The All-Star break is over, and the Phillies begin the 2nd half of their season tonight with a 4 game series in Chicago to play the Cubs.
The Phillies unfortunately with their poor play over the past month and a half leave them with a lot of work to do in the 2nd half of the season. The Phillies are perenially a very good 2nd half team recently, but you hate to have to rely on that in order to make the playoffs. The Phillies currently sit 4.5 games back of the NL East leading Atlanta Braves. The Mets are in 2nd place, 4 games behind the Braves.
The Phillies have had their injury issues, but you don't want to blame all of their problems on the injuries. Bottom line, the Phillies offense the first half of the season is the worst it has been in a long time. Sitting out parts of the first half of the season were Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Chase Utley, and Carlos Ruiz. The Phillies still are without Polanco, who is due back possibly this weekend, and Chase Utley, who will probably be out for another month. Ryan Howard has been the only real consistent bat in the lineup, as he had an all-star first half of the season, and is almost batting .300.
The pitching staff has been up and down, but better than expected. The only reason the Phillies are even 4.5 games back is due to the pitching, which has picked up the hitting. In fact, the final 2 games before the all-star break, the Phillies won consecutive games 1-0, behind solid starting pitching from Roy Halladay, and Cole Hamels. Halladay has been everything he was brought in to be. Cole Hamels has been solid this year so far. Kyle Kendrick and Jaime Moyer have been very up and down, and Joe Blanton has been flat out bad.
I hate to keep bringing up the worst trade in Philadelphia sports in my lifetime, but trading away Cliff Lee was a horrible mistake by Ruben Amaro, Jr. People say get over the trade and stop talking about it; however, the trade is significant and applicable to how the Phillies are playing now. If you want to agree with Amaro and say the Phillies couldn't spend the money, then you can blame Amaro for giving Moyer a 2 year deal, and not trading Joe Blanton, although there wasn't much demand for Blanton. Also, if you want to agree with Amaro and say the Phillies needed to replenish the farm system, this is just untrue, because if the Phillies had kept Cliff Lee this year and then let him walk, they would receive 2 first round draft picks as compensation. You could easily argue that these 2 first round picks would be much better than the prospects that the Phillies did get.
Also, Ruben Amaro needs to make the correct decision and try to trade Raul Ibanez. Ibanez is having a bad year, which you kind of had to expect, as Ibanez is up there in age. If no one wants Ibanez, most people feel like the Phillies should trade Jayson Werth. I do not however. You need Werth in the lineup, as he is one of the positives in a poor lineup, and is the only power right handed bat. Bottom line, Dominic Brown absolutely needs to be a starter on this Phillies team, like yesterday. According to Ruben Amaro, Brown can't replace Ibanez because Brown isn't a left fielder. Ohh right, I forgot Ibanez is an outfield covering gold glover out there. Brown technically is a right fielder, but I have to imagine can fill in left field for the rest of the season. Dominic Brown was recently listed as the #1 prospect currently not in MLB by ESPN.com. He can definitely give a jolt to the lineup.
Either way, the Phillies need to step up their game, and have a solid 2nd half if they want to make the playoffs. Luckily, this is nothing new for the Phillies, as they usually do have very good 2nd halves.