The recent past: Wes Helms went through somewhat of a rebuilding after the 2004 season. That's when he started working with a personal trainer who designed a regimen to knock off some fat and excess muscle from Helms' body. That change, along with a shorter stroke at the plate have helped Helms improve his usual numbers.
After the 2004 season, Helms was a career .251 hitter with one homerun ever 27 at bats. Over the past two seasons, he's hit .316 with one homerun every 29 at bats, but that number improved to one every 24 at bats with the Marlins in 2006.
Perhaps the biggest part of Helms' improvement has simply been putting the bat on the ball. After his 2004 season, he had been striking out at an average of once every 3.8 at bats, but has whiffed just once every 4.8 at bats over the last two years.
Ducks on the pond: The Phillies' problems with scoring runs when they put runners in scoring position is well noted. Last season, Helms hit .286 with runners in scoring position (RISP) after hitting .313 in the same situation with Milwaukee in 2005. Again, prior to that season, Helms wasn't anywhere near those numbers, generally hitting around .260 as an RISP.
Love the glove? Well, Helms isn't exactly a shining star as a defensive third baseman, but he's not the worst, either. Again, the physical changes have helped Helms defensively and he gets a much better jump on the ball and moves pretty well side-to-side. Odds are that late in tight games, Abraham Nunez will be called on to play third base for his superior defensive skills.
It's all about timing: Don't lose sight of the deal that Helms signed in terms of length. He's definitely in Philly through the 2008 season and possibly one more. That timing fits perfectly for Mike Costanzo, the heir apparent at third. Costanzo will be at AA Reading in 2007 and figures to need two seasons in the minors before truly being ready for the prime-time in Philly. If he needs another year - and he's not likely to - the Phillies could retain Helms or at least keep him around as a mentor for Costanzo.
Let's bottom line this thing: For the money, Helms is a nice addition. He's a tough sort of player that fans will love and he's not going to hurt you in any aspect of his game. If his offensive numbers from the past two seasons continue, he'll be a nice addition to the lineup and the fact that he's a right-handed hitter certainly helps. He's a nice bridge between what the Phillies have now and the expected arrival of Costanzo, who figures to be the Phillies' third baseman of the future.