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Phillies look too inconsistent to contend so far in 2013

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On Tuesday night, the Phillies were shutout for the third time in their last eight games. The team shows flashes of getting things together, and then they go and get shutout by Jeff Locke. Who is Jeff Locke? He’s a guy that the Phillies should hit, that’s who. He sounds like a guy from ‘Lost,’ which makes sense because that’s how the Phillies’ offense has looked this season (thanks Matt Goldberg!)

 

But enough of the attempted humor. The way the Phillies have mostly played this year is anything but funny. And the way things look right now, they have far too many inconsistencies to remain competitive. Let’s break down the particulars:

 

Offense- This will be the Phillies’ downfall. The team is currently ranked 20th in hitting out of 30 teams in Major League Baseball and entered Tuesday’s game against the Pirates hitting .200 against lefties. There’s no consistency throughout the lineup, there’s very little power, and nobody hits consistently with runners in scoring position. Another constant pattern over the last few seasons is the pitch count discrepancy between the opposing pitcher and Phillies starters. These Phillies teams gives away at bats like they’re playing MLB 2K13. Last Thursday night against the Cardinals, Adam Wainwright threw 56 pitches through five and a third innings. Meanwhile, Cole Hamels (who is now 0-3) had 87.

 

Ryan Howard, the team’s biggest run producer, has as many home runs as Freddy Galvis. In fact, he’s got Photo: Kathy Willen/APone RBI in his last 11 games. If the Phillies have any hope of being a threat offensively, Howard as well as the others need to get in a groove and soon. Jimmy Rollins has chipped in with some key hits, but he’s striking out way too much in key situations. Chase Utley will hit the occasional round tripper, but after a strong start he’s cooled off a little. After a fantastic spring training, the only thing Domonic Brown has proven is that he still can’t get post impressive numbers in the bigs. Michael Young has proven he can still hit, but his power (not that he ever had much to begin with) is all but completely sapped.

 

While we’re discussing a lack of power, your center fielder (Ben Revere) has never homered in the major leagues, and it’s going to be interesting to see how Carlos Ruiz fares after he returns from his suspension next week. Hopefully the bat of Delmon Young is a welcome surprise if he comes back healthy and can play the outfield without completely embarrassing himself. My question is this: When do you finally stop blaming Milt Thompson and Greg Gross for the team’s offensive decline the last three seasons? Right about now, Wally Joyner and Steve Henderson might be scratching their heads asking what they signed up for with this team.

 

 Bench- This is possibly the nicest surprise of the early season. Laynce Nix has hit two pinch-hit home runs, Freddy Galvis has a pinch hit home run and played flawlessly in the field no matter where he plays, and Kevin Frandsen won a game for the team several weeks back with a walk-off double. It will be interesting to see if the bench is tinkered with when Ruiz and Delmon Young return. John Mayberry Jr is the player most likely to return to the bench.

 

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Starting pitching- The pitching overall has been solid. After a rocky first few starts, Hamels has pitched better than his record indicates. Let’s hope he’s not this year’s version of Cliff Lee. Speaking of Lee, he had a hiccup against the Cardinals last weekend (that team really has his number), but had a 1.52 ERA prior to that outing. Roy Halladay has looked better as of late, but will most likely need some more quality startCole Hamels photoL Chuck Solomons under his belt before you might consider him reliable. Kyle Kendrick has his moments, and John Lannan is what he is. It will be interesting to see how Jonathan Pettibone fares during his next start. Pettibone’s numbers were less than spectacular at best in his two starts at Triple-A this season, so hopefully Monday’s strong effort against Pittsburgh isn’t a mirage. If Pettibone can continue to pitch well, it will be interesting to see where Lannan fits in upon his return from the disabled list.

 

 The bullpen- Yes, he gave up Carlos Beltran’s game-winner gopher ball last Thursday, but despite not feeling 100 percent, Mike Adams has been very impressive. The same can be said for Jonathan Papelbon, who is 4 for 4 in save opportunities this April and a remarkable 55 for 55 in April over his career. Antonio Bastardo hasn’t given up a run yet this season, and seems to be settling into his seventh inning role nicely. After those three, however, it’s really a mixed bag. Raul Valdes, Chad Durbin and Jeremy Horst have all gotten knocked around on more than one occasion. Moreover, Phillippe Aumont has often struggled with his control. Chances are you might be seeing Justin DeFratus, Michael Stutes, or Jake Diekman soon, because the Phillies are in dire need of middle relief.

 

Bottom line: On paper, you would think the Phillies have a decent chance of staying competitive in the NL East. If the team has the lead going into the 7th and 8th inning, Adams and Papelbon are as reliable as you can get. The problem is, the Phillies’ starters have to get them there, but the team is too inconsistent offensively for this to happen on a regular basis.

Although the team seems to be aging right before our very eyes, but I’m not going to rag on Ruben Amaro Jr. for all these long term deals the team is saddled with. After all, they were made while the team was in their collective prime. We knew there was a possibility this could happen down the line and so did Phillies’ management. Now the proof is in the pudding. It’s almost the end of the line for this particular Phillies squad. And while the jury is still out with Ruiz and Delmon Young missing from their lineup, the Phillies need to hang tough in the NL East and not get buried early. Otherwise, you might start seeing some veterans get shopped around at the trade deadline, and it might be quite some time before the Phillies reach the postseason again.

 

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Utley photo: Kathy Willens/AP
Hamels photo: Chuck Solomon