|Phillies Just Warming Up|
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on May 11, 2007
A few good moves made in the offseason forced the experts to pick the Phillies for another good campaign in 2007. They were returning an offense that ranked number one in the National League in runs scored and expected full seasons from veteran starters Freddy Garcia and Jamie Moyer. The addition of those two to Brett Myers and Cole Hamels gave them the core of a very strong starting rotation.
However, April was not what they expected. An 11-15 month is more on par with the Baltimore Orioles, not a club some publications projected to win the National League’s Eastern division. It took a shouting match between manager Charlie Manuel and radio host Howard Eskin to get the team going, and this is only the beginning. The Phillies are just warming up, because they figure to improve in three of the most important facets of the game -- starting rotation, bullpen, and offense.
The big move this offseason was acquiring Freddy Garcia. The right hander won 17 games with the White Sox last year and was an integral part of their World Series run in 2004. He is an innings eater the Phillies desperately needed atop their starting rotation. However, elbow tendonitis set him back at the beginning of the year, and he suffered a collision with a parked golf cart while shagging flies in batting practice. The incident caused a bad bruise on his shin. If they can get him on the mound and pitching well -- an ERA of 5.33 and WHIP of 1.46 just doesn’t cut it -- the Phillies would have the staff ace they desperately need.
Another reason for optimism for the Phillies’ starting rotation is that they’re getting a full season from Moyer. The crafty southpaw had an ERA a shade over 4.00 with the ballclub after last season’s trade with Seattle, and if they can get more of the same, the Phillies should consider themselves lucky. Speaking of getting full seasons from pitchers, there’s Hamels, who is left handed and throws a devastating changeup. That sounds like another ace starting pitcher, one who resides in Minnesota.
It seemed quite ridiculous that the Phillies moved their staff ace, Myers, into the bullpen a few weeks ago. After all, he performed very well as a starting pitcher last season, showing the potential to become a number one in the major leagues. However, three poor starts ticketed him for the latter portions of games.
In limited time, Myers has adapted to the role quite well. His ERA in relief innings is 0.87. After Gordon went down with shoulder issues, Myers slid into the closer’s role. He’s a perfect 2 for 2 in save opportunities. Once Ryan Madson and Gordon return from the disabled list, this has the makings of a very powerful ’pen. There are three arms out there that can quell opponents’ late-inning rallies.
Going into Wednesday night, the Phightin’ Phils were tied for fourth in the National League in runs scored. Sure, shortstop Jimmy Rollins (.296/9/23) and center fielder Aaron Rowand (.360/.438/.552) are playing over their heads, but once Ryan Howard returns from the disabled list, he’ll hit the requisite number of home runs to get back over the 40 mark. There’s also no way he’ll finish with a .204 batting average. The first baseman is prone to strikeouts, but not at this BJ Uptonian pace.
All in all, the Phillies have no where to go but up. Garcia’s career indicates that he will return to previous form -- during Interleague play, his ERA was below 3.00 -- and dominate games. The bullpen, once a couple of arms come back from injury, should be better, and Ryan Howard is a better hitter than he is showing. While the Phillies are mere specks in their rearview mirrors, the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets need to be prepared for a second-half run by these Phillies. They’re just warming up.