Thursday, April 30, 2009

Phillies April Report Card

Well, the first month of the season has ended.  Just like last year, the Phightins are two games over .500 at the end of April, with a record of 11-9.  They're 1.5 games behind the surprising Marlins, who won't stay in first place for long.  The Muts are 9-12, and their vaunted bullpen hasn't been terribly effective so far.  All things considered, it's not great, but it also could be worse.

Here's the report card:

Offense:  A-.  This team can score some runs.  There's no doubt about that.  And they have no quit in them.  No opposing team's lead is ever safe with the Phillies.  While Jimmy Rollins, normally the team's Little Engine that Could, is off to a slow start, he's started showing signs of coming out of his slump.  Chase Utley's been on fire.   Ryan Howard is off to a terrific start, and he's hitting the ball to center, which is what he does when he's swinging the bat well.  Jason Werth has been a little inconsistent and Shane Victorino has been steady.  The big--but pleasant--surprise has been new leftfielder Raul Ibanez, who's been hitting up a storm and has already won over the notoriously fickle Phillies fans--who had finally embraced his predecessor, Pat Burrell--with his clutch hitting.  

Starting Pitching: D-.  There's not much good to say about the Phils' starting pitching.  So far, it's been just plain awful.  I don't ever recall a Phillies pitching staff of recent vintage giving up homers at the rate that these guys have so far this season.  Joe Blanton fed his gopher five times in his last start.  Brett Meyers has been very inconsistent.  He gets hit hard early and then settles down.  Jamie Moyer has had rough patches.  Chan Ho Park has been lit up like a Christmas tree in his three starts.  Cole Hamels, the putative ace of the staff, started slowly after too many off-season distractions.  Then, once he finally got himself on track, he got hit by a line drive and the sprained an ankle in consecutive starts, both of which drove him from games.  The starting pitching HAS to become more reliable very, very soon, before it's too late. I think it's time to give J.A. Happ a shot at the starting rotation.

Bullpen:  D.  Only Clay Condrey and Ryan Madsen have been consistently reliable.  Brad Lidge has been bothered by a sore knee, and he's been hit hard.  Jack Taschner and Scott Eyre, the lefties, have both been hit, too.  Chad Durbin has been inconsistent--fabulous one appearance and not very good at all the next.  If Lidge comes back next week, as he says he's planning on doing, things will probably be alright.  If Lidge has to go on the disabled list, then Madson will become the closer.  Madson has a great arm and great stuff and may very well prove to be a dependable closer.  It's the critical set-up man role that worries me.

Defense:  A-.  So far, so good.  Victorino looks like he's on the way to another Gold Glove, and Ryan Howard's defense is VASTLY improved.  Utley and Feliz are both playing like they never had off-season surgery.  Team defense is the thing I worry about least.

OVERALL TEAM GRADE: C+.  The team has a long way to go.  There are plenty of games left, and plenty of time for the bugs to be worked out.  But the starting pitching HAS to get itself back on track immediately, or there will be no chance of reaching the post-season.

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