The Philadelphia Phillies have suffered some early blows to start the 2011 season. Even without Chase Utley and Brad Lidge, though, the Phillies are in first place and are tied for the best record in baseball.
Here are six reasons why the Phillies can still win the title without Utley and Lidge.
The rest of the lineup has stepped up to start the season. Placido Polanco looks to be back to his normal self after an injury-plagued 2010 season. He is currently hitting .372, good for sixth in the National League.
Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard and Ben Francisco have all contributed three home runs. Howard is also third in the league in RBI with 19.
As a whole, the offense is struggling somewhat, as they are below the league average in several offensive categories, but the early-season signs show a promising finish to the season if players stay healthy.
The Phillies have played very good defense to start the season. They have a .989 fielding percentage as a team and are tied for the second-fewest errors committed with nine on the season.
If the defense continues to play well behind the Phillies' pitching, they will allow very few unearned runs, which will lead to more wins.
Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt and Roy Halladay have a combined ERA of 2.40. Cliff Lee has struggled to start the year along with Joe Blanton.
This should not be any reason for concern, however, as Lee is second in the league in strikeouts with 39 and has a WHIP that is only .03 points higher than Roy Halladay. In his two losses the Phillies have scored a total of three runs, which doesn't help either. Lee's early high ERA should not be a concern for the team.
The Phillies bullpen has had a good start to the year. Jose Contreras was recently placed on the 15-day DL with a strained right elbow. This again should be a small injury and should allow him to come back when he is eligible.
The bullpen has allowed just nine earned runs in 57.1 innings of work this season. Contreras, Ryan Madson and Antonio Bastardo have combined to convert all eight saves on the season. Bastardo could step into the closer role if Madson remains the setup man. Either way the Phillies bullpen looks strong, and any number of guys could step up and fill in the closer role when needed.
If Utley and Lidge or any other player could be out for the remainder of the season, Ruben Amaro Jr. could make another deal at the trade deadline to add talent to the team for the postseason. Amaro has made big moves the past few seasons, including the acquisitions of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt.
The Phillies have a sold-out crowd at every game. This huge fanbase has been a huge home-field advantage for the team, especially in the playoffs. The fans could be a huge boost for the team come September, when the team begins its run for another World Series championship.