On this beautiful Memorial Day, we take a moment to recognize, salute, and appreciate the lives of the military veterans that have given their lives so we may have the freedoms we enjoy today.
Meanwhile, in Washington D.C., the Philadelphia Phillies reach their own milestone: Game No. 54 of this young 2011 MLB Season.
Yup, that's the one-third mark folks.
So we can now take our first look and make our first truly educated guesses for how this season could turn out.
Win or loss today, the Phillies have maintained a 60 percent or higher winning percentage since the season began.
When the offense has clicked, they've shown the capability of playing .700 ball.
When the offense has struggled, they still have been able to play better than .500 ball with that vaunted pitching rotation.
As to be expected, there have been some injuries along the way.
Chase Utley will be playing in his seventh game of the season today.
Shane Victorino has been stuck on 39 for a few weeks since hurting his hamstring in Atlanta.
Roy Oswalt has battled tornadoes in his hometown, as well as a bad back.
Ryan Madson has emerged to be the pitcher he truly is capable of being; the only question remains how long can he sustain this level of performance?
We've yet to see Brad Lidge due to injury.
Jose Contreras has recently returned from an injury.
Up and down the lineup, there has been no consistency by anyone aside from Placido Polanco.
If we multiplied everyone's stats at the end of today by three, would those players be satisfied with what they saw?
Would the fans?
Sure, Ryan Howard would end up with 33 home runs and 120 RBI, give or take a few. He also would be striking out 196 times.
Jimmy Rollins would end up scoring 90 runs and stealing 36 bases, give or take a few.
Raul Ibanez would have about 20 home runs, and that's really the only stat worth tabulating.
Polanco has a shot at 200 hits this season.
That's about it for the offense, so it's pretty fair to say Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has some work to do before the trade deadline.
Let's look at the pitching, which everyone was salivating like a rabid dog to see since signing Cliff Lee in December.
Roy Halladay appears to be mirroring his Cy Young 2010 season only without any perfect games or no hitter's to this point. A model of consistency, in my mind, he is the team MVP for what he brings to the pitching staff. Not only in terms of statistical output, but also the morale and work ethic he brings to the team on a daily basis.
The Phillie pitcher with the best overall stats right now has to be Cole Hamels simply because he has more wins and less losses than the rest of the bunch. His ERA is a shade higher than Halladay's, but his WHIP is a shade lower. He's having a career year, on pace for 21 wins and 6 losses.
Cliff Lee's season has been a roller coaster ride thus far, as he is the only Phillie with a shutout to this point, he also has been the victim of a lack of run support. His performances have mostly all been solid, but his 4-4 record does not do him justice. It's certainly hard to imagine him ending the season 12-12.
Roy Oswalt simply has not pitched enough to this point in the season to be able to make any determinations. When he's pitched, he's looked good, and we'll see if he stays healthy, keeps dealing and what the offense can provide for him the rest of the way.
And the fifth starter... Blanton? Worley? Kendrick?
The Phillies have been blessed with a plethora of starting pitching talent since the beginning of the season.
Overall, no matter who the fifth starter has been, the Phillies have gotten decent performances bridging Hamels to Halladay.
My overall assessment of this club:
If the season ended with the club performing as it has to this point, we'd see between 99 and 102 wins.
They traded Werth for Lee, in a manner of speaking, this past offseason, and while the pitching has been great, the offense has certainly suffered.
There is too much pressure on Ryan Howard without a bona fide hitter behind him. He has the capability of putting up Barry Bonds numbers but lacks the patience, discipline and maturity to reach this potential, especially without protection behind him. Since his 2006 MVP season, he has never played the same way and likely never will.
Chase Utley is one of the best second baseman to ever play the game, but his numbers will never reflect this because he plays so hard he gets himself injured too often. When healthy and on top of his game, there's no one better to hit in front of Howard on the team.
Some problems the Phillies lineup has: Three guys that all could hit in the two hole comfortably in Utley, Polanco, and Victorino.
They have two guys who could hit leadoff in Rollins and Victorino.
They have three guys that could hit in the three hole with Utley, Polanco and Ibanez.
Yet, have no one suitable to hit in the five hole. This problem must be addressed and not with in house talent such as Dominic Brown, Ben Francisco, or John Mayberry Jr.
General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. will need to make a trade before the deadline to put this club over the top.
If he doesn't, the Phillies, all in all, are no better or worse than when they were beaten by San Francisco last season.
They still are one of the top teams in the National League and in all of baseball, but if the offense does not get better, they are not the team I'd pick to win the Fall Classic this year.
Who goes, who stays, and who to go after will be tough questions for Ruben Amaro Jr. to assess going into the All-Star Break a little more than a month from now.
Stay tuned, the halfway mark will be the next chapter in my Philadelphia Phillies 2011 story...
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