The Fourth of July State of the Philadelphia Phillies Address

With the Philadelphia Phillies leading the league with 53 wins and 32 losses by the sheer talent of their pitching staff and occasional bumps in offense, all has been well in the land of Phillies generally.  However, the Phillies are not without their problems, and these problems are perhaps more severe than they were last season.  Whereas the major concern with the inadequacy of the bullpen last season, this season the Phillies have contended with a depleted bullpen.  This is not good news at the present time, and hopefully, it won’t get worse as the season comes to a close.  Despite the 7-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays yesterday, with pitcher Cliff Lee on the mound, the Phillies are going into the All-Star Game with three Phillies pitchers, including Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, and third baseman Placido Polanco.  That is impressive indeed as three pitchers have generally been stellar, and Placido Polanco was one potent bat for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Pitching Staff

The much-touted pitching staff of the Philadelphia Phillies so far has been the best in the league with the Atlanta Braves tied at 3.04.  General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. made certain of an improvement in the pitching staff as a whole, after the San Francisco Giants pitching staff closed the doors on the Philadelphia Phillies last season.  However, the San Francisco Giants are not too far behind the Philadelphia Phillies ranked fifth overall presently with 3.20.  And Brian Wilson of the Giants is still one devastating closer as he is tied for first in the National League with 24 saves, and it appears he may come to haunt the Philadelphia Phillies offense this post-season perhaps.

Roy Halladay has been fantastic this season, much like every season as he is one consistent and elite pitcher.  He’s presently tied for first in the National League with 11 wins with Pittsburgh Pirates Kevin Correia and Atlanta Braves Jair Jurrjens.  He presently has a 2.44 ERA and an impressive 1.03 WHIP on 11 wins and 3 losses.  He is matching last season’s numbers so far with a 2.44 ERA and 1.04 WHIP.  Fortunately for him, he’s not known as a batter.  He’s actually performing worse than last season with a dismal 0.73 batting average presently.  It is only slightly worse than his previously dismal .141 batting average.  Halladay is third in ERA in the NL with 2.44 with his teammate Cole Hamels performing slightly better with 2.41 and Atlanta Braves Jair Jurrjens with a stunning 1.89 ERA.

Cliff Lee has been performing actually better than last season, with the month of June did giving him a boost. This season he has a 2.92 ERA and a spectacular 1.08 WHIP on 9 wins and 6 losses.  In his 2010 season with the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers, he had a 3.18 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.  Cliff Lee at present is tied with Cole Hamels in the National League with his 9 wins and eighth in ERA overall.  Lee’s batting average hasn’t been half-bad for a pitcher.  Currently, he has a .205 batting average and a .22o on-base percentage.  Compared to his 2009 season with the Philadelphia Phillies, he had .212 batting average and on-base percentage.  Lee is certainly no power hitter like Ryan Howard, but he contributes to the Phillies offense.

Cole Hamels has been performing significantly better than his previous season. Cole Hamels is currently tied in the NL with his 9 wins with Cliff Lee and, and he has the second best ERA in the NL with 2.41 ahead of Cliff Lee.  He has significantly improved over last season with his present 2.41 ERA over last season’s 3.16 and stunning 0.94 WHIP compared to last season’s 1.18.  Like his teammate Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels has actually contributed to the offense this season.  He has a respectable .222 batting average and .243 on-base percentage.  Hamels is certainly no offensive batting machine, but he is more than capable of generating some runs this season.  With his injury to his glove hand and cleared to play tomorrow against the Florida Marlins, it will be interesting if it throws him off his rhythm or not.

Roy Oswalt, the least-talked-about pitching ace of the Philadelphia Phillies, has been battling through a spinal injury as of late. Presently, he is on the 15-day disabled list as he converses with doctors.  He is the weakest chain of the four with a 3.79 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. Unfortunately, Oswalt has performed much worse than he did last season.  In his 2010 season with the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies, he had a 2.76 ERA and 1.03 WHIP.  In the meantime, his replacement Vance Worley has performed respectably.  Worley presently has 2.57 ERA and 1.33 WHIP.  Worley too has declined since last season.  His numbers for last season were a 1.38 ERA and 0.92 WHIP on 1 win and 1 loss.  Although Worley does show signs of elite pitching, it’s far too early to count as an ace pitcher.  In the meantime, Joe Blanton, the original fifth ace, is still on the disabled list as well.

Regarding the closers, the Philadelphia Phillies closers still aren’t anywhere elite status either. Brad Lidge has been pitching, and it appears that he is getting closer to returning to the Phillies bullpen.  Ryan Madson is not scheduled to come off the disabled list quite yet either, but no optimistic news has come yet.  Madson so far has had a pretty good season as Philadelphia Phillies closer nonetheless.  He is still 13th in the NL with 15 saves.  He is ranked about 4th or 5th in ERA among closers with a 2.03 ERA. His peer Jose Contreras, ranked 17th in the NL with 5 saves.  Unfortunately, Jose Contreras is still contending with his injury as well.  With the massacre in the bullpen, Charlie Manuel had to often rely on his starters going the distance, and most of them have served him well so far.  Unfortunately, he may be dipping into the well too often, and it might cost the Phillies in the playoffs.

Offense

The Philadelphia Phillies most recognized bat, Ryan Howard, has been performing as well as he did in the 2010 season so far.  He presently has a .253 batting average and a .353 on-base percentage.  Compared to his 2010 season, he had a .273 batting average and .353 on-base percentage.  He is currently second in the National League with 67 RBIs behind Milwaukee Brewers Prince Fielder‘s 69.  It sort of comes to no surprise as these two sluggers contend with each other.  Whereas Prince Fielder is currently ranked 19th in batting average in the National League with .296, Ryan Howard, however, isn’t even ranked among the top 40.  In terms of homeruns, Prince Fielder is ranked third with 21 homeruns. Comparably, Ryan Howard is ranked fifth with 17 homeruns tied with St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols and Chicago White Sox Carlos Pena.

Placido Polanco has been the most devastating of the Phillies offense, but he too has been on decline as of late.  With his injury, he has been out of the lineup recently, but he will return this Wednesday against the Florida Marlins.  Polanco currently has a .277 batting average, .331 on-base percentage, 4 homeruns and 39 RBIs.  He is currently ranked 35th in batting average in the National League.  Statistically, so far, he’s been performing comparably to his 2010 with his .298 batting average and .339 on-base percentage.

Chase Utley has made a triumphant return and his impact on the offense so far has been significant.  Presently, he has a .285 batting average, .386 on-base percentage, 4 homeruns and 18 RBIs.  He’s been performing better than last season so far.   Last season, he had .275 batting average and .387 on-base percentage.  During the last week, he’s performed admirably with a .389 ERA on a homerun and 2 RBIs.

Shane Victorino, the last potential man on the All-Star roster, has been impressive this season offensively.  He presently has a .303 batting average,  .376 on-base percentage, 9 homeruns and 34 RBIs.  Victorino is ranked 11th in the National League in batting average and tied for 37th in homeruns.  He has been a fantastic offensive machine for the Philadelphia Phillies this season.  In the past week, he’s had .381 batting average on a homerun and 6 RBIs.

Phillies Problems

Obviously, at this point, the injuries in the bullpen are a major point of concern with the Philadelphia Phillies.  With closers slowly coming back onto the active roster, the Phillies will have a chance of succeeding in the regular season and well into the playoffs.  Ryan Madson would be the first that fans should want to come back soon, but inconsistent Brad Lidge will have to do for now perhaps.  The next problem has been run support.  That relies on a consistent offense of which the Phillies don’t have presently.  When the pitchers have to win their own game on both sides of the diamond, that is a problem. Lastly, the offense as a whole needs to produce more often.  However, pitchers have become better, and it is an issue around the league as batters no longer have the edge.  After the All-Star Game, the Phillies offensive engine needs to get revved up so the Phillies can make a steady push into the playoffs.

All-Star Game and Beyond

The Philadelphia Phillies are poised to win the division at least and clinch a berth easily into the playoffs.  However, the Phillies are also dependable on a slump after the All-Star Game as the offense collapses in August or September.  It has been that way the past few seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, and this season should go no differently.  While all the clamor goes on the Philadelphia sports talk radio shows and the media about the bats effectiveness, the bats will return somewhat again in the playoffs.  At that point, the only concern is that the bats consistently and constantly generate runs in playoff games, which it has failed to do in the past couple of seasons.  With the way things look now, the Philadelphia Phillies will be joined by the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, the Atlanta Braves and the San Francisco Giants in the playoffs.  This field of potential playoff contenders could well lead to an interesting path to the World Series.

With this as some food for thought, enjoy your 4th of July with your hot dogs, beer brats, hamburgers and assorted drinks!

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