While the Phillies have been whistling by the graveyard the rest of the NL East hasn't exactly set the world on fire. Indeed, the rest of the NL period isn't too impressive either.
The Phils have played nearly a third of their season and while they remain in the cellar in their division, they are only four games behind leading Washington. No one is running away with this division. The Braves have fallen to earth with a resounding thud. The Nats have lead all year but they, too, have suffered injuries and inconsistencies. The Mets and Marlins have made little runs only to fall back to the middle of the pack.
The Phils took three of four last weekend from defending WS champion St. Louis, but as they limped into the Big Apple they lost Roy Halladay for two months, Carlos Ruiz for a few days (at least) and split their first two games with the Mets.
The Phils relief corps has more or less righted the ship, with some notable exceptions including Chad Qualls, but the starting pitching is a real mess. When you find yourself counting heavily on Kyle Kendrick the term "crap shoot" leaps to mind.
Joe Blanton suffered his third straight poor outing in getting shelled last night. It's safe to say Blanton is not nor ever will be an answer. Too bad the Phils didn't move him a month or two ago when his value was a bit higher. Now, he'd be lucky to bring a utility infielder.
Carlos Ruiz, who is having a career year, has been banged up. Between getting run over at the plate, suffering the usual indignities of the tools of ignorance, and a tender hammy, Ruiz will need to be spelled a little more often this season than in the past.
The biggest loss of the last few days was Halladay. Everyone now knows why his velocity, reported to be down as early as Spring Training, was lagging. Everyone also knows why there's been less movement on his fastball. Halladay has never been an overpowering pitcher. He relies on location, movement, savvy and an extraordinary work ethic. His ailing shoulder is allegedly not damaged in a major way (labrum or rotator cuff), but he will need rest and recuperation of about two months to get back to square one. Since his problems were noted in the Spring, after several months rest in the off-season, one has to wonder whether all the mileage has begun to take its final toll. Certainly, he has pitched a lot of innings in his career. Indeed, he has been overworked by Charlie Manuel, who has a poor record of handling pitchers IMO, but Halladay shares some of the "blame" since he bristles at the thought of being taken out of games.
Only the mediocrity of the division has allowed the Phils to hang around to this point with all the absences of its stars. At some point, one team will break out. It sure doesn't look like that team will be wearing red pinstripes.