Monday, August 16, 2010

An Odd Season

The good Kyle Kendrick showed up last night albeit against a Mets team that looks as though it has thrown in the towel. Kendrick pitched very effectively and Ryan Madson, back in his more comfortable set up role, and Brad Lidge, who has rediscovered his slider, completed the effort as the Phils took 2 of 3 in New York to keep pace with division-leading Atlanta and move into a virtual tie for the Wild Card lead with San Francisco. With the Giants coming to town for a three game set beginning Tuesday things should get very interesting.

The Mets loaded their lineup with left-handed bats, the standard practice against Kendrick, and got virtually no production out of all of them. Meanwhile, the Phils manufactured enough runs for the win with Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino providing most of the punch on the base paths and at the plate. We haven't seen that duo do enough table-setting this season so their performances last night were welcome.

It's interesting to note at this juncture of the season that the Phils are scoring far fewer runs via the long ball than in previous years. Between Ryan Howard's lower home run totals and current absence and Chase Utley's extended absence, two of the biggest guns are not hitting the ball out of the park as in previous seasons. On top of that, Raul Ibanez had a horrible first half compared to his torrid first half in 2009 (replete with huge power numbers) and after a potent streak since the All Star Game, his production has fallen off dramatically. Jayson Werth's power numbers are also down as are Jimmy Rollins'. That's a lot of long balls off the books. Still, the Phils are among the league leaders in overall runs produced.

It has been such an odd season for many reasons The injuries, of course, have had the biggest impact, but several other areas are also affecting outcomes. The running game, for instance, is not up to recent standards either. Rollins and Utley contributed substantially to those totals and have missed a lot of time. Victorino has missed some time and is erratic on the base paths. Werth is an unreliable base runner, especially when he's simply taking a lead.

The bullpen has been variously awful and adequate but rarely dependable. The middle innings have been especially troubling the second half of the season.

Through it all, the Phils have managed to stay in the hunt, a tribute in part to their resilience and experience and to...well...what exactly? Overall balance in the league? General mediocrity? Hard to say, but here we are at the middle of August and the Phillies are well positioned to make a run for the post-season if they get their regulars back and if those returning regulars can jump right in and contribute.

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