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Age and injury dismantle an offense



Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It wasn't so long ago, that fantasy owners bid into the stratosphere to put many of the Philadelphia Phillies batters onto their roster and into their fantasy lineups. Really, it wasn't.

The Phillies offense averaged 820 runs a season from 2007 through 2010.

Leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins won the National League MVP in 2007 with a 30 HR, 41 SB season. Center fielder and No. 2 hitter Shane Victorino would hit 10-15 homers and steal bases too. Chase Utley was the premier fantasy second baseman and a top-five fantasy selection averaging 29 HR and 100 RBI from a historically weak hitting position. And of course the big man, Ryan Howard, provided the really big numbers. The Phillies first baseman averaged almost 43 HR and 133 RBI over that four-year span. The team also got useful production over the years from guys like Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand and Jayson Werth.

How the mighty have fallen!

Last season the Philadelphia offense scored just 713 runs and made it into the playoffs on the back of their pitching staff.

And the start of the 2012 season is beginning to look really ugly. The Phillies offense has managed just six runs in the first three games and they were against the Pittsburgh Pirates, not a title contender.

Rollins (Yahoo ADP 69) is still in the lineup, but is off to his normal slow start. His second half OPS is 64 points higher than the first half, but 1,639 games at shortstop have taken its toll on his 33-year-old body and has put an upper limit on his productivity. At this point in his career, he's probably good for 12-15 homers and around 65 RBI despite the fact that he'll bat third in the 2012 Phillies lineup. The change in the order may also limit his running as manager Charlie Manuel isn't a big believer in running in front of your best hitter. taking everything into consideration, Rollins may not be able to produce sixth-round fantasy value.

Victorino, at 31-years-old, is still the Flyin' Hawaiian, and should produce a Victorino-like season, but he'll see fewer fastballs with Rollins instead of Utley for protection.

Hunter Pence (ADP 43) is the Phillies best hitter at the moment and could still give you fair market value, but at least at the beginning of the year, with Utley and Howard sidelined, could struggle to produce huge numbers. It's hard when you come up with the bases empty.

The return of Utley (knees) and Howard (Achilles) will certainly help, but when that happens is still an unknown.

Howard finally took off the walking boot a couple of weeks ago and has done some fielding exercises, but isn't expected back much before Memorial Day. We will have a better idea after an April 10 visit with Dr. Mark Myerson. Even when he comes back, things aren't exactly rosy. He's not the 45-HR, 135-RBI guy of a few years ago. Prorating the season for a June 1 start, Howard is good for 20 HR and 75 RBI at best. If you got him in the 11th round (ADP 121), however, that still could be a bargain.

Fantasy owners who took a flier on Utley are in a more difficult situation with no timetable for his return yet announced. Simply put, Utley's knee problems aren't going to go away and its a matter of his ability to play with pain. Last year he didn't return until the end of May and put up mediocre numbers by his standards (.259, 11 HR, 44 RBI in 103 games). In most Yahoo leagues he was a late round pick or a free agent (ADP 260). At that price he's worth stashing on your bench as even a couple of good Utley-type months could help you to a title.

However, the days of fantasy owners falling over one another to scoop up Philadelphia hitters are definitely gone.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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