Philadelphia Phillies: Ranking the 10 Greatest Teams in Franchise History

April 29, 2011 by Greg Pinto  
Filed under Fan News

In more ways than one, waiting for the 2011 regular season to begin was especially taxing for guys like myself.

After the Philadelphia Phillies nabbed Cliff Lee from the clutches of the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees, the flurry of headlines began to develop. That echoed throughout the offseason, and Lee joined a rotation filled with Cy Young winners, backed by a lineup filled with All-Stars.

As we patiently waited for Opening Day and the 161 games that would follow, fans, ball scribes and former players alike wondered whether the 2011 version of the Phils' would be the greatest team in the history of the franchise.

Though the team is, technically, off to one of the hottest starts in baseball, that is yet to be determined. However, it does open the door for an interesting question. What exactly was the greatest team in the history of the Phillies?

Before we break those team downs into an order, I think it's important that we establish what exactly constitutes a "great" team.

Obviously, every team breaks camp with the hopes of winning the World Series, and a couple of championship teams will appear on the list, but does that automatically make them numbers one and two?

Not on my list. I've been pretty vocal about the postseason being a crap-shoot for sometime now, and I think there is a growing voice for this argument. A lot of times, the "best" team is outdone by the "hottest" team.

With a number of variables going into the postseason, it isn't fair to automatically call one franchise's team the best because they've won a World Series, and I won't.

At the same time, however, winning a championship is the greatest accomplishment, and surely, will not go unnoticed.

Yet there's much more to a "team" than the caliber of names on it's roster. I think we can all think of a number of star-studded teams that have underperformed, and in the lengthy history of the Phils', there are a couple of those as well.

So what is a great "team?"

In relevance to this slide show, the best teams will be the guys who came together and left everything they had on the field.

A team consists of every guy playing his role the right way, and thus, an excellent, consistent effort will put certain teams ahead of other ones, as we count down the greatest Philadelphia Phillies teams of all time.

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Philadelphia Phillies Starter Joe Blanton Is the Latest Injury Bug Victim

April 28, 2011 by Jenn Zambri  
Filed under Fan News

Players are dropping like flies in Philadelphia.  Joe Blanton is the latest victim of this injury virus which seems to be spreading quicker than both the Swine and Bird Flu combined.

The diagnosis is medial impingement of the right elbow, which is Blanton's throwing arm.  Treatment for this injury can vary from rest and medication to surgery.  There is no word yet on how Blanton's treatment will play out.

Blanton now joins fellow teammates on the DL, including shortstop Chase Utley, closer Brad Lidge, back-up closer Jose Contreras, relief pitcher JC Romero and outfielder Domonic Brown.

Catcher Carlos Ruiz is also going to be inactive for several days while he recovers from a back issue.  For now, he will not be placed on the DL and Brian Schneider will fill in.

Vance Worley has been called up from the AAA Iron Pigs to start tomorrow's game against the Mets in place of Blanton.  In four starts this year, Worley is 2-2 with a 2.78 ERA and 9.9 K/9.  In 13 innings last year with the major league club, Worley was impressive with a 1.38 ERA and 12 strikeouts.

While this is a great opportunity for a young prospect, the news for Blanton is surprising.  Blanton is coming off two straight quality starts after having a rough start to the season.  He showed no signs of elbow issues Saturday against the Padres.  Just when things were looking up for Blanton, the crap has suddenly hit the fan.

What was once a very experienced pitching staff for the Phillies has just gotten a whole lot younger very quickly.  Having to depend on younger arms both in the starting staff and in the bullpen is a little nerve racking.

How a younger pitcher will respond to a stressful situation is the great unknown.  Although in Worley's case, he showed very good poise last year in his short time with the big club.  That is a plus.

But this is a new year with new pressures, including having to keep pace with four of the best starters in the game in Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.  If Worley can stick to competing with himself, instead of the rest of this veteran staff, he should be just fine.

For Phillies fans, the way to look at all this carnage is simple.  Perhaps the team is getting all the injuries out of the way early so everyone will be healthy late in the season.  Or, is that too optimistic?  Time will tell.

In the interim, just keep sending out that positive, happy energy and hope for the best.

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Wilson Valdez Back to Normal

April 27, 2011 by Bobby Yost  
Filed under Fan News

It took awhile, but Wilson Valdez masquerading as a good player in 2011 has come to an end.

Lady Luck can only be on your side for so long. With his 0-for-one performance April 26, his on-base percentage finally dipped below .300.

For whatever reason, Valdez has a special place in many fans' hearts. Looking past his poor power, on-base percentage and persistent grounding into double plays, some even held the ridiculous notion he was the team's MVP in 2010.

The early part of spring training this year only added fuel to those fans' fire.

For what seemed like most of the preseason, Valdez was hitting over .400. Fans clamored how he should be the clear starter over an uninspiring group of Pete Orr, Michael Martinez, Luis Castillo and Josh Barfield.

Even with ending the preseason in a one-for-22 stretch, some held the notion that the injured Chase Utley would not be significantly missed with Valdez the starting second basemen.

Like in Spring Training, Valdez started the year off hot, going nine-for-21 with a .429 average and on-base percentage. This temporarily kept the fallacious notion that he is, in fact, a good player, or that he is improving.

Since that start, I've been waiting for regression to the mean to come full circle. 

Valdez's current 2011 line is .250/.297/.300. That is bad. Tack on his average defense, he is already at -.3 to -.5 wins above replacement, depending if you prefer Fangraphs or Baseball-Reference.

Aside from the occasional seeing eye single, he rarely gets the ball past the infield. When he's had the chance to use his power, by pulling the ball or hitting it to center, he's just mashed it into the ground at a 78.6 and 89.5 percent clip, respectively.

The few times he has hit flies and line drives this year, it's been to opposite field where his already meager power is all but wiped away.

There's a better chance of the Kansas City Royals winning the World Series this year than Valdez hitting an opposite field homer.

With all the ground balls, I expect his ground-into-double-play rate to regress toward last year's number as well. So far this year, he's hit into a double play 19 percent of all his opportunities. That's still a bad number, but lower than his third-worst in baseball 24 percent last year.

With a double play worth roughly .35 runs, he cost the team almost four runs last year, over one third of a win.

When I think of Wilson Valdez, I can't help but think of the atrocious utility men who came before him in the Phillies organization; players who, in no right mind, would ever be confused or considered a potential team MVP.

He is no different than such luminaries as Tomas Perez, Kevin Sefcik, Alex Arias and Kevin Jordan. Sure, Tomas Perez may have been a fan favorite because of his personality, but neither he nor any of those others were ever put on a pedestal as something other than what he was.

I know lot of you post-2007 fans might have never heard of such players, but believe me, they weren't good.

With Valdez's inevitable crash to normalcy, I can once again be satisfied that all is right with the world again—at least from perspective of replacement-level players showing their true ability.

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Roy Oswalt Leaves Phils: Is the “Best Rotation in History” Struggling?

April 27, 2011 by Josh Schoch  
Filed under Fan News

Recent reports have told us that Philadelphia Phillies ace Roy Oswalt is taking a leave from the team for a period of unknown length due to tornadoes hitting close to his Mississippi home.

Oswalt is 3-1 this season with a 3.33 ERA. These numbers may seem good enough, but he is only averaging just over five innings per start.

Oswalt threw three very poor innings in his start Tuesday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He let up five runs on six hits and a walk, and he did not strike out a single batter Tuesday.

"His stuff wasn't good," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "His stuff wasn't crisp and his velocity was down. I figured there was no sense in leaving him out there."

The Phillies are guaranteed to lose their second of three series (Brewers, Padres and Diamondbacks), and people are wondering: Are the Phillies really as good as we expected?

Let’s look at the Phillies' rotation of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt (gone), Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton.

Roy Halladay has performed well, posting a 3-1 record and a 2.41 ERA in 2011, and he tied his career high in strikeouts with 14 against the Padres in his last start. Halladay is definitely performing well.

Cliff Lee was the Phillies’ key acquisition this offseason, and he has some high expectations to live up to after his postseason success and signing a big contract. Lee has not lived up to the hype this time, however, with a record of 2-2 and an ERA of 4.18 despite pitching a shutout this season.

The former Ranger’s numbers are not good enough for the team, and he is looking poor, with an ERA a run higher than his ERA of last season. Lee’s expectations were higher than realistic, but he has not pitched anywhere near what realistic expectations would be.

Roy Oswalt has pitched poorly and has left the team for an unannounced period of time. However, the team has said that he MIGHT be back for his next start.

Cole Hamels had a terrible first start against the New York Mets, letting up six earned runs in 2.2 innings. Since then, however, Hamels has pitched at least seven innings in his starts and has only given up two earned runs in 22.0 innings pitched.

Hamels now has a 2-1 record and an ERA of 2.92 for the 2011 campaign.

Joe Blanton is the odd man out in the starting rotation, being that he is the only pitcher who isn’t an ace. Blanton has been, well, horrible. He is posting a 0-1 record and an ERA of 5.92. If the season ended today, that would be Blanton’s worst ERA of his career. Blanton is only pitching about six innings per game, and he is making the bullpen work a lot.

The Phillies’ starting rotation currently has a total record of 10-6 and an ERA of 3.54.

These numbers aren’t bad for a starting rotation; in fact, they are pretty good. The Phillies’ rotation gives the team a chance to win, and they are still one of the best in baseball.

Is Philadelphia’s rotation falling apart? No, it still has good pitching, and when Oswalt comes back and Lee improves his numbers, as he will, the team will still be terrific and a sure bet for the postseason.

Is Philadelphia’s rotation historically good, though? Probably not, but it is good enough to make it to the postseason with no problem.

The Phillies’ rotation is not falling apart—it is just not living up to the unrealistic expectations placed on it by the media and fans.

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Roy Oswalt Leaves Phillies for Personal Reasons

April 27, 2011 by Alec Snyder  
Filed under Fan News

Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. announced earlier today that starting pitcher Roy Oswalt would be taking a leave of absence from the team for personal reasons. Although Oswalt's reasons were originally unknown, Amaro released to the public that this is due to a tornado that struck Mississippi near his hometown of Weir.

According to an article published by ESPN less than an hour ago, before last night's start against the Arizona Diamondbacks—where he gave up five runs on six hits in just three innings with no strikeouts and picked up the loss—Oswalt received a phone call in the dugout. He was involved in the phone call for quite some time, and even manager Charlie Manuel commented after the game that something "just wasn't right" about Oswalt.

In the statement released by Amaro, he stated that Oswalt's timetable for return is "day-to-day" at this point, and that he has taken time off to make sure that the family situation is okay—primarily his wife and kids.

Oswalt's parents live a mile away from him in Weir. His childhood home was destroyed by a tornado last year around this same time.

The whole house was razed, and almost all was lost—including Oswalt's high school portrait and his 2005 NLCS MVP award, which he had given to his parents. All that was left was a Bible and his parents' pet Yorkie, Sweetie, who survived with Oswalt's mother in a closet. His father was away on a hunting trip at the time.

Ironically, the bulldozer Oswalt asked for and received for winning his starts in the NLCS that year was used to clean up the rubble from that twister.

Hopefully, Oswalt's family and home is okay. While Phillies fans hope he makes it back in time for his next start, let's all remember that what's more important is that everything goes all right for Oswalt. 

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Phillies Outfield Situation with Upcoming Return of Domonic Brown

April 27, 2011 by Eric Nehs  
Filed under Fan News

With Domonic Brown set to begin a rehab assignment today, the Phillies need to decide how he fits into the roster upon his arrival early next week.

If Brown were healthy, Ben Francisco would have started the season on the bench, Raul Ibanez in left field and Brown in right field.

Brown needs to be inserted into the starting lineup, but Francisco should make the switch to left field with Ibanez heading to the bench. Francisco is currently batting .262/.323/.452 with four home runs in 94 plate appearances.

The 39-year-old Ibanez is off to a terrible start this season, posting a .171/.253/.232 line with one home run in 92 plate appearances. Ibanez's strikeout rate has increased from 19 percent to 28.3 percent, and his ISO has dropped 100 points to .061.

The batted-ball rates also indicate that age is catching up to Ibanez.

He is currently putting 55 percent of balls in play on the ground, which is a 13 percent increase from his 43 percent rate in 2010. Ibanez is also posting a career-low contact rate at 73.7 percent.

Both key offensive metrics indicate Francisco is a better run producer. He currently has a .337 wOBA and a 106 wRC+. Ibanez currently possesses a .237 wOBA and a wRC+ of 37 and is the league's worst player in terms of WAR at -1.1 (WAR doesn't mean much this early in season, but it is worth noting that he is has the lowest).

Francisco is the better offensive option at this point in his career (I would argue he was the superior hitter last season), and he has always been a superior defensive outfielder. I still think the Phillies need to upgrade the position, but for now, the club should sit down Ibanez. 

Yes, Ibanez might run into a few hits over the next few days that might indicate he is ready to break out of his slump.

Don't be fooled. Anyone who looks at both the stats and game footage knows Ibanez is done as a full time player.

The only argument is whether he should still be on the roster because Brown has nothing left to prove in the minors. 

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Philadelphia Phillies’ Anti J.D. Drews: The Players Who Cannot Be Booed

April 27, 2011 by Joe Iannello  
Filed under Fan News

The Phillies are rolling to start the season. Dominant pitching and an offense that has hit the second most singles in baseball are a big reason for that. The emergence of Antonio Bastardo, Danys Baez and the now injured Jose Contreras have helped solidify the bullpen.

Too many pundits and "experts" decided to overlook the four-time defending NL East champions (and their historic starting rotation) in favor of the Atlanta Braves, a team that has done nothing in the playoffs in a decade except watch the Phillies dominate.

Road games have turned into home games for the Phillies wherever they go. From sea to shining sea, East coast to West coast, the oppositions stadium looks like a sea of red whenever the Phillies are in town. There is an 80% chance that you will see a top 20 pitcher in baseball when you go to a Phil's game, well worth the price of admission.

The Phillies have shown thus far that even though some of the players are different than in years past, the mantra is the same: You better be ready to play us every inning of every game.

They have four starting pitchers who have the potential to dominate an entire game and if they have an off-start, they have another ace up their sleeve ready to battle the next day.

Their lineup has faltered a bit of late, but they have shown that they can still win games with timely hitting. It's funny that the same "experts" who claimed the Phillies will struggle this season with no Utley, Werth, Lidge...list goes on and on, have kept their mouth shut while the Phillies have dominated.

The Phillies have sold out over 140 consecutive games and have already sold over three million tickets for this season. Obviously the fans have fallen in love with this team, but the city still gets a bad rap for incidents from decades ago (when most of us weren't even born) and some idiotic actions committed by a select few.

Any way you slice it, the fans are the reason the Phillies were able to bring together one of the greatest pitching rotations (on paper) in baseball history. Three of the best pitchers in the game waived no-trade clauses and took less guaranteed money to play at Citizens Bank Park.

So why do the fans of Philadelphia still get categorized by a complete idiot who decides to vomit on a little girl, or Santa being booed over a half-century ago? Dodger Stadium has had seven people stabbed in their confines in the last decade, but does the national media report that? Absolutely not, it takes a man being seriously beaten by a bunch of thugs for the spotlight to shine down.

Philadelphia Phillies fans are some of the most loyal and passionate fans in the world and I love how they let players know if they are not playing up to their potential... Or if they just flat-out don't like you. We boo and we boo loud.

But there are some players on this current team that may be "boo-proof." Players that you respect so much either for their hard-work, loyalty, determination and/or past performances that it just doesn't feel right to boo.

So here it is folk's: The top five Philadelphia Phillies who can not be booed.

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Philadelphia Phillies Drop Series Aginst the Arizona Diamondbacks

April 27, 2011 by Tony Capobianco  
Filed under Fan News

The Philadelphia Phillies came into Chase Field hoping for a nifty sweep against a Diamondbacks squad that was last in the NL West and coming off being swept by the New York Mets, who are last in the NL East. 

They found out the hard way that a Kirk Gibson-led team lays down for no one.

The Phillies had Cliff Lee going in the opener against their ace Ian Kennedy. Lee struck out 12 Arizona batters but did give up two costly home runs to Chris Young and Geraedo Parra to put the Phillies in the hole.

Ian Kennedy was riding off an emotional adrenaline rush going into the game on the same day of the birth of his first child. He went the full game allowing only three hits and striking out 10 Philly batters while rendering their lineup helpless. 

"His curveball really had good bite to it good depth to it really kept them off balance." Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said during Monday's post game conference on his starter's complete game shutout.

"He didn't really have any taxing innings or anything like that so I wanted him to finish that game."

On Tuesday's showdown, Roy Oswalt lasts only three innings after giving up five runs.

Daniel Hudson doubled Oswalt's innings while giving up more hits than he did. However, what Hudson did was keep his hits scattered and came away allowing just three runs and got his first win of the season.

The Phillies did start a ninth inning rally against David Hernandez but it wasn't enough.

The Diamondbacks have always been a tough team ever since Kirk Gibson took over as manager. There problem this year has been pitching. Kennedy and Hudson has seen success in the past and looks to have finally gotten out of their early season slump.

As for the Phillies, their lineup isn't the full issue, but their bullpen is starting to thin out with injuries and when their famed starters last only three innings, that doesn't help the cause.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Lenny Dykstra and the 8 Biggest Idiots in Team History

April 26, 2011 by Adrian Fedkiw  
Filed under Fan News

In baseball, there are two types of idiots.

You have the idiot who cheats on the field or in life and subsequently gets caught.

Then we have the idiots we love.  These are guys who have colorful personalities—they like to stay out all night and just have fun.  But, they always get the job done on the field. 

I've divided this slideshow into two parts.  Part one (slides 2-6) features the "bad" idiots while part two (slides 7-9) features the "lovable" idiots. 

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Philadelphia Phillies’ Offense Putting Up Great Numbers (for a Round of Golf)

April 26, 2011 by Matt Goldberg  
Filed under Fan News

The game of baseball produces numbers that beget more numbers that are enough to keep any stat-head (sabermetrician or otherwise) in numerical heaven.

Yours truly is not a sabermetrician, per se, but I enjoy the occasional number crunch inspired by my hometown Philadelphia Phillies.

And yes, the early days of the 2011 season have already inspired some good, old-old fashioned number crunching. So crunch these and try to make sense of them.

The Phillies are tied with the Colorado Rockies for the best record in Major League Baseball at 15-7—good for a terrific .682 percentage.

Last night's 4-0 defeat at the hands of the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks marked the 14th straight game in which the Phillies offense exploded for four runs or fewer.

So how does one square these two sets of numbers? Easily—kind of. They've had timely hitting, excellent pitching and had a break or two go their way.

Let's take a look at those last 14 games from a run-producing (and results) standpoint:

  1. April 10: three runs (3-0 win)
  2. April 12: four runs (7-4 loss)
  3. April 13: three runs (3-2 win)
  4. April 14: four runs (4-0 win)
  5. April 15: three runs (4-3 loss)
  6. April 17: three runs (3-2 win)
  7. April 18: three runs (6-3 loss)
  8. April 19: zero runs (9-0 loss)
  9. April 20: four runs (4-3 win)
  10. April 21: three runs (3-0 win)
  11. April 22: two runs (2-0 win)
  12. April 23: four runs (4-2 win)
  13. April 24: three runs (3-1 win)
  14. April 25: zero runs (4-0 loss)

A couple quick observations come to mind.

If you strip away the dates and results, the Phillies have a pretty terrific round of golf going. A 39 after 14 holes to be exact, which is about 17 under par. Of course, a Major League Baseball offense is trying to shoot above par—and they've already survived Amen Corner, to use Masters parlance.

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Matt Gelb reported today that the streak of 14 games without once scoring five or more runs is tied for their second longest since 1968. When it last occurred (1984), the Phillies only managed to win one of those games.

Of course, the excellent starting pitching has been enough to produce nine wins (and a remarkable four shutouts) during this power outage. So fans and pundits can think of this in one of two ways.

The Phillies' R2C2/Four Aces/Mound Rushmore—with occasional Blanton-ian assistance—is so great that they can still play .682 ball with a subpar offense. Let's call this the bases-are-full approach.

The Phillies have to make a major change, and soon. Did I mention that Jimmy Rollins is on the decline, Raul Ibanez is done and three members of our bullpen are injured? Let's call this the bases-are-empty approach.

Both approaches are equally valid, I suppose. Or they are both flawed. That analysis depends on one's philosophy.

But leaving philosophy and semantics aside, let's try to revisit some very basic numbers from the last two-plus seasons.

The numbers will validate that the Phillies have transitioned from a team that clubbed you to death with occasional clutch pitching to a club that outpitches you with an assist from its offense.

In 2009, the Phillies only hit .258 (tied for ninth in the NL), but they bombed 224 homers (about 1.39 per game) and led the league with 820 runs (5.06 per game).

The Phillies' pitching was sixth in the NL with a 4.16 ERA. If one recalls, by season's end, the staff was led by Cliff Lee, with occasional strong support from J.A. Happ, Joe Blanton and occasionally Pedro Martinez. Cole Hamels had his one off year that season.

Last year, the Phillies hit for a slightly higher percentage (.260) but with less pop (166 homers, or roughly one per game). They were still second in the league with 772 runs scored but no longer averaged five runs per game (4.77).

By season's end, the Phillies had a great starting threesome (H2O) of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Hamels, who led the team to a fifth-best ERA of 3.67.

After 22 games, this year's edition is hitting .255 (eighth out of 16 teams) with a total of 95 runs (ninth-best), good for 4.3 per game. They occasionally go deep (or inside-the-park): 16 times so far for an average of .73 per game.

On the bright side, the team ERA is a low 3.06, just behind the league-leading San Diego Padres (who make the Phillies' offense look like the 1927 Yankees) and the Florida Marlins.

 

So, Now What?

Many fans and pundits projected this to be a pitching-first squad that may not hit much, but it's a little different saying it than seeing it in action at its worst.

It seems prudent for the Phillies to sit tight trade-wise. When all is said and done, it's hard to know whether they may need to trade for more offense or for bullpen help (with Brad Lidge, J.C. Romero and Jose Contreras all out).

Per the bullpen, it will be exciting to see how young Mike Stutes will perform (his first inning looked good) and if Antonio Bastardo can continue to pitch lights-out with good control, or close to it.

Ryan Madson, always great in the eighth—if not in the ninth—will have another audition as the team's closer.

As for the offense, short of praying for Chase Utley's return and eventual help from Domonic Brown, it's hard to know exactly what to do,

Placido Polanco has been the team's best hitter this year, but I would hesitate to remove him from the No. 2 hole that he fills so professionally. But what about Utley's No. 3 spot, which Jimmy Rollins has not replaced adequately?

I would send Rollins down in the order (sixth) and play Ibanez  (he had a very solid second half last year, and I'm not ready to give up on him yet) as part of a platoon. Play Ibanez in the No. 3 hole against righties only, and give John Mayberry a shot there against lefties.

What does the team have to lose? If one of them heats it up and/or the other stinks it up over time, the Phillies can feature one or the other.

In Jayson Werth's old No. 5 hole, Ben Francisco has not been producing since the first week of the season, but I'm not ready to give up on him in that role. One can always flip-flop him and Rollins (and don't even think about removing Jimmy's glove from the team).

At second base, in addition to pining away for Chase, it would make sense to platoon Wilson Valdez and Pete Orr. I love Valdez's glove and how he was the unsung hero of 2010, but it would be nice to occasionally see a second baseman hit one to the outfield. Give Orr a shot. Is his defense that inferior?

Since Carlos Ruiz was arguably the best No. 8 hitter in baseball last year, keep him there and let Valdez/Orr try to get something going from the seven-hole.

The worst thing the Phillies could do right now is to panic, but some shake-up of the lineup is in order.

Amazingly, the NL favorites are 15-7 and in first place. Even though most of their batters seem to be playing golf, the sky is not yet falling.

 

 

For more information on Matt Goldberg’s new books, as well as writing, speaking and interview requests, please e-mail: matt@tipofthegoldberg.com or contact him via his Bleacher Report homepage.

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