The Philadelphia Phillies are the National League favorites. Similarly, everyone expects them to cruise through the rest of the regular season and into the postseason. The question is, how will they do in the playoffs?
Philadelphia has won the division since 2007. They've got experience. Can they go as far as they did in 2008?
Here are four problems or obstacles the Phils may face in the 2011 postseason.
While the Phillies bullpen is fantastic, some of their pitchers may not be nearly as good in the postseason as they were in the regular season.
The Phillies have been in the postseason before, and most of their players have the experience that is very important for success. Their younger relief pitchers, however, do not. Because of this, we may not be able to count on them as much under pressure.
Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes are two young pitchers that have pitched great in the regular season. Bastardo's ERA is at 1.49, and Stutes' is 3.18. Their ages are 25 and 24.
These two have held up the bullpen when pitchers like Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge were out. Now that Madson and Lidge are back, they may appear less.
Their age and lack of experience might be a small asset in the postseason. Hopefully, the starting pitchers will go deep enough into the game that the bullpen won't pitch too many innings.
Although the Phillies offense has generally decent numbers statistically, their hitting has proven itself to be quite inconsistent in the past.
Jimmy Rollins, who has led the team in the postseason in the past, is hitting .264 in 2011. Carlos Ruiz, a great clutch hitter, is only at .265. The slugger Ryan Howard is hitting .252.
However, recently the offense has shown some signs of improvement, and the pitching should compensate for most of the low-run production games.
The pitching can't do it all, though, and the Phils will be facing some of the best pitching staffs in the game this postseason.
While the Phillies haven't had as many injuries this year as last (22 in 2010), they still have some key veterans that could get injured in, or just before, the postseason.
Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies shortstop, has gotten injured multiple times in the past. Chase Utley was out for the first two months of the season. Placido Polanco has been on and off the DL multiple times.
Roy Oswalt just returned from an injury and often has back troubles. Brad Lidge recently returned from an injury, but has been on the DL multiple times. Ryan Madson just returned from the Disabled List, and Jose Contreras has been out since June.
As you can see, multiple Phillies have been injured at one time or another and there is a chance several could get injured again.
For now, let's just hope that there aren't any more injuries for a long while.
Although this is kind of an obvious one, it still needs bringing up. Everyone says the Phillies are good enough to win the postseason. Though the Phillies do have a great team, multiple National League competitors may give the Phillies a harder time than expected.
Although it seems the Phillies are good to go, multiple division leaders have played well against Philadelphia this year.
If the Phillies do make the postseason, they have multiple obstacles to face . They've got a great team, though, and those Phillies can fight through any obstacles they encounter.
I'm looking forward to an exciting close to the 2011 MLB season.