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Phillies' Top 5 concerns as playoffs near

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"KEEP ON PHIGHTIN' WITH JOE VALLEE"

Despite a loss to the Brewers on Sunday, the Phillies impressively reeled off six out of seven wins against Atlanta and Milwaukee this week. From top to bottom, the Phightins are arguably baseball’s best. By now it's a foregone conclusion that this team will soon have its fifth consecutive NL East division crown- the first step of what will hopefully result in another parde down Broad Street.
 
However, as good as they are, any team is beatable. If you have one bad week in the playoffs, all the regular season wins in the world mean absolutely nothing if you’re home watching the World Series on television.
 
The Phillies don’t have many holes, but they do have some. Will they surface in October? Here are P2P’s possible concerns.

1. If Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels can’t go the distance, or at least seven innings, who is your seventh inning guy?Where would the Phillies be this year without Michael Stutes? Photo:www.lehighvalleylive.com

This is an issue that’s really getting underlooked. Hitters are a lot more patient in the playoffs. A few bad bounces here and there and your starter could get the hook a lot sooner than expected. Will Michael Stutes be strong enough to handle seventh inning duties come playoff time? Will it be Brad Lidge? Maybe Vance Worley or Roy Oswalt?

2. Will Antonio Bastardo regain his effectiveness?

This is kind of worrisome. Bastardo has looked very human as of late. Does he need rest? Has he hit a wall?  See Ruben, this is where another lefty would be huge. The Phils have not had two consistent lefties in the pen since Scott Eyre and J.C. Romero in 2008, and we all know what happened that year.

3.  Who will be the Phillies veteran pinch hitter they can rely on in the playoffs?

Brian Schneider? He’s not even hitting his weight. Ben Francisco? Next question. Ross Gload? Lets hope they need a single and nothing else. Wilson Valdez? As long as there are two outs, there will be no 6-4-3 double play. Michael Martinez or John Mayberry Jr.? They are rookies. Antonio Bastardo photo: Getty ImagesJohn Bowker? Just who is this guy anyway? Still scratching my head there.

Let's play devil's advocate for a minute. What if it’s 3-2 (insert opposing team here) in the eighth inning of a playoff game and the Phillies need a hit, who is that Del Unser or Greg Gross? I think it’s safe to say there is nobody close to the caliber of Matt Stairs coming off the bench for this team, and that could be an issue. I don’t understand how veterans like Michael Tucker, Jose Hernandez, and Jeff Conine were readily available back when the Phillies were trying to get to the playoffs, but nobody close to their caliber would have been available on August 31st.

4. If the Phillies fall behind in a game, can they come back against strong bullpens?

The Phightins don’t fall behind in many games. In saying that, they are 11-35 when trailing after seven innings and 7-8 in extra innings. That is a very low number, and they technically only put themselves in that situation every third game or so, but the Braves, Brewers, and Diamondbacks have strong to decent bullpens. There are lots of close games in the playoffs, and it seems the days of the great 9th inning comebacks for the Phightins are a thing of the past. The Phillies formula for winning is simple: score some runs and let the starters do the rest. Let’s hope this continues. After all, this has served them well to this point in 2011.


5. Will the Phillies hit? Ryan Howard photo : Perez, AP

This is a question that would have had many worried prior to the return of Chase Utley and the arrival of Hunter Pence in July. The concern regarding the Phillies’ offense going belly-up again in the playoffs like in last year’s post season has lessened since the Giants’ will probably miss the playoffs. If that team didn't catch lightning in a bottle the way it did, there's no doubt in my mind the Phillies would have won the World Series last year. The Phils have handled Josh Beckett, C.J. Wilson, Tim Hudson, Ian Kennedy, and other quality starters from contending teams pretty well in 2011, so that is encouraging.

Can lightning strike twice? Absolutely, but the Phillies won’t face anything close to the caliber of pitching that they faced last October.

Tell us what you think!

Joe Vallee is a lifelong Phillies fan and former Phillies batboy. Joe has claimed to have seen about 98% of every Phillies game since the early 1980's.

Contact Joe at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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