Posts Tagged ‘phillies’

At this point in the season the city of Philadelphia knows it, all the teams in the league know it, the media knows it and so does the rest of the country, the Phillies are a very good baseball team. At a record of 77-41 they are 36 games over .500 and 7.5 games ahead of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East. They are coming off a grueling ten game west coast road trip with a 9-1 record. Few teams have the luxury of stepping out onto the field and knowing that they outmatch their opponent in almost every aspect of the game. The way this team is playing, a 100 win season is certainly not out of the question.

But, is 100 wins at the end of this season good for this team or not? Last season the Phillies finished with a record of 97-65 and six games ahead of the Atlanta Braves in the division. In other words, they made it in comfortably into the playoffs. However, once they were in, something happened. A switch seemed to flip and all of a sudden, the Phils couldn’t hit. Of the players with at least 25 at bats, only one of them (Ryan Howard) finished with an average of over .300 (.333). Every other player who was at the plate that many times finished with an average of under .230. Examples? Raul Ibañez .226, Shane Victorino .216, Chase Utley .212, Placido Polanco .207, Jimmy Rollins .206, Jayson Werth .200 and Carlos Ruiz (Señor Octubre) .192. They left men on base and didn’t run when they had the opportunity to. The team made its exit in the NLCS, where they were clearly outmatched and outhungered by the San Francisco Giants who went on to win the World Series.

So, how do the Phillies stay hungry? Well, they certainly should attempt to refer to history and committ to not letting it happen again. Last night, the Braves made up a full game on the Phillies with a win against the Cubs and a Phillies loss against the lowly Nationals. So maybe the Braves make a run at the Phillies here at the end of the season, forcing them to rev up the engine before the season ends. The expectations are high. With this lineup and this rotation, there is no reason the Phillies shouldn’t make it to and win the World Series. Whatever motivation is needed to stay hungry and bring another parade to the city of Philadelphia, they need to find quick. Otherwise we’ll be looking at yet another immensely talented Phillies team who failed to live up to their potential.

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Does Ryan Howard frustrate you sometimes? I unfortunately have to answer yes to that question. His inability to play a full season at full steam has given many people headaches. I’m talking about Ryan Howard inability to get off to fast starts, then turning it on after the all-star break and putting the team on his big ol’ shoulders and carrying them all the way into the postseason. This year has been no exception. Ryan had been coasting, and in my opinion underperforming for most of the year.

July 30th….in comes Hunter Pence. The highly regarded and sought after player formerly of the Houston Astros. Hunter is known to hit for average, he sees the ball well at the plate. Charlie Manuel made the decision to insert Pence into the 5th spot in the lineup, right behind Ryan Howard. So, how did Ryan Howard perform in Hunter Pence’s debut as a Phillie? Oh, just 4 for 4 with 2 doubles, a home run and 3 RBI, heck of a line! In the five games since  Hunter Pence arrived in Philadelphia Ryan has nine hits, nine RBI and 4 home runs. For me, it’s no coincidence. Ryan is seeing better pitches, mainly more fastballs. Will it carry on? Maybe. Like I said before, Ryan tends to heat up around this time of the year anyway.

There is a big, let me say that again, BIG series against the San Francisco Giants coming up. The Giants pitching staff is notorious for giving the Phillies lineup fits. Not to mention the series is in San Fran, which is the only west coast town where fans seem to care as much about baseball as we do here in Philly. Rightfully so, they are the defending champions. This series will be big for the team’s psyche. They need to perform well in this series, because more likely than not, they’ll meet again in October. We’ll find out if the Pence experiment is indeed a successful one. It will be tested by the likes of Cain, Bumgarner, Lincecum and Wilson. If Ryan’s tear continues after this, a Christmas card might not do the trick.