A few weeks into the season and the Phillies seem to be settling down into expected patterns.
A chart in today's Inquirer tracks the progress thus far of the Four Aces. With the exception of two horrendous outings, one each by Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, this quartet of pitchers have performed pretty much as expected. They are a combined 7-2. Lee and Hamels have righted themselves and are pitching very strongly. Halladay has been...well..Halladay, throwing complete games, pitching effectively though not dominating. Roy Oswalt has had two good outings.
The offense got off on a tear to begin the season but is also reverting to the mean lately, scrambling for hits and runs.
The bullpen began 2011 on such a high note there was nowhere else to go but down. Some middle relief is showing cracks, especially Denys Baez who doesn't belong on a big league roster any longer. Emergency closer Jose Contreras has done a fine Brad Lidge imitation on occasion, especially yesterday afternoon versus the Marlins, but he has gotten the job done. How well he'll hold up as the days get hotter and calls to put out fires get more frequent remains to be seen.
The bench also began the season on an extraordinary binge, delivering key pinch-hit after pinch-hit. They, too, had nowhere to go but down and have begun to do so.
Supersub Wilson Valdez has performed well in the field and at bat though he hasn't shown the range he did last year.
With the pitching staff performing as expected in the main, and pending the extent of Oswalt's injured back, the Phils will always be in the hunt. The big questions, hitting and relief pitching, remain. It's early, but not to early to be playing to form.