To sum it all up, the Phillies are not a World Series caliber team right now.
Yes, they do have a virtual lock on their third straight NL East title, with a team who statistically has the most prolific offense in the NL, but it’s very clear. The Phillies were surpassed by the St. Louis Cardinals in the popular vote for NL supremacy some time ago, and while the reasons aren’t necessarily controllable, it’s hard to deny those reasons as the obvious.
If you follow this blog, you know the reasons. Brad Lidge, injuries, inconsistency with both the starting and relief pitching, and the inability hitting with runners in scoring position have been they concepts frequently touched upon in past posts.
With that said, it’s undeniable that the Phillies, great in some areas but shaky in others (see above) when it comes to playing the game of baseball, have to get just drastically better in those areas of concern.
Unfortunately, if they Phillies can’t improve these eye-popping flaws that they possess virtually every time they step on the field in the next 10-14 days, the combination they currently have is the worst possible recipe to repeat as champs.
Look at last year.
It wasn’t gaudy offensive statistics (4.5 runs a game in the 2008 playoffs) that led the Phillies to the promise land. To be honest, It was a combination of a healthy and confident bullpen (Lidge), dominant and consistent starting pitching (Cole Hamels), and timely hitting (Matt Stairs, Geoff Jenkins) that eventually led to the defeat of the Milkwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers, and lastly the Tampa Bay Rays. How many of those attributes do the Phillies possess right now?
That’s right, zero.
With that said, it’s not likely, but timely hitting can be outdone by the offensive barrages (a.k.a blowouts) that the Phillies are indeed capable of this season. Also, while the starting pitching doesn’t have “dominating” season stats, they have been a top-3 pitching staff since the all-star break in the NL when it comes to wins and E.R.A.
So..that leaves the relief pitching as the “x-factor” of this playoff recipe to success.
First and foremost, the Phillies need to get their members of their pitching staff healthy.
Going into the playoffs without reliable arms who have been their before like Chan Ho Park (Hamstring) and J.C Romero (Forearm) in the bullpen would be bad, while going into October without potentially dominant arms like J.A Happ (Oblique), Brett Myers (Shoulder), and Pedro Martinez (Neck) would be worse.
All are possible due to current injuries to each of the five players (who are or could be main contributors to the Phillies post-season bullpen) mentioned above.
Most importantly, while I am spending time talking about those who are unable to pitch, it’s become clear that those who are healthy enough to actually get on the mound and try to earn their paycheck are the playerswho I should direct my sometimes reserved, but in this case justified criticism towards.
Quite frankly, those who reside in the ‘pen for the majority of the game are just not getting the job done. Even worse, It’s not just the now-demoted closer Brad Lidge, who now has an unprecedented MLB-high 11 blown saves, that is doing the damage. Ryan Madson has almost as many blown saves (6) as he does actual saves (8). Both Jamie Moyer (blew the lead) and Tyler Walker (blew the game) played a crucial role in the Phillies collapse on Saturday against the Milwakuee Brewers.
Now that everyone is in on the party, who is going to play the role of the cop that shuts it down (note the phrase “shuts it down”)?
Lidge? Too many chances.
Madson? Too inconsistent.
Myers? Too unstable.
Walker? Too boring (and believe me, boring is bad if you are a closer).
Yes, this may seem very drastic. In some cases, it is. While I am sadly turning into a realist/pessimist at my old age, my optimistic section of my split-personality will say that If the Phillies starting pitching can go deep into games or the the Phillies offense can spare the bullpen pressure with runs, which each are capable are doing, than this whole discussion will be a non-issue.
I hope it is.
But to those who agree with this optimistic stance, I show you this.
That is what a good bullpen can do for a team, which is the same good bullpen that the Phillies just don’t have right now.
Now at this point, I guess Phillies fans should cling to the possibility that Brad Lidge and the rest of the Phillies bullpen will get their mojo back so this potential trip down memory lane can actually occur.
Without that possibility, the Phillies are not a team that deserves to represent the NL in the Fall Classic.
It’s as simple as that.