Monday, July 14, 2008

Games 91 through 96 - Phillies

Red Birds 2, Phils 0
Phils 4, Red Birds 2
Phils 4 Red Birds 1
Phils 6, D'backs 5
D'backs 10, Phils 4
Phils 6, D' backs 3

All Star Break Record: 52 wins, 44 losses - 1/2 game ahead of New York

Thanks to the classy gentlemen here at MLC for the prayers and sentiment. I will keep you apprised of Mr. Cub's health.

Now, it's back to baseball!

I have tried to remain ever the optimist as long as I saw rational evidence for hope. The baseball season is so quirky, so full of events that contradict conventional wisdom and so fully loaded with statistics that bear little resemblance to the win/loss record that it really does give everyone hope. Perhaps not if you follow the KC Royals - there really is no hope there - but certainly every team can point to their reasons for hope. If not for the immediate future, then certainly for next year. The All Star Break is the time you hope your team recharges its batteries (Rays?) or systematically develops amnesia after a lousy first half (Tigers?). It's also the time where underperforming contenders can make a run (Mets, Yanks?) or overextended pretenders start to run out of our old friend Mo (Marlins?).

The Phillies have to look at themselves as being very, very fortunate that they are still in first place. It's very easy to sit back and wonder what happened to the club since they were a season high 13 games over .500 back in early June. I think it's more realistic to accept that even the better clubs have 30 game clips where they come up short just as this club has (13-17.) Only the truly exceptional ball clubs coast from April through September without getting stuck in the mud.

This is not to downplay this club's very real weaknesses. The starting pitching needs to get back to eating innings and keeping the score close as they did for the first 60 games. For this to happen, either Brett Myers has to step up (not necessarily a stretch) or Adam Eaton needs to find that short lived groove he had for during May (probably not likely.) Otherwise, its back to the waiver wire and trade deadline for yet another pickup of a B grade pitcher. It seems to have worked for this club in the recent past. The late Cory Lidle went 5 and 2 in 10 starts back in 2004. In 2006, Jamie Moyer went 5 and 2 in 8 starts. In 2007, it was Kyle Loshe coming over to make 11 starts going 3 -0. With the team winning every game he pitched. There are some intriguing names out there on this year's B list but none is more intriguing than the human inning eating machine - Livan Hernandez.

Of course, even if the Phils get to the postseason, they still will have to address their anemic offense when facing pitchers who register a pulse. For that to happen, Jimmy needs to get rollin'. The team is much to reliant upon the 3 run home run at this stage. For Ryan Howard, it has been feast or famine. The guy has 84 RBI with a .235 average. Right now, Jimmy's OBP is quite similar to last year .340 vs. .344 but he has missed 24 games and is currently on pace to only score 78 runs with 160 hits and 54 walks. Compare to last season when his numbers were an astronomical 139 runs, 212 hits and 49 walks in a 162 game season. The other X factor is of course, Jimmy's partner in crime Shane Victorino. Shane is having statistically almost replicating 2007 but now he is the everyday center fielder replacing the departed Aaron Rowand who of course, put together a contract year last year which priced him out of town. That might be the difference in this club offensively right now. They have had this propensity to have droughts before as anyone who was awake long enough to witness their boring exit from the NLDS last fall can attest. However, it seems a bit more acute this season and the only solution can be for the Jimmy and Shane Duo to pick it up a little. Feasible? Perhaps.

Hopefully the boys will go home and get some rest since Major League baseball has no use for Ryan Howard and his 28 home runs/84 RBI mucking up the "Home Run Derby. Clearly JC Romero and Chad Durbin have no place at the all star game ahead of Carlos Marmol and his microscopic 4.13 ERA. Pat Burrell is delusional if he thinks his .979 OPS, 23 HR and 57 RBI is more worthy than the numbers put up by the legendary cast of Ryan Ludwick, Nate McLouth, Alfphonso SorryAsshole and Corey "Sunglasses and Night" Hart. Finally, how can Cole Hamels quibble with the selection of Aaron Cook and the Beach Boys own Brian Wilson? Everyone knows how easy it is to pitch in Citizens Bank Park. That 3.15 ERA is adjustable to 4.15 anywhere else. 126 K's in 142 IP is a waste of pitches. We will hope Chase is chased by Uggla in the 3rd inning and that Lidge will not be used in what will once again be an American League romp. So what if it costs us home field in October. We can beat the Sox in Fenway!

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