Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Accentuate the Positive

The Phillies are currently mired in a six game losing streak. It's been fairly pitiful: the offense is more or less absent, the depleted bullpen has been abysmal, and it is now evident more than ever how much they need to add another starting pitcher. However, rather than wallow in the shame that has been Phillies baseball over the past week, there are some positive elements that are worth noting. 

1) It's now very clear that we need a starting pitcher - In the offseason, the team was all excited to have four potential candidates for the fifth slot in the rotation. It's not as if they didn't figure that injuries would be a problem, they just figured they could solve it from within the club. But, once again, those four pitchers were Chan Ho Park, J. A. Happ, Kyle Kendrick, and Carlos Carrasco. Of those four, Happ is in the rotation, Park (who won the spot) has since been sent to the bullpen (where he's been effective), Kendrick has struggled in the minors and made one appearance in the majors this year where he was completely ineffective, and Carrasco, a long shot to win the spot in the first place, is in need of and getting more seasoning in the minors. In fact, the fifth spot is now occupied by none of those four players, but rather by Antonio Bastardo, who was effective in his first two starts, but not so effective in his last two. For this team to be a true playoff contender, they need another arm if not two. Cole Hamels is and will be fine, and Joe Blanton is a fine number three or four starter, but Jamie Moyer has not been effective all season and Happ and Bastardo have been inconsistent. This is not a rotation built for a deep playoff run, and the front office will now be pressed more than ever to make a move. 

2) However, there have been signs of promise in the rotation we have - Both of Hamels' games have been quality starts and his last game was stellar - two runs in eight innings with ten strikeouts. J. A. Happ had a quality start as well, and Antonio Bastardo pitched seven innings, which is the most he's thrown in a start since coming to the majors. Blanton has been much better of late, disregarding his last game, but Moyer remains the sore spot in the rotation, sad to say. 

3) Shane Victorino has been on fire - Victorino has been the one bright spot in the lineup. He's currently on a ten game hitting streak, and he's hit .526 in the past six games. His batting average for the season is now up t0 .304. Unfortunately, he hasn't produced many runs (no HR and only one RBI in that span), but that probably has more to do with his place in the batting order, and the fact that no one has been on base for Victorino to score. Well, at least someone is doing well. 

4) They should get their bullpen back soon - They may lose Clay Condrey, but Brad Lidge should return this week and Scott Eyre may not be far behind. 

5) On the road again - The Phillies are 23-9 on the road and 13-22 at home. They head out to finish interleague play against the Tampa Bay Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays and then they go to Atlanta for the first time (both previous series against the Braves were in Philadelphia). 

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