The Phillies begin a rematch of the 2009 World Series with the New York Yankees tomorrow in the midst of one of their most difficult stretches in years. On June 15, they sit just three games over .500 (32-29) and in third place in the NL East (behind the Braves and Mets, respectively). Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, particularly the latter, are producing well below their career averages. Jayson Werth, perhaps buckling under the realization that he stands to earn over $15 million/yr. in free agency, has cooled tremendously since an amazing start. Jimmy Rollins, slowed by a calf injury, cannot stay on the field. Raul Ibanez has been a shadow of his 2009 self.
In a sense, there may be a silver lining to the above reality. The Phils enter June 15 with the following MLB offensive team rankings:
Batting Avg. - 19th
Home Runs - 17th
RBI - 19th
Hits - 23rd
On-base % - 18th
Slugging % - 16th
One must presume that an offense an explosive as the Phils is sure to improve upon these figures. For the team to sit 3 games over .500 in light of its sub-par offensive output is actually encouraging.
On the other hand, there are reasons to be discouraged. There is no guarantee that Jimmy Rollins will return to the field and be productive this season. There is no assurance that Raul Ibanez will find his stroke (he turns 38 next month). Chase Utley may be playing hurt, something we know he'd never volunteer to his manager, the media, or the fans.
Also, the Phils' team ERA is currently tenth in baseball (3.94). It's hard for me to believe that this can improve much. Arguably, Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick have overperformed thus far. Roy Halladay, as great as he has been, is on a pace that he has never sustained through an entire season (1.96 ERA). While Joe Blanton has been a disaster so far (7.28 ERA), the bullpen has actually been better than many expected (particularly Jose Contreras). While Ruben Amaro may seek to bolster the rotation or the pen through a deadline deal, chances are that the team has depleted its Minor League resources (in acquiring Joe Blanton, Cliff Lee, and Roy Halladay) to the point where a big, Roy Oswalt-type deal is not realistic.
My point here is that the Phillies probably cannot expect a great improvement in pitching. In fact, we'd be lucky if the staff continued its current level of production. Given this fact, as well as the improved nature of the NL East, the Phils must regain the offensive firepower that has defined them for several years if they hope to contend for a 4th consecutive division title (and of course, a 3rd straight World Series appearance).
With that said, the point of this post (and more generally, this blog) is not simply for me to analyze and prognosticate. Thoughts?