Alas, my favorites - The Philadelphia Phillies - are hurting and limping. Of course we know that Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are literally hurting and limping, but I was speaking about the entire team. Two important areas are extremely weak just now: the Offense and the Relief Pitching. The Starting Pitching continues to be among the very best even though the starters don't have many wins. That's because the Phillies are not scoring many runs for their starters these days and because the bullpen cannot hold leads after Charley Manuel removes the starting pitcher. This series with the Mets saw the bullpen blow leads in all three games, as the lowly-regarded Mets swept the defending NL East champions with ease.
Take a look at this cast of characters in the bullpen: Kyle Kendrick - ERA 7.32, Jose Contreras - ERA 8.59, Brian Sanches - ERA 11.25, Mike Schwimer - ERA 8.53 (on his way back to the minors), Michael Stutes - ERA 6.35, David Herndon - ERA 4.70, Joe Savery - ERA 4.50. Lately, going to bullpen is like Charley tossing gasoline onto a fire. Is there anyone in the farm system who could be tried? I don't know, but there are a couple of relievers with good stats currently. Jake Diekman, age 25, leads the Lehigh Valley staff with 5 saves and an ERA of 0.59. Justin Friend leads the Reading staff with 7 saves and an ERA of 0.79, while fellow reliever Tyson Brummett has an ERA of 1.50. Need a situational lefty? Maybe Delaware resident Tom Cochran, currently at Lehigh Valley, could help the big club.
The power failure that continues to short-circuit the Phillies' Offense is even more difficult to fix. The only signs of hitters who MIGHT have a chance against big league pitching are Hector Luna (12 Homers in 28 games at Lehigh Valley) and Darin Ruf (5 Homers and a .389 Average at Reading). Other than that, pickings look slim.
I think the Phillies Starting Pitching can win a lot of games IF the bullpen can get shored up, even with the weak hitting this year. But the combination of puny offense AND a horrible bullpen will keep the Phillies away from playoff contention for sure. Except for one atrocious outing, Jonathon Papelbon has done a capable job as Closer so far. But he rarely sees the Phillies get to the ninth inning with a lead. At the current rate, he may become the most under-used Closer in MLB this year. Ruben Amaro may have to spend even more money to bring in some help from outside. There may be a couple of guys in the minors with some promise, but there is NOT a lot of hope "down on the farm". To me, the Philadelphia farm system looks like "SLIM PICKINGS".