Record: 19 wins, 15 losses.
My fellow MLC denizens-
I am quite proud to announce that the reason for my week long sabbatical from this cozy nook of Baseballville is that my dear wife heroically and flawlessly delivered our 4th child/3rd son. Our family is basking in the glow of a newborn not yet fatigued enough to gripe and moan about 3AM feedings and a house that resembles a shanty in Myanmar right about now. (Is that grossly insensitive or effectively descriptive?) We are of course, quite thankful and realize our fortune. That is quite enough detail of domestic life encroaching upon this sacred space of the Pastime. It's time to talk about the first month's grades.
The Phils are in first. Holy crap! First place? In May? That can't be.
Oh, it be.
Despite starting slowly (4-6), the Phils have played very well. Mind you 4-6 isn't quite so bad as 3-7. When you start falling back 4 or 5 games below .500 as this team has done repeatedly this decade, it becomes quite laborious trying to claw your way back to respectability. That they have accomplished this with 2008 MVP Jimmy Rollins and without the services of Shane Victorino for 15 games is quite encouraging. Oh, and did anyone notice Ryan Howard is absolutely befuddled this season? Poor guy is in the mother of all funks right now. I think he is on pace to strike out 250 times this season. I know I am showing my age but doesn't anyone bother to try to just make contact when they are behind in the count? Regardless of the injuries to Rollins and Victorino and the slumping of Howard combined with the zero lineup presence of Pedro Feliz, the boys are floating atop the division tide. That is because our brethren in Gotham and Hotlanta have injury and slump issues all their own.
Now to the report card for the first term.
Starters - C+
No one is dominant. Hamels has been very good in about 5 of 7 starts and solid in the others. Myers has been solid at best in at least 4 starts and below average in the other 3. Hamels and Myers however, have given the team much needed innings (more on that later.) Moyer started roughly but has returned to his steady self. He usually surrenders 4 runs but keeps the team in the game. If Jamie goes six, you hand him an ice pack and some Geritol, put the TV on the History Channel and make him some tea. Kyle Kendrick has been slightly less than mediocre but certainly worth the patience he'll continue to be shown. He can easily return to being a very reliable and effective starter. Poor Adam Eaton is lost. He started out fairly well but his last 3 starts resemble the 2007 campaign where he dubiously posted the worst ERA of any starter in the NL.
Pen - A-
The starters have averaged nearly 6 IP per start. That has been a boon for the pen. Besides the opening day meltdown against the Nats, Flash Gordon has been astoundingly stingy as my four year old is when licking the cream from his Double Stuffs. The old man has been a stalwart and a joy to watch. Brad Lidge was brought in gently like a child whose training wheels were just removed and he has responding well. He has yet to surrender a run while posting 7 saves in 7 opportunities. JC Romero has picked up where he left off last season. Did I remember to thank you Rob? Rudy Seanez, Chad Durbin and the rest have all done pretty well bridging the gap between the starters and the late innings.
Lineup - B
Jeff Bruntlett has started to look like a suitable major league replacement for Jimmy Rollins. Pedro Feliz is starting to reward Pat Gilllick by finally returning to form as a good bottom half of the order power hitter. Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste have been solid backstops who occasionally deliver at the plate. The story here however is the troika of Pat Burrell, Jayson Werth and arguably the best player in the National League, Chase Utley. These 3 are having tremendous years. For Pat the Bat, you have to feel good. He seems to finally be the guy the Phils drafted #1 10 years ago when he won the Golden Spikes Award at the U. Bully for you Pat!
Bench - A
As of last week, they had the best pinch hit average in the league. Jeff Jenkins is a comfortable shoe. The aforementioned Coste/Ruiz combo is suitable. The fact that Werth and Bruntlett filled in so admirably for Rollins and Victorino bodes well for when they return to role players though I suspect Werth may have won himself an everyday spot.
Manager - A
Right man for the job. In a town where cynicism, sarcasm and narcissism are desirable personality traits, this guy is the perfect buffer for a generation of kids who probably don't recognize why fans expect to win every game.