The Philadelphia Phillies are in first place in National League East and are five games over .500, but the season has been more disappointing than thrilling.
They are currently riding a six-game losing streak and now head into Tampa for a World Series rematch with the American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays. With a few weeks to go before the mid-summer classic, let's look at a mid-season report on the reigning World Series Champions.
What's Looking Good
- The Phillies are 36-31 and are 1.5 games up on division rival New York Mets.
- The best story of the year has got to be the emerging star of Raul Ibanez. With veteran Pat Burrell leaving, the Phillies were wondering where that missing thunder would come from. It didn't take long to see that Ibanez would be that immediate answer. Before landing on the DL, Ibanez was batting over .300 with a team-leading 22 home runs. He was the protection the team was needing behind Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. The Phillies really need him back in the middle of the lineup.
- Utley and Howard are doing exactly what they are supposed to do. They are driving in runs and the ball is jumping out of the yard.
What's Not Looking Good
- The biggest disappointment is leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins. He is floating above the Mendoza Line with his OBP and stolen base numbers really struggling. Manager Charlie Manuel doesn't like moving him from the leadoff spot because he frankly doesn't know who else to put there.
- Brad Lidge. Lidge last year was "Lights Out Lidge." This year it's been more like "Blow Up Brad." Every save is a nightmare as is every blown save he gives up. He is now on the DL, and it might be just what he needed. Hopefully he can come back and be his dominant self that the Phillies got used to in 2008.
The Phillies are struggling but are still in first place. The Mets are falling apart injury wise, and the Phillies need to extend the lead before it is too late. The Braves and Marlins don't show immediate threats, and the Nationals will be mathematically eliminated by the All-Star break.
If the Phillies can stay healthy and get that lineup into postseason-form soon, I don't see them not making the playoffs and putting up a great fight to defend their title.
End of season prediction: 90-72 record, finishing in first place in the NL East.
They will look to add another strong starting arm (hopefully Jake Peavy), and Rollins will have a terrific second half batting .320 and scoring tons of runs in front of the power bats of Utley, Howard, and Ibanez.
Go Phillies. Beat the Mets.