand fresh-scrubbed kid GM MattKlentakwill make the deals that can put them in the pennant race?
12. Will this season show real contributions from the next generation: Jorge Alfaro, Roman Quinn, J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams?
So what’s your tally? I go “yes” on 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11 and 12. That adds a net eight wins, which puts it at 80.5. I’ll round up to have thePhilsgo 81-81.
That’s probably over-optimistic, but I came within one game last year using this guide so I’ll trust my instincts. Besides, if the answer to question 12 is a “yes,” we’ll have enough reason to watch all season.