The absence of Jayson Werth, Chase Utley and Brad Lidge from the Phillies left plenty of cause for concern at the beginning of the season.
Losing the team’s No. 3 and No. 5 hitters and the closer created a scenario where many hoped that the Phillies would be able to hang on until Utley and Lidge returned.
But instead of merely surviving, the Phillies, with a 7-2 record, are thriving.
The offense so far has been unbelievable. As of Monday, the Phillies were No. 1 in the league in hits (107) and batting average (.334) and No. 3 in runs (59), doubles (22), RBI (58) and slugging percentage (.484).
Last season, Werth epitomized selectivity at the plate, and I think that carried over to the rest of the team, who ended up being too selective and missing good opportunities to hit. But this season, the Phillies batters have been more aggressive, going after pitchers early in the count. On the first and second pitches of an at-bat, the Phillies have recorded 36 of their 107 hits.
This aggressiveness at the plate may explain why they are 28th in the league in drawing walks. (They have 22 this year; Washington leads the league with 44.) But they also have only struck out 56 times this season, fifth-best. (The Pirates are the worst in that category with 86.)
Shane Victorino came through as the leadoff batter against Atlanta, batting 9-for-13. Jimmy Rollins, batting third, is batting .324 so far, and Ben Francisco, batting fifth, has seven RBI.
Francisco provided much-needed protection for Ryan Howard, after Howard was intentionally walked by Brandon Beachy, by getting an RBI single. According to Phillies beat reporter Todd Zolecki, that’s the first time since 2008 that the No. 5 batter got a hit after Howard was intentionally walked.
With their 6.5 runs per game, the Phillies can confidently say good riddance to Jayson Werth and take your time to Chase Utley.
Jose Contreras and the Rest of the Bullpen Are Getting the Job Done
Is Jose Contreras the new “Lights Out” man in Philadelphia? Contreras recorded his second save on Sunday. He has scattered two hits and a walk and struck out four batters in three games. As his setup man, Ryan Madson has struck out four batters as well and has only allowed one hit and no walks.
Former starter Kyle Kendrick has been utilized for a couple of longer appearances after Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee collapsed early in their starts. Kendrick has only allowed one earned run.
Reliever Antonio Bastardo has nine strikeouts in 4.2 innings pitched. That’s only five strikeouts behind team leader Cliff Lee. His torrid, team-high K/9 ratio of 17.36 is due to his striking out six consecutive batters in Atlanta on Friday.
Don't get me wrong—I'll welcome back Utley with open arms and Lidge too (if he's back to 100 percent)—but for now, the Phillies are doing fine.
With the bullpen and offense performing above and beyond expectations and the starting pitching living up to the hype, it's looking like a very good year for the Philadelphia Phillies.