"We'll be fine. We're the defending champs, and we're not defending champs for no reason. At the end of the day, I'm walking out of this place, and we're still in first place. That's how you've got to look at it."
Confidence or complacency? Waltzing or wavering? Champs, or chumps?
The answer should tell us who's going to be celebrating in October.
The offense isn’t there, but it doesn’t have to be. Coste will start hitting again at a decent clip now that he’s no longer an everyday player.
The defense has been superb, and Carlos Ruiz is finally getting recognized as being one of the best in baseball at blocking the plate.
However, some blame for the pitching woes has to be placed on the guys catching.
Ryan Howard came to spring training 20 pounds lighter, and it has had dramatic results.
For the first time I can remember, he has avoided his signature first-half slump. If he finishes like he has in seasons past, he could easily be looking at 170, possibly 180 runs batted in.
Chase Utley has been typically awesome. He brings offense, defense, and the intangibles. There isn’t a whole lot to say here that hasn’t already been said.
On the other side of second, Jimmy Rollins has been just downright awful.
His MVP season seems so long ago. This Rollins looks more like the one we saw early in his career: The shortstop with a first-class glove, but who also looked clueless at the plate.
He barely ever walks, and he‘s lost his pop to boot. At the top of this lineup, a .254 on-base percentage is simply unconscionable.
Pedro Feliz has actually been swinging a halfway decent bat so far, but his fielding has been troubling.
By my count, he has unquestionably blown two games this season with costly errors. At this point in the season, you just can’t have that coming from third.
The outfield has been, simply put, one of the best in baseball.
Shane Victorino started slow, but he looks fine now. He plays the game at a breakneck pace and is a pleasure to watch, even if his mental errors give Phillies fans everywhere gray hairs.
Jayson Werth has handled an everyday job admirably. Basically, think of him as a poor man’s Carlos Beltran.
Before he went on the disabled list, Ibanez was looking like a triple crown candidate. Heck, he’s even avoided making a fool of himself in leftfield…so far.
John Mayberry has shown potential and height during Ibanez's absence, and Matt Stairs continues to be the best pinch-hitter in baseball.
On the flip side, Eric Bruntlett has been awful. If .200 is the Mendoza line, can we name .100 the Bruntlett line?
Greg Dobbs needs to be traded. The guy has tons of talent, but when his at-bats dip, so does his attitude.
Talk about disarray.
J.A. Happ has been a pleasant surprise, and Cole Hamels looks like he’s shaping up.
That’s where the good news ends.
Jamie Moyer is just bad. The Phillies have to hope this isn’t the year he finally lets his age catch up to him. They owe him a ton of cash over the next two seasons either way.
Antonio Bastardo and Joe Blanton both have ERAs over five. Chan Ho Park was terrible as a starter, but his relief work is a silver lining.
It's been a mixed bag.
Brad Lidge’s struggles have been well documented. If he was even a shadow of his 2008 self, then this team would have run away with the division long ago.
Madson was excellent, until he started filling in for Lidge. The rest of the bullpen has been good, but not great.
In 2008, when the Phils had a lead in the late innings, the game was over. I wish I could remember what that felt like.
I promised not to criticize Charlie Manuel for a year after his won the World Series.
Even if I wanted to, I probably couldn’t.
He has been successful so far in the double switch (a past nemesis), and I like the way he has handled the Lidge crisis so far.
I haven’t noticed the new third base coach yet, and that’s a very good thing.
They are still in first place. The fans say it, the media says it, even the players say it.
But sooner or later, somebody in the NL East is going to heat up, and Philadelphia better be ready to start playing baseball.
The much-maligned home record is probably just a strange coincidence, rather than a trend.
This is a much different Phillies team from a year ago, but a repeat still seems doable, and the people in the seats expect nothing less.
Team Grade: B+