Philadelphia Phillies: Halfway Mark of the 2011 Season Report

Will ShafferCorrespondent IJune 29, 2011

Aces Wild: Phillies Left-handed Pitcher Cliff Lee
Aces Wild: Phillies Left-handed Pitcher Cliff LeeDrew Hallowell/Getty Images

Earlier this evening, at the conclusion of a 2-1 Philadelphia Phillies win over the Boston Red Sox, an important benchmark of the 2011 season was reached.

The conclusion of Game No. 81 or the midway point of the long season.

At 51-30, Philadelphia is sitting pretty with by far the best record in the Major Leagues.

The key to their success?


With the offseason acquisition of Cliff Lee, the Phillies were expected to be one of the best teams in the game.

Phillie fans and baseball analysts alike both knew the loss of Jayson Werth would be detrimental to Philadelphia's offense.

The effects of the virtual swap of Werth for Lee in the free-agent market left everyone wondering what kind of long-term effect it would have on a Philadelphia club that had made it to at least the NLCS or further in each of the past three seasons.

Indeed, the offense has certainly suffered.

Before tonight's game, Philadelphia ranked 17th in MLB in runs scored and eighth in the National League out of 16 teams.

That's not too hot.

But this team was built by General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. for pitching. It was a wise choice.

After tonight's game, the Phillies ranked No. 1 in the major leagues in team ERA at 3.01 earned runs allowed per game and were tied with only Seattle for the major league lead in team WHIP at 1.18.

Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels have been consistent and dominating for the majority of the season. Their statistics are virtually identical.

With Cliff Lee's other-worldly June performances, including his most recent string of three consecutive shutouts, the Philles have the three starting pitchers with well over 100 innings, and none of the three have an ERA above 2.66.

That is obscene.

Add in ailing Roy Oswalt's mediocre (cough cough) 3.79 ERA in his 13 total starts to the mix and rookie Vance Worley's 2.57 ERA after making seven starts and the Phillies clearly have the best rotation in the game.

They've been without Joe Blanton virtually the entire season.

The bullpen has been a hodgepodge of closers filling in for injured closers filling in for injured closers.

Rolling along with the games best overall pitching, this veteran club is once again overcoming the injury bug to earn the best record in the game halfway through the season.

Shane Victorino has missed time, Chase Utley missed nearly the first two months of the season, Ruiz has been in and out of the lineup and backup catcher Brian Schneider has also missed significant time due to injury.

Combined with all the pitching injuries sustained to Brad Lidge, Roy Oswalt, Jose Contreras, Ryan Madson and Joe Blanton, the Phillies have yet to play a single game with the roster they envisioned they would have before the season began.

The Phillies resilience and hard work are a testament to Manager Charlie Manuel and his handling of this team.

Over the course of Manuel's reign as skipper of the club, the Phillies have traditionally been a second-half team.

Should Philadelphia remain healthy and perform merely as they have all season, the team would finish with an astonishing 102 wins and 60 losses.

If the offense can catch fire for any extended period of time, that record could be even better once the season concludes.

The hope in Philadelphia is that Ruben Amaro goes out and gets a solid right-handed bat for the five-hole by the trade deadline to bolster the team's offense.

The playoffs, as any baseball fan is more than aware, is a completely different animal with off days between games and lower temperatures to help keep the ball in the park.

With dominating pitching, Philadelphia fans have to like their chances at the Phillies bringing home their second world title in the past four years.

Predictions not withstanding, the team still has to stay healthy and go out and execute for this goal to be reached. But at the halfway point of the season, the magic eight-ball seems to say "all signs point to yes."

Stay tuned for my next analysis of this ball club after the trade deadline.