The Philadelphia Phillies are a quarter of the way through their defense of their World Series championship. Thus far, through the accolades and mourning, this Phillies team has proven to be as strong as the team that brought home the title in 2008.
Offensively, an already strong offense has become even more deadly to opposing pitchers with the acquistion of left fielder Raul Ibanez. There were many questions about Ibanez's age and fielding ability.
However, whatever questions there were about Ibanez have been silenced up to this point as Ibanez leads the majors with 17 home runs and 43 RBI; numbers no one expected from the 36 year old.
Being as big of a Pat Burrell fan as anybody, it was sad to see him leave, but gratifying that he went out on top as a Phillie. However, I have to admit that Ibanez has made me go Pat who? Ibanez has clearly shown why the Phillies took the calculated risk of signing an outfielder of advanced age to a very lucrative contract; he's worth every cent.
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins has been slow out of the gate offensively. As of late, Rollins has picked it up at the plate. For this offense to continue to run on all cylinders, Rollins needs to get innings started at the top of the order. Based on his track record, its only a matter of time.
The pitching staff which carried this team through the month of October has been hit or miss. The starting staff's troubles have been a season long experience, however, there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel.
The Chan Ho Park experiment has finally come to an end; giving J.A. Happ a deserved spot in the starting rotation. Based on yesterday's appearance against the New York Yankees, Happ is a capable number five starter who is more like a two or a three in this current rotation.
Cole Hamels has finally gotten over his rash of early season bad luck and become himself again on the mound. Hamels is the stabilizing factor in this rotation. The NLCS and World Series MVP is returning to form after a lack of innings pitched from late spring training into April. This team can count on a solid outing at least every fifth day out of Hamels.
Brett Myers has been slowly coming along as the new workhorse of the starting rotation. Of his nine starts in 2009, eight have lasted six innings or more. Maybe its because its a contract year or Myers has started to come into his own.
The ageless Jamie Moyer is beginning to show his age. The 46 year old has struggled in the early going with an ERA of 7.63. This organization won't give up on someone like Moyer who has given them so much, but if his struggles last any longer the front office's patience may no longer be on Moyer's side.
Joe Blanton is a bit of an enigma in 2009. His last start against the Reds was impressive until he got to the fifth inning; turning a 6-0 lead into a 6-5 lead. Blanton is supposed to be an innings eater, but has proven anything but in the early part of the season.
However, rest easy as his career numbers are significantly better in the second half than the first half.
The bullpen has been solid with one exception as of late. Closer Brad Lidge, who is suffering with a sore right knee, has blown three saves after going 48 for 48 in save opportunities in the 2008 regular season and playoffs combined.
The cockeyed optimist in me believes Lidge will turn it around, but a stint on the DL may be the best place for him recover for when the game become even more crucial. Ryan Madson has closer type stuff and is more than capable of taking over Lidge's role.
In a perfect world, Lidge would agree to get his knee scoped soon after JC Romero's return on June 3; moving Romero to the set up role and Madson to closer.
All in all, this team has got the make-up to make a run at defending their title. Perhaps with the addition of a starting pitcher along the way, this team could become even more of a force to be reckoned with in the National League.