Phillies Have a Hold on the N.L. East, But Need To Tighten Up For Playoff Run

Scott EisenlohrAnalyst IAugust 28, 2009

PHOENIX - JULY 29:  Matt Stairs #12 of the Philadelphia Phillies warms up before the major league baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on July 29, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Phillies 4-0.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

There has been a lot of talk about the Phillies changing their closer, but that situation is just one of a few situations the team must deal with if they hope to get far into the playoffs.

Sure, Brad Lidge has been terrible, going 0-6 with a 7.33 ERA, and nine blown saves among his 25 saves.

Here are a list of a few situations that the Phillies need to "tighten up" heading into the 2009 baseball playoffs.

Oh, yes, with a little more than a month left in the season, the Phillies could blow a seven-game lead in the National League East, but for the purpose of this story, I am assuming they will win the NL East:

1) The back end of the bullpen

As Phillies fans can attest, when the Mets' John Maine or Johan Santana left the game with a one-run lead in the seventh inning, we began licking our chops for the Phillies to get two good shots to win the game.

Well, your Philadelphia Phillies are getting that way, too. How about Hamels' 1-0 lead against Pittsburgh earlier this week. J.A. Happ? Ryan Madson can't close, either.

The best solution is bullpen by comittee and deal with Lidge next year. The Rays had that type of bullpen last year.

2) The bench

Ben Francisco has been a nice right-handed addition and much better offensively than John Mayberry, Jr.

Left-handed hitting bench support? Greg Dobbs is hitting .257 with five homers and 15 RBI.

Matt Stairs? The darling of last year's playoffs has not had a hit since July 11, hitting a pinch hit home run in a 8-7 win at home against Pittsburgh. Otherwise, he is hitting .200 in 85 at bats, with four home runs and 13 RBI.

If the Phillies can find a better left-handed hitter off the bench, they should do it, even at the expense of a home run threat. Stairs says he wants to play one more year and retire, but I think that decision, from the Phillies end, should come sooner.

3) The flip side of power

The Phillies 181 home runs as a team leads the National League and is third among all teams, including the designated-hitting American League teams. Surely, Ryan Howard can carry a team on his back for two weeks.

But the flip side of home runs is strike outs, and Howard leads the team with 153 strikeouts, followed by Werth, with 111.

Ultimately, with low scoring games in the playoffs, players like Shane Victorino, Raul Ibanez, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley will have to lead the Phillies to show that they can be a base-by-base team when needed.

Back to the bullpen and Lidge.

If not for the Eagles' Michael Vick, Lidge would be the most vilified player in Philadelphia. Blow a save at home, and the boos will cascade. There will be more negative signs for Lidge than Vick at that point.

It is not perfect, but bullpen by committee seems the best option for now.

The Phillies did not pick up Billy Wagner from the Mets (a temporary solution since he won't waive his option) or probably won't get Trevor Hoffman, who was let go by the Brewers after an ineffective performance. Brett Myers could be in the closer mix, too, when he comes back.

If not bullpen by committee, you still have Brad Lidge with another year left on his contract. If you strip him of his closer role now, are you going to eat the last year of his contract? Make him the set up guy? After going 48-for-48 in the closer's role last year? I don't think so.

Finding a better alternative than Matt Stairs off the bench is a bigger concern for me.

Lidge's last blown save in Pittsburgh was proceeded by a 1-2-3 save and the triple-play save.

You've got to live with this guy the rest of the year.

How he does will determine how far this team will go in the postseason.

Related

    Crank It in Eleven: Phillies 2, Pirates 1

    Philadelphia Phillies logo
    Philadelphia Phillies

    Crank It in Eleven: Phillies 2, Pirates 1

    The Good Phight
    via The Good Phight

    Angels Release Matt Harvey

    LA cuts struggling starter, has 7.09 ERA this season

    MLB logo
    MLB

    Angels Release Matt Harvey

    LA cuts struggling starter, has 7.09 ERA this season

    Bill Baer
    via HardballTalk

    How Roy Halladay Perfected His Cutter, Thanks to Rivera

    Philadelphia Phillies logo
    Philadelphia Phillies

    How Roy Halladay Perfected His Cutter, Thanks to Rivera

    Msn
    via Msn

    Roy Halladay's Widow Donates Ball from Rivera to HOF

    Philadelphia Phillies logo
    Philadelphia Phillies

    Roy Halladay's Widow Donates Ball from Rivera to HOF

    CBSSports.com
    via CBSSports.com