Looking Back at the First Half
Some thoughts about the Phillies at the All-Star break:
- I think we can say the rotation has lived up to its hype, even with Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton spending time on the disabled list. Phillies starters lead the big leagues in wins (42), ERA (2.93), complete games (11), base runners per nine innings (10.20) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.26). They are the single greatest reason this team has the best record in baseball. And they could be better in the second half, if Oswalt returns healthy. It truly is remarkable how dominant Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee have been, considering the hype. They rank in the top 13 in the big leagues in wins, top 15 in ERA, top 10 in strikeouts, top nine in innings, top 13 in base runners per nine innings and top seven in strikeout-to-walk ratio.
- The Phillies are seventh in the National League, averaging 4.22 runs per game. But thanks to a couple high-scoring affairs, they lead the league in scoring in July, averaging 6.11 runs per game. I think the Phillies will be fine in the regular season, whether the offense comes around or not. The pitching is that good. But it’s the postseason that is a concern. One bad week and it’s the 2010 NLCS all over again. Maybe these past couple weeks are a sign things are turning around.
- Speaking of the offense, the Phillies are searching for a right-handed bat. The Phillies are telling teams that finances are tight, but after making big moves the previous four trade deadlines (Kyle Lohse, Blanton, Lee and Oswalt) you have to wonder if there would be disappointment in the clubhouse if the Phillies failed to make a move. I remember players applauding Ruben Amaro Jr. when he walked through the visitor’s clubhouse at Chase Field following the Lee trade in 2009. Trades not only provide a boost on the field. They provide an emotional boost, too.
- It’s amazing how the bullpen has held together with Ryan Madson, Jose Contreras and Brad Lidge on the disabled list and J.C. Romero being released because of ineffectiveness. This first half could have been much different if not for Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes. They have been godsends for Charlie Manuel and Rich Dubee.
- Whenever they come back, I’m keeping Placido Polanco in the two-hole and Shane Victorino in the five-hole.
- The Phillies don’t play enough small ball! I’ve been hearing it since Larry Bowa was managing the Phillies. It’s an easy thing to say whenever the Phillies don’t score runs in a game. Of course they didn’t win tonight. They don’t play any small ball. It’s kind of like saying Jimmy Rollins doesn’t have a high enough on-base percentage or swings too early in the count. He’s 12 years into his career. He’s not turning into Pete Rose or Lenny Dykstra. The same with the Phillies. They are who they are. Maybe accepting this will help everybody enjoy the second half a little more.
I’m not in Phoenix for the All-Star Game. It’s the first All-Star Game I am not attending since I started covering the Phillies in 2003. So enjoy the break, and enjoy the All-Star Game tomorrow night.