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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Horrid Pitching by the Phils

Monday night’s Phillies game was called due to rain, and that might have been a good thing. The pitching has been horrid, inconsistent, and resembling nothing like the staff that took the mound last year, despite coming into the year looking like the strength of the team. Instead, from Cole Hamels to Brad Lidge, Phil’s fans have watched this team put up good offensive numbers, only to hover just shy of .500 ball. And despite his claim to the blame, it all can’t fall on ole Cole.

Hidden by this dark shadow of underperforming hurlers are a couple of bright spots that have undoubtedly helped this team avoid pure freefall. Raul Ibanez has put up a couple weeks of play by batting .386, leading the team in dingers and driving in 12 runs. More that what could have been expected from Pat the Bat, he has taken his spot in the lineup and just about eliminated the whole too many left handed bats cries. He still may not be worth the money he’s getting, especially when compared to Burrell’s deal with the Rays, but come season’s end, his consistency and overall ability to hurt the baseball, early naysayers might be speaking in a different tongue.

Should he keep it up for the next week and a half, Ryan Howard is having his best April since his MVP year in ’06. Gone could be the days where Ryan hits below his weight, as he came into the season in great shape. Whatever he did in the offseason certainly seems to have worked, and although he hasn’t put up crazy power numbers, he is holding his own batting .341. And when his power does switch on, and it will, watch out. I would even be willing to say that if he hits six home runs in April, he’ll hit fifty for the year, easily. In the meantime, he needs to simply maintain.

A third bright spot in the young Phillies season is the apparent return to health for Chase Utley. Many, including me, were unsure just how he would do following the hip injury, but obviously he’s fine. Batting .366 and what looks like to be well on his way to another All-Star caliber season. Chase is possibly the most important member of the team as he has the ability to carry a team when he is healthy. Where Jimmy Rollins is who provides the energy, or fuel to make this team go, Utley is the guy who keeps the team on track.

My hope is that the pitching comes together, that Brad Lidge doesn’t implode, Jamie Moyer turns fifty overnight, and that Cole isn’t a heartbeat away from arm trouble. It is the pitching that must pull through, because no matter how many runs Raul, Chase, and Ryan drive in, it won’t be enough to keep up with the runs given up. Right now, it’s early, a month from now there will still be time. Two months though, it may be getting to the brink when if the pitching hasn’t turned itself around, the chances of repeating would have shrunken as if they were in fifty degree seawater.

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