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Know Your Enemy: Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies are in the "long-range planning" phase.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies were bad last year, losing 99 games. Yet they took five of seven from the 97-win Cubs. Because baseball, I suppose.

There have been changes here. Ruben Amaro, who seemed mired in the 1950s when it came to general managing, has been replaced. So have a fair number of starting players from last year, except for Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz, who are under longterm contracts, and the last vestiges of the Phillies playoff teams from last decade. Ruiz will likely back up Cameron Rupp, who should not be confused with backup first baseman Darin Ruf. (I'm reminded of the joke at the top of this link.)

Some of the new young Phillies players appear to have promise, particularly third baseman Maikel Franco and center fielder Odubel Herrera. (And if Herrera trips up at the last minute trying to catch Kris Bryant's fly ball last July 25, maybe the Cubs' no-hit streak is still going.)

Philly's rotation? Uh... Jeremy Hellickson is currently the No. 1 starter on their depth chart. That can't be a good thing. Charlie Morton is No. 2.

The good news is that Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff, young pitchers who made their debuts last year, both have a chance to be very good. Nola, in particular, had a nice debut year (3.59 ERA, 1.197 WHIP, 1.9 bWAR in 13 starts). So the Phillies' rotation will be quite uneven this year. At times, they might put together some really good outings; at times they'll get pounded.

They'll further get pounded because their bullpen is filled with guys with very little big-league experience. The aformentioned depth chart has David Hernandez at closer. He has 19 major-league saves, 11 of them in 2011 for the Diamondbacks. They could have trouble holding leads.

The Phillies have this going for them: the Braves. That'll prevent them from finishing last in the N.L. East.

The Cubs and Phillies will play their entire season series in a two-week span: at Wrigley Field May 27-28-29, and in Philadelphia June 6-7-8.