10 thoughts on the Phillies after the first month

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   (Source: Scripps.com)

1. Everybody take a deep breath and relax as we are only 1/8 of the way through the schedule. You can't live and die with every baseball game like you can with the 16 football games during a season. There are some concerns obviously, but considering that for all or large portions of the first month they have been missing their starting shortstop and lead off hitter, #3 and #4 starting pitchers, their closer, and their top left-handed setup guy, things could be a lot worse.

2. A 12-9 record seems like an underachieving start for a team some predicted to win 100+ games. But if they continue winning at that same percentage for the rest of the season, they will win 92 games. And that puts them in a position to probably win the NL East again. You have go all the way back to 2003 to find the last time at least 2 teams in the NL East won 90+ games. 

3. Ryan Madson is not a closer. He has been forced to close a lot of games the last 2 seasons because of Brad Lidge's injuries and ineffectiveness, but he just isn't a closer. He has the stuff to be one, but for some reason it seems like when the inning has a "9" on it, instead of a "7" or "8", he becomes less effective. It's probably more mental than anything else, but like Yogi Berra once said, "baseball is 90% mental – the other half is physical."

4. As soon as Lidge is healthy I think we have to live with him as the closer at least until July or August, probably using him like they did the last month or so of 2009 where they never used more than 2 days in a row, or never more than 3 times in a week. And if he's having a repeat of his 2009 futility, they have to trade for bullpen help at the deadline.
 
5. Is it possible Cole Hamels is now merely a younger version of Jamie Moyer? I hope not, but it sure seems that way. Aside from the excellent start against the Marlins, he's surrendered 4 or more earned runs in 3 of his 5 outings and has only gone past 6 full innings once. And so far he does not look like the #2 starter this team needed him to be. In 4 of his 5 starts he's hit the magic 100-pitch mark by the 6th inning. That translates to a 2-2 record and a 5.28 ERA so far, or about what you'd expect from a typical #5 starter these days.
 
6. For a team with bullpen issues, they obviously need other starters besides Roy Halladay to give them 7 or more innings on a regular basis. Starting pitchers make a lot more money than middle and long relievers for a reason. They are expected to pitch longer and more effectively. This is going to have a ripple effect on the bullpen as the season goes on. Every team has a soft underbelly in their bullpen – those 2 or 3 relievers who you really only want to use in blowouts. But when your starters are only going 5 or 6 innings, it often forces managers to have to call on those guys to get important outs. You've seen that in the last week with Herndon, Contreras, and Baez being used in pressure situations because they just can't pitch Durbin and Madson every day.
 
7. I promised myself if the Phils starting rotation struggled the first month, I would at least get through April without mentioning a certain ace left-handed pitcher who was traded to Seattle for marginal prospects in the offseason. But now that Hamels and others have gotten off to a sub-par start, I expect to hear a lot of fans bring up, er, Iffclay Eelaythe rest of the season. I was against the trade originally, but persuadable because I thought Hamels would have a nice bounce-back year. A lot of people tried to make it a comparison between him and Halladay, which isn't quite right. And obviously you'd rather have Halladay. But they could have had him and Halladay and then just not resigned Joe Blanton to similar money. So the question really is would you rather have him or Blanton on your staff, and then subsequently him or Hamels as your #2 starter in the playoffs? And then would you rather have Hamels or Blanton as your #3 starter? That is the domino effect in the pecking order of the rotation that was created when they made the trade with Seattle.
 
8. Jayson Werth may not be the best hitter in the lineup, but being the only right-handed power bat, he probably is the most important. This middle of this lineup desperately needs right-handed protection, especially when other teams throw good left-handed starters at the Phils. I don't know how the Phils will be able to afford him. But if they have to break the bank on another player and exceed their budget forecasts, I think he's worthy of an exception.
 
9. The Phillies probably had no idea Werth would become this good of a player when they resigned him to a 2-year deal last offseason or else they may have tried to lock him up for more years at the lower salary. They were just hoping he'd become an adequate right-handed replacement in the middle of the order for Pat Burrell. Now he'll probably be the best free agent OF this offseason. We'll see how creative Ruben Amaro can get. Werth will probably be seeking something like 5-6 years at $15M per year. So maybe they can offer less years for more money per year, if they simply don't want to commit that kind of money for that many years. And resigning him would probably require unloading the final year of Raul Ibanez' contract in a trade and playing Domonic Brown in LF next season.
 
10. Halladay has been every bit as good as advertised. I rarely ever saw the guy pitch with him playing for a team in the other league in another country no less, so I had no idea he was this good. You can look at stats, but they never tell the whole story. I respect Jamie Moyer, but watching him pitch sometimes is like getting a root canal. For him to be effective at age 47, he has to nibble, nibble, run high counts, etc…basically use whatever he can to get guys out. Halladay is the complete opposite and is a joy to watch because he works at a fast pace with good control.
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