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Philadelphia Phillies Playoffs 2011: Time To Use the Panic Meter

Joe McDonaldCorrespondent IISeptember 22, 2011

Philadelphia Phillies Playoffs 2011: Time To Use the Panic Meter

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    Winter has officially come early in Philadelphia as the Phillies’ bats have gone ice cold.  Suddenly the powerhouse of the National League is looking similar to the team that lost to San Francisco last year in the playoffs. 

    However, is it really time to panic? 

    Sure, the Phillies have strung a few losses in a row, but they did clinch home field throughout the playoffs. 

    The only way to get to the bottom of this is to whip out our “Panic Meter” and conclude if it very well is time to panic or if we should just sit back and await the playoffs.

The Offense

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    If the Phillies have an “Achilles’ heel” it would be their offense.  On paper I would not consider this an anemic offense. 

    In fact they can be virtually unstoppable at times.  So why do we consider this the weakest part of the Phillies’ game?

    History.

    Fans living in Philadelphia proclaimed this the greatest team ever assembled in Phillies’ history before anyone threw a pitch. 

    Who could blame us for announcing such a bold proclamation?  With Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels at the top of your rotation it is easy to see why any fan would feel confident.

    Despite these facts, the average Phillies fan still had a voice in the back of their mind relaying thoughts of fear and paranoia. 

    Last year the Phillies were the best team in the NL and lost in an upset to San Francisco.  The main culprit for this was the offense.  All of a sudden no one could hit the ball. 

    The only way the Phils were going to win the National League Championship last year was if Roy Halladay threw four straight perfect games. 

    With the 2011 season coming to a close, the Phillies offense is looking inept.  In the last 14 days the Phillies have only scored more than three runs twice.  In that span they have accumulated a record of 5-9, including losing five consecutive games.

    I hear history has a way of repeating itself.  The offense hopes so anyway.

     

    Panic Meter:  7/10

The Four Aces

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    Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt make up the “Four Aces.”  This may be the best rotation the Philadelphia Phillies have ever assembled. 

    These four pitches are hope incarnate for the Phillies to bring back another World Championship.

    Recently the Phillies have struggled.  However, these four pitchers have been very solid, even in losing efforts. 

    Lee and Halladay in particular have been sharp and pitched well enough for most teams to win their starts.

    Unfortunately the offense has slacked off and really put pressure on their starting pitchers.  A pitcher’s job is to give their team a chance to win.  These four pitches have done that, but the offense has not taken advantage of it lately.

    The Phillies may be struggling, but you cannot blame these guys.  I expect them to continue to crank out solid starts in the playoffs.  It will be up to the offense to ensure victories.

     

    Panic Meter:  1/10

Vance Worley

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    Vance “The Vanimal” Worley has been a very consistent pitcher this season. 

    The Rookie Right Hander did lose his final start of the season, but he was not terrible. 

    It is unfortunate his last few starts have not gone the way he’d like, but his focus is on the bullpen now.

    Worley has been sent to the pen for the playoffs since Roy Oswalt is the unquestioned fourth starter in the rotation. 

    I foresee no issue with Vance Worley joining the pen.  If Oswalt, or any starter, gets in trouble early I look for Worley to come in and be serviceable.  Worley may be the most important arm in that bullpen aside from Madson. 

    No one is predicting that the starters will give up a lot of runs, but it is nice to have an insurance policy in Worley for the 2011 playoffs.

    I am not thrilled with his last few starts, but I am far from worried.

     

    Panic Meter:  2/10

The Bullpen

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    The bullpen has been excellent for most of the season.  Before this season many fans speculated this could be the weakest part of the team.  It has been quite the contrary. 

    Until recently.

    Inn the last two weeks the bullpen has occasionally contributed to the Phils’ woes.  Relievers such as Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes have given up runs recently, when they were very reliable for most of the season. 

    Has the bullpen been overworked?  Are there playoff jitters?  Or is this just a bad stretch?

    Only time will tell, but with Vance Worley joining the pen there should be more stability then there has been recently. 

     

    Panic Meter:  4/10

Charlie Manuel

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    Charlie Manuel is the rock for this team.  Rarely does Manuel lose control of his emotions. 

    Many consider him the mastermind behind the 2008 World Championship the Phillies took home. 

    His knack for making all the right moves that year helped the Phils win their first World Series since 1980.

    How is Manuel today?

    His message is clear in that he wants to see good play on the field, not necessarily wins.

    The Phillies schedule has been grueling, so Manuel is allowing his starters to rest.  By resting the team, fans have accused Manuel of letting the team get lazy. 

    If he continued to play his starters we would accused him of burning them out. As long as the Phillies continue to lose, someone will criticize Manuel.

    Despite the losses, Manuel does not seem overly concerned with how his team is playing.  Perhaps he has confidence they will be able to flip the switch come the playoffs. 

    Manuel has managed this team to five straight division titles and one World Series championship.  He may not make all the right moves, but he is a proven winner. 

    No manager would be happy to see their team lose five straight, but he is smart enough to know he would rather lose now than in October.

     

    Panic Meter:  3/10

Test Results

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    Aside from the Offense, there should be little concern.  Only time will tell if the offensive woes of the Phillies are serious or just bad memories. 

    Otherwise, this team looks ready for the playoffs.

    Anything can happen once a team gets into the post season.  For now, the Phillies are waiting to play in a meaningful game again. 

    Could that be an excuse as to why they are losing recently?  Possibly. 

    Losses in September always get spun into laziness, being overworked or just mailing it in until the playoffs.  The fan base will create justifications for why their team is losing.

    Until the playoffs begin we have no idea if these losses will hurt the Phils or not.  My Panic Meter is reading a 3/10.  I have mild concern, but I am willing to watch the last week of the season and see how the Phillies finish.

     

    Make sure to follow me on Twitter @ClassicJoeyMac.

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