Thursday, July 02, 2009

Cooked By The 4th Of July

You've heard it before, including in this very space.... The Phillies may be crashing and burning but fortunately they play in the weak NL East division where everyone else is muddling along. Don't tell the Florida Marlins. That's right, those pesky Marlins are baaaccck...again. Sure, they play in the worst stadium in America in front of more vendors than fans. Yes, the weather is horrible. OK, they're grossly underpaid by today's standards and their miserly owners sell off players whenever any of them are about to cash in. But, they're always tough. They must have the best scouting department in all of baseball because they trade wisely and develop talent within their system at an astonishing rate, especially pitching. For good measure they've won two World Series titles in their relatively short existence.

Meanwhile, the Phillies look cooked. They cannot pitch and now they cannot hit except for the occasional breakout game sandwiched between futile flailing. Last night they made a good but hardly great Atanta starter, Jair Jurrgens, look like another Cy Young candidate, failing to get a single base hit until the seventh inning when reserve catcher Paul Bako, making his first start of the season, singled.

No one looks good at the plate. Jimmy Rollins hasn't had a base hit in 27 at bats. His four day respite from the rigors of playing baseball didn't do him any good. Ryan Howard is back to his old ways, reaching for balls low and away and doing his best pained expression after the third strike. Even Chase Utley is looking back at the umpire these days.

When J.A. Happ may be your most reliable starter the end is nigh. Don't get me wrong, Happ looks like a solid middle to back of the rotation guy who should be productive for a long time with his easy delivery, but there are a few other guys who, frankly, were being counted on more than he. The biggest mystery is Cole Hamels. Hamels' changeup has always been his bread and butter pitch, but without that good fastball to keep hitters honest and the occasional breaking ball, the change doesn't represent...well...change! Hamels' velocity is apparently down. He rarely throws the hook. He is throwing more pitches up in the zone. And he's always been vulnerable to the long ball. Who would have guessed he'd have a losing record by July and only four wins or that opposing batters were hitting a lofty .312 against him?

Not I.

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