Monday, April 11, 2011

Phillies: 9 Games In

I know it’s been a while since we’ve posted anything, and for that, we apologize. We vamos’d a la playa to film a music video and it took four and a half months. Not really.

I figured now would be a good time to get back into it because it’s a great time to be a sports fan: the NBA and NHL playoffs are right around the corner, the Premiere League is on TV sometimes (not enough times), it’s almost time to hit the golf course and dress in a mildly homosexual manner, there’s lacrosse to watch on TV and in person (shoutout to Villanova Men’s Lax being #11 in the nation),and – best of all – the MLB season is underway.

As a Phillies fan, I was supposed to be really excited about this season. The expectation is dominance. The best pitching rotation in history, a solid bullpen, and a lineup of hitters that reached the NLCS last year. We’re supposed to win it all by a long shot.

I have never really bought into this. Maybe it’s because I don’t really think Roy Oswalt is that good. Maybe I’m a huge Jayson Werth fan and I think we’ll miss him more than everyone thinks. Maybe it’s because I think injuries are going to kill us this season. I’m pessimistic. It’s in my genes.

I could not be more relieved to be 7-2 after 9 games. It’s been solid play all around overall with a few pleasant surprises and a couple not-so-pleasant surprises that may bite us in the ass later on in the season.

Right Where Everyone Expected

The Roys: Halladay is phenomenal. Hitters know he’s phenomenal. He knows that hitters know he’s phenomenal. Two starts so far, two quality starts so far, 13 strikeouts in 13 innings, and an ERA of 0.69. He’s winning the NL Cy Young award. Place your bets. He’s the best pitcher in the league. Would it be absurd of me to say that he’s the best pitcher ever? Maybe. As for Oswalt, he’s been great too – just not as good as Halladay. If he can keep his ERA in the 2-3 range, everything will be okay. Quick note on Oswalt: he’s one of only 7 NL pitchers to win both of his first starts.

Cole Hamels: He falls into the ‘Expected’ category because he’s all over the place. As a fan (and I am a huge fan of him), rooting for Cole is an emotional rollercoaster. The high point was obviously the 2008 World Series MVP performance. The low point came over the past two years where he didn’t live up to the hype. It may have been that he was in the shadow of Lee and Halladay and wasn’t forced to put the team on his back. Maybe he was too busy thinking about Heidi (his smoking-hot wife). I don’t really know. If he pitches the way he did against Atlanta – or at least close to it – then he’s the second best pitcher in the rotation.

Joe Blanton: I feel bad for Joe. He’s in a really awkward situation. The other 4 starters are so much better than him and they get so much recognition. I saw a poster of the starting rotation yesterday and a Red Sox fan asked who the guy with the creepy chin hair was. That’s Joe Blanton: the guy in the pictures with Roy/Cliff/Roy/Cole with the scary-looking facial hair. And that’s all he’s going to be this year. Unless he throws a perfect game or beans Alex Rodriguez in the head and ends his career. Or both? My fingers are crossed.

Ryan Howard: This is his year. Yeah, I know that he won the MVP a few years ago. But all the power that Phillies fans are used to seeing falls on him: Werth is gone, Ibanez is old, Utley is out (more on this later). The big guy is hitting .361 with 2 home runs and 11 RBI’s. That’s the production that we need. He probably won’t win Most Valuable Player again – but if we continue to play the style of baseball we’ve played for the past three years (fast guys get on base and big guys hit home runs), he will need to be OUR Most Valuable Player.

Causes For Concern

Injuries: As much as I hate Brad Lidge sometimes, he’s exciting. Everyone holds their breath when he walks out to the mound because he is the most bipolar pitcher in baseball. He’s either getting his save easily, or he’s dangling the victory in the jaws of a crocodile. I’m talking about coming in with a 2 run lead, filling up the bases, allowing an RBI single, getting two outs, and then getting the final out on a warning-track-power flyout. I want to cry sometimes. But he’s better than any other closer that we have. We’ll miss him in some close games between now and the All-Star break. Chase Utley’s surgery is more heartbreaking than any Brad Lidge blown save could ever be. I love Chase. I grew up with Chase. He’s always been there for me with greased back hair and a fat cheek. He’s been the best second baseman in the MLB for years. His wife is really hot. Various other things about him to encourage you to like him and to feel bad that he’s out. Get well soon.

Age: Very similar to injuries. We have a lot of old players, and with age comes injury. Jamie Moyer is out for the year (look for him on ESPN). Lidge is 34 and Utley is 32. Polanco and Rollins combine for 67 years of age. Our two catchers combine for 66. Jose Contreras has at least that many by himself. Cross your fingers that we don’t copy the Mets 2010 season (sorry Chris), because then I would cry a lot and that’s not a good look. Unrelated to injuries but related to bashing the Mets, I also would not like to copy their 2008 or 2009 seasons. Choking like Rory McIlroy at the Master’s is probably even worse than being doomed from the start.

Cliff Lee: Cliff was signed for the playoffs. He doesn’t care about the regular season so he’s not going to grind out every victory his team needs. But he likes the Phillies organization, he likes his teammates, and he likes the fans (for proof: look at his jersey. See how it doesn’t have pinstripes?). I’m not really concerned with the 1-1 record or the 7.84 ERA. They will come down. It’s Cliff Lee. I’m concerned with this Barstool Sports post from Cliff’s high school yearbook. I hope this is fake. Because if it’s not, then it’s weird.

Pleasant Surprises

Shane Victorino: Hitting .417, with some power mixed in? I have bashed Shane for years (mostly because he’s my mom’s favorite player and I like to be an asshole) but he’s been a stud so far. I drafted him in Fantasy and he’s been my best hitter by far. To be pessimistic, obviously he won’t keep it up. He’ll fall off or he’ll get busted with steroids or something. But until then, I GUESS I am on the bandwagon of Flyin’ Hawaiian fans.

Ben Francisco: Jayson Werth leaving is going to hurt us. You can’t lose a guy that is good at everything – literally everything – and be okay afterwards, right? I mean there’s a reason that he signed a $126 million dollar contract and his replacement makes 1.2 million. That’s one hundred times as much money!! Wait, nevermind. But Right Field should be a weakness for the 2011 Phillies. Not if Ben Francisco keeps up the work he’s put in so far. Hitting over .300 with a pair of home runs and 7 RBI’s. Who needs Werth? I do, but that’s just my heart speaking. Love makes us say foolish things. I’m content with Fransisco.

We are in great condition, Phillies fans. We’re on our way to another NL East title and when the team gets healthy we’ll be just as dominant as we’re used to being.

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