The Phillies still have Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Pedro Feliz in the infield. They still have Cole Hamels, Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson and Joe Blanton on the pitching staff. Carlos Ruiz is still calling games behind the plate. Shane Victorino is still causing fits for opponents and Jayson Werth is still scattering extra-base hits.
The 2009 Phillies look very much like the 2008 Phillies, who won the franchise's second World Series in 126 years.
But are they better?
"Different, not necessarily better," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said.
It is too early to say that. The '08 Phillies won it all. They had a parade down Broad Street. The '09 Phillies, who will open the World Series on Wednesday night in New York or Anaheim, still have four more games to win.
But in an era when there can be tremendous turnover from one season to the next, the Phillies had 17 of 25 players from last year's World Series roster on this year's National League Championship Series roster: Ruiz, Howard, Utley, Rollins, Feliz, Victorino, Werth, Greg Dobbs, Eric Bruntlett, Matt Stairs, Hamels, Blanton, Lidge, J.A. Happ, Madson, Scott Eyre and Chad Durbin. That number could jump to 18 if the Phillies replace rookie left-hander Antonio Bastardo on this year's World Series roster with right-hander Brett Myers.
Cliff Lee, Raul Ibanez, Pedro Martinez, Chan Ho Park, Ben Francisco, Paul Bako, Miguel Cairo and Bastardo are the new faces. They have replaced Jamie Moyer, Pat Burrell, Myers, J.C. Romero, Geoff Jenkins, Chris Coste, So Taguchi and Clay Condrey.
"For the most part it's fairly the same," Utley said. "We have a few new pitchers. Obviously, the addition of Raul is different. I think the experience that we got last year makes us a better group overall. Individually, I think we've all improved. Not necessarily statistics-wise, but mentally we're tougher than we were last year."
The '08 Phillies had better pitching during the regular season, but the '09 Phillies had a better offense and defense.
Back so soon?
|2000||Yankees||Lost to Diamondbacks|
|1995||Braves||Lost to Yankees|
|1992||Blue Jays||Defeated Phillies|
|1989||A's||Lost to Reds|
|1970||Orioles||Lost to Pirates|
The '09 Phillies scored 820 runs and committed just 76 errors compared to the '08 Phillies, who scored 799 runs and committed 90 errors.
But those numbers can be thrown out in the postseason. For example, the Phillies' bullpen is 4-1 with a 2.88 ERA since postseason play began. They have pitched well. And while Hamels certainly has struggled this postseason compared to last, Lee has been phenomenal.
But it is experience that sets these Phillies apart from last year's team.
Last year's team had no idea what to expect in the World Series.
There will be no surprises this year.
"Just the experience that we had last year, playing in October, playing for a championship, knowing that you're facing the best pitchers every single night, playing defense in cold weather," Utley said. "Just having all those experiences kind of helps slow the game down. I've talked about this before, but this game can be very quick at times. But the guys that are able to slow it down even when things are happening fast, those are the guys that are successful."
"They know what to expect," he said. "We've got guys like Pedro. Raul has been in the playoffs, but not in the World Series. It's easier when you've gone through the process. ... Our guys just aren't fazed very much.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.