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Philadelphia Phillies' 2014 Preview: Starting lineup to exceed expectations

Fair analysis should represent fact, considered opinions and certain decisions. The choice every baseball enthusiast makes every season is to believe in the upside, the downside or some realistic area of the field that lies in between.

The Philadelphia Phillies were one of the major leagues major offensive machines for a number of years. But, that was a number of years ago.

General manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. decided (over time) to retain the services of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz after taking over for Pat Gillick following the 2008 World Series parade. Many front office bosses wouldn't have done the same. But, the fact is that these mid-30s' men still represent one-half of Philadelphia's starting lineup.

Ryne Sandberg saw Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and Cody Asche perform last year. During the off-season, Amaro advised 'Ryno' that Marlon Byrd would be added to his outfield contingent.

There are a mix of younger and middle-aged men who will fill a variety of bench roles during this coming season. Currently, none of them, with the exception of Darrin Ruf, can be counted on to take over and play consistently if any of the top eight position players are missing.

A fair review, even an optimistic one, won't honestly promote the 2014 Phillies' lineup potential as anything other than questionable. However, it's reasonable to claim that reasonable health could enable a modest overall increase in run production.

In this humble baseball analyst’s view: Sandberg will see approximately 650 red pinstriped men cross the plate this season, which would be an increase 40 runs when compared to 2013. Besting last year's run total would therefore beat current collective expectations.

Of course, pitching, defense, other franchise factors and every opposing team's digital blotter must be blended into a full Phillies' projection. And that's what future spring training columns will show.

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