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The Phillies are running away with the best record in baseball with a comfortable 8.5 game lead, and the lone reason for their success has been pitching. This certainly isn’t a surprising story for a team that offered four aces to open the season with Chase Utley on the disabled list.
However, things have not sailed as smoothly for the rotation as we originally expected. For starters, Roy Oswalt is enduring a tough season, recently spending nearly two months on the disabled list. His record stands at just 4-7 with a 3.84 ERA and horrendous 1.41 WHIP. The team has also had Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, and Jose Contreras spend time on the disabled list. To put that in perspective, those were the top three expected closers coming into the season.
Considering the Phillies lack of offense and injury issues, this is by no means the team’s full potential. The fact that they still have put together an 8.5 game lead in the division says that the post-season could be a walk in the park for the Phillies.
The 32-year-old veteran Jimmy Rollins is neither as good as he was in 2007, when he earned the MVP with a career-high 30 home runs, nor as bad as he was last season when he batted .243. Rollins is somewhere in between with a .266 average, 71 runs, 13 home runs, and 26 steals.
Rollins has managed to stay away from the injury-bug this season, and he is significantly better at reaching base with a .340 OBP. In the field, Rollins is making a case for the Gold Glove award with just five errors, resulting in a stellar .989 fielding percentage.
If the Phillies are able to win the World Series and Rollins performs at a high level, considering he will likely enter next season just 100 hits shy of 2000 hits for his career, the conversation can begin about whether the Phillies shortstop will one day find himself in the Hall of Fame.
Dominic Brown (replaced by Hunter Pence)
It was certainly a difficult season for Phillies top prospect Dominic Brown. First sidelined with a broken hand, Brown hit just .246 with five home runs and three steals before returning to the Minor Leagues after the Phillies acquired Hunter Pence.
The good news for Brown is that the franchise has by no means lost hope in the 23-year-old phenom. The Phillies went to great lengths to keep him on the roster after the trade deadline, likely passing on Carlos Beltran in order to do so.
Some good news with Brown’s statistics is that even though he is struggling when it comes to his batting average, he is not getting outmatched at the plate. This is suggested by his healthy ratio of 25 walks to 34 strikeouts, as well as his 16 extra base hits in 183 at bats. Brown will certainly return to the Phillies in September, and when he does he will likely steal at bats from John Mayberry and Ben Francisco.
Top 3 in the Rotation for Playoffs
The Phillies have a problem on their hands, but it isn’t a bad one. The playoffs are quickly approaching for the first place franchise and the big question is who will start in a seven game series.
The obvious answers are Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. The problem is that Cole Hamels is another fairly obvious starter. That means the veteran Roy Oswalt will have to pitch from the ‘pen, if at all. The same holds true for Kyle Kendrick and Vance Worley, two of the more impressive young pitchers in the league this season.
The Phillies do also have the option of going four-deep in the rotation for the post-season, but my guess is that with the season on the line they will want Halladay and Lee with the ball in their hands as much as possible.
Again, this problem is far off and injuries can end up answering the question, but for now the Phillies have a delightful problem on their hands.