Jul 15, 2010

2010 Phillies Mid-Year Hopes and Dreams or Can the Summer Save Your Soul

When you think of the Phillies of the silver age (2007-present), what comes to mind first? For me, it is the arcing flyballs into the stands, the resilience of numerous comeback victories in the 8th and 9th, a defense which made few errors and anchored by an ace, and savvy runners on the bases.

2010 has not been a season that has conformed to established and successful standards. It has been a trying year with injuries and unexpectedly negative performances and stretches of team-wide slumps. Even with this, the Phillies are still in thick of the playoff race at 47-40, 1.5 games behind the wild card leader (in a grouping of 6 teams) and 4.5 games behind the formidable Braves and possibly overperforming Mets. Their record is not really that different from last season. But can they really depend on a historical record of being a 2nd half team? In baseball, there are only short trends and shorter memories.

How Did We Get Here?

The Phillies have not been particularly lucky or unlucky. They are only one win behind their first order Pythagorean record (48-39) (inserting second parenthetical: the Pythagorean is a record which basically uses runs scored and runs allowed to
calculate an expected record to that point).

It seems the offense has been struggling. They did score 3 runs or less in half their games. Taken as an aggregate, though, the offense splits show a .756 OPS in April (5.2 runs/game), a .752 OPS in May (4.3 runs/game), a .733 OPS in June (5.0 runs/game), and a .672 OPS thus far in July (4.1 runs/game). Their run-scoring capabilities have not necessarily corresponded with their performance or their record. This statement of course does not take into account game situations. The surprising part of their offensive performance has been that they have been shutout 8 times this year, beating the total of 7 for all of last year and matching 2008's total as well.

The pitching has been anchored by a league best total in innings pitched by the starters, though the bullpen ERA does not reflect the performance that such rest should afford them over the course of the season. The pitching staff has been weak against lefties (.805 OPS allowed) and have shown a decided vulnerability on the road (.780 OPS allowed, 4.3 runs/game). April and June were the biggest trouble. Hopefully, with the return of the full complement of relievers and the establishment of the starting rotation as a more consistent force, these struggles will cease.

Where Are They Going?

They are astride the broad shoulders of Roy Halladay for the pitchers and Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins for the batters. However, unlike basketball, three players does not a winning team make. The following need to happen for the dreams of a 4th consecutive division title come true.

1. The bullpen has to take advantage of its matchups
2.Jaime Moyer needs to continue his ways.

3. Victorino and Rollins have to increase their OBP
4. Ibanez has to improve or make way for the next LF inhabitant
5. Ryan Howard needs to enhance his power stroke
6. Joe Blanton needs to not be terrible or JA Happ needs to replace him

7. Cole Hamels needs to continue his streak of quality starts.
8. Chase Utley has to return at full strength in 6 weeks

9. Ruben Amaro has to not be limited in his thinking about only wanting to trade for pitching.

Here's to the second half, it's going to be an exciting ride. All the divisions leaders have leads of less than 5 games. It's time for the trading deadline hour followed by the push for the playoffs and the privilege to play in the swirling winds of October

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