As I said in the previous series-thread, the Phillies next 20 games after are against quality opponents: ATL, FLA, ATL, STL, COL, TEX, CIN. So far we have played a whopping 5 games against teams with over .500 records. We are 3-2. We’ll start finding out what we’ve got in this team now.
The Good News
- Jimmy Rollins triumphant return to the top of the line-up: 6 for 13, 2 BB, 2 SB. Keep it up, James.
- Raul Ibanez returns to the land of living. In that 3-game series he increased his OPS by 42%! It’s truly amazing that someone can go from looking absolutely lost on 85mph fastballs down the middle, to hitting upper deck shots and 100mph fastballs. Hopefully he can get on a hot-streak.
- Even when Roy Halladay isn’t great, he’s great.
- Placido Polanco leads the majors in hits with 45.
- Victorino is riding a 8-game hitting streak, and didn’t appear phased moving out of the lead-off spot.
Let’s talk about Cole Hamels briefly. Many picked him to win the Cy Young this year, and then his horrendous opening start killed that thought almost right away. But since that start, he’s pitched as well as anyone in baseball. In his 5 other starts, he’s averaged almost 8 IP, has a 1.42 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and has struck out pretty much a batter an inning while only allowing 24 hits in 38 IP. He’s been our best pitcher over that stretch.
It certainly seemed like 2009 was an eye-opening experience for Hamels. He got caught in the post-World Series MVP celebration and didn’t get fully prepared for the season and that, combined with some bad luck, resulted in a very disappointed season for him. But in retrospect, those struggles may have helped him. He changed up his off-season workout plan, and worked on adding a new pitch, a cutter, to replace his below average curveball.
You could see the results almost right away last year, with his fastball reaching 94mph on a consistent basis, and as he got more comfortable with the cutter, he only improved. In his 34 starts since his rocky start last year, he’s put up the following numbers: 218.2 IP, 2.67 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 7.4 H/9, 8.8 K/9. This year, he’s throwing the cutter with more regularity and it’s getting more effective. In fact, it’s the most effective cutter in the majors so far this year, according to FanGraphs.
If he continues with his conditioning programs, and has an open mind to constantly be improving, I think it’s pretty important we lock him up for the long-term as soon as we can. Corey Seidman over at BrotherlyGlove wrote a great post about what the Phillies should offer. His education number: 5 years, $85 million. Sign me up.
The Bad News
- No bad news after a sweep, but I can say this since it’s technically about next series. Losing Oswalt to the DL isn’t the end of the world, but we’d better not keep Kyle Kendrick in his spot over Vance Worley. That would be indescribably stupid. I completely understand not keeping Vance up and in the bullpen, but if a starting spot is open, it better go to him. I think as the season goes on, we will continue to have discussions about Oswalt and whether or not the Phillies should bring him back next year at $14 million, or spend that money elsewhere. If Hamels continues to dominate, Worley stays solid and the offense keeps sputtering, it will be more interesting than I thought it would.
Series Preview: Atlanta Braves at Phillies
The look of the series takes a turn with Kyle Kendrick on the mound tomorrow. Sure, he could toss a good game, but I’m not betting on it. The Braves have been playing very well of late, they have won 10 of 13 and 5 in-a-row. I’m sure they see this series as a chance to rocket right back to us, as a sweep would put them 1.5 games out.
Friday (7:05): Lee vs. RHP Derek Lowe
Saturday (7:05): Kendrick vs. RHP Julio Teheran
Sunday (8:05): Hamels vs. RHP Jair Jurjens
3 questions for the series
- Can Cliff Lee erase the thoughts of his last start vs. Atlanta?
- How will Braves super-prospect Julio Teheran look in his first MLB start?
- Chase is going to Florida! Will we keep getting good news?
Tough one with Oswalt out. I’m giving them the 2nd game. But I also can’t praise Hamels like I did above and pick against him, so the winner of tonight will take the series. I’ll take the Phils to win 2 out of 3 as we miss their two best starters (Hudson and Hanson) and our offense has found some life again.