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Philadelphia Phillies Midseason Report: Best pitching staff. Best record in the bigs.

Written by Cory Fogg
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2011 Record (As of July 11): 57-34, 1st NL East


MVP (tie): SP Roy Halladay (11-3, 2.45 ERA, 138 K, 6 Complete Games)

SP Cole Hamels (11-4, 2.32 ERA, 121 K, 1 Complete Game)

SP Cliff Lee (9-6, 2.82 ERA, 137 K, 4 Complete Games)


LVP: 2B Chase Utley (41 GP, .280 BA, 4 HR, 18 RBI, $15.3M salary)


A day ago a Sports Jury writer wrote that the Atlanta Braves had the best pitching staff in the game, led by arguably the best bullpen in the league. Statistically that was factual. Until, apparently, someone told the Phillies. Less than 24 hours after the Braves midseason review posted, Charlie Manuel's team took the so-called best pitching staff, and beat them until they were unrecognizable. The final score at Citizens Bank Park read Philadelphia 14 – Atlanta 1. This included the Phillies hitters scoring ten runs off the “dominant” Braves bullpen. The Phillies pitching staff now has the best ERA in the majors going into the break. To all in the Phillies organization whom I offended, I am truly sorry.

In addition to the royal beatdown of Atlanta, the Phillies are rolling into the break two games up on the Boston Red Sox for the best record in baseball. Anyone searching for the source of Philadelphia's success need look no further than the starting rotation. The gigantic expectations placed on the Phantastic Phour rotation has been surpassed by all except Roy Oswalt's spinal column. The top 3 of Halladay-Hamels-Lee have combined for 31 wins (more than the Houston Astros first-half total) and 46 quality starts. When these three pitch, the bullpen does not. The three have collectively pitched 11 complete games and average 7.22 innings per start. They have quite simply dominated the rest of the league. The bullpen has done well in it's minimized role. Absent injured veteran Brad Lidge, RHP Ryan Madson (3-1, 2.03 ERA, 15 saves) did an exceptional job until mid-June before going down with injury and LHP Antonio Bastardo has picked up the slack from him (36 App, 3-0, 0.82 ERA, 5 saves)

Going into the season people speculated that if the Phillies had a weakness, it was the offense, especially without departed LF Jayson Werth. Before Sunday, they still had their point. No, one game doesn't make Philadelphia's offense elite. They need more consistent performances than one 14-run burst. They are 20th in the Majors with a .250 team batting average. 1B Ryan Howard has 18 HR and 72 RBI, but also is batting just .257 with 161 strikeouts. Only one Phillie is hitting above .280 on the season (All-Star CF Shane Victorino at .303). They do, however, draw an exceptional amount of walks and hit batsmen. Further, to defend GM Ruben Amaro Jr., Werth is only hitting .215, 10 HR and 31 RBI for the Nationals, so Amaro still made the right decision in the off-season. The point in Philadelphia is this. Can the offense stand to improve? Yes. Could they still win a World Series with this offense? With that pitching staff, absolutely.

The Phillies do have six players on the DL going into the All-Star Break including Oswalt, Victorino, Lidge, and Madson. All, except Oswalt, are expected to return in July. Oswalt has been a tricky subject all season long and the team doesn't expect him back until August at the earliest. It does make the trade deadline an interesting situation for Philadelphia. The Phillies farm system has always been stocked, though not quite as deep this year. It's also highly unlikely the Phillies will do anything that will dramatically affect a bulging payroll. Still, they have never shied away from making a blockbuster deal at the deadline (see: Halladay, Lee). And the Phillies would love to add another veteran bat to their line-up though, with outfielders Michael Cuddyer of the Twins and Josh Willingham being possible targets. They may also consider adding bullpen help at the deadline as well. It's hard to see another mega-deal go through Philadelphia this year, but with them it's hard to know.

What can be said is this. With a deadline deal or without one, Philadelphia is primed to make a deep run into the playoffs this year. Forget the Phantastic Phour, if the Big Three continue to pitch as they have so far this season, the Phillies will be well placed to win the NL Pennant. If the bats come alive as they did just prior to the Break, then it can be etched in stone. It is very hard to see anyone slowing down the Phillies this year, though most thought similarly last year before the Giants made their run. Still it's a very safe bet that Philadelphia will still be a baseball town come November.

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