Phillies-team of mystery and inconsistency

Who are these people? Those guys that have been wearing the jerseys that say “Phillies” on the front all summer.

I have watched this team take the field almost daily this season. This is a team that I considered the favorite to win the National League East from spring training and assumed that would be the case.

A team that fans and experts alike thought they knew so well has instead become a mixture of mystery and mediocrity that now limps towards October.

To start, Jimmy Rollins came into this season with an MVP trophy and a plethora of confidence.  Confidence ordinarily is not worth noting when it comes to Rollins, but this spring training it seemed to be more than his usual level.

It was not enough to claim that the team would win the division; he proclaimed the team would win 100 games.  Now Rollins has done a complete 180.  Forget MVP talks.  Never mind 100 wins.

Thanks to his lack of production at the top of the lineup and his complaining about Philadelphia fans being “front runners,” Rollins has gone from beloved to consistently booed in just one year.

While the offense starts with Rollins, it does not end with him.  Thought of as one of the best in the National League and the reason they were expected to repeat as division champs, their offense has struggled significantly over the last couple months.

Ryan Howard has put up the MVP-like home run and RBI numbers, but is not even in consideration due to his abysmal batting average and strike out numbers.  He is on pace right now to break the record for strikeouts in a season, a record he already possesses.

However, in terms of inconsistency, Howard seems to either hit a home run or strike out every time he steps to the plate.

Even Chase Utley, the model of consistency, has slumped after his
hot start.  I don’t think a lot of people expected him to lead the league in home runs like he did back in May, but hot and cold streaks have been the theme of his season.

Utley’s average was down to .281 just two weeks ago.  Utley is currently riding another one of those hot streaks and has brought his average back up to .293.  If the Phillies want to get into the playoffs, they cannot have Utley get cold again in September.

Pat Burrell instead has been the most consistent hitter on the team, which has led to his current stance with fans.  Gone are the days of calls for his banishment from Citizens Bank Park.

Burrell and Rollins have switched roles and Burrell is now the player that no one wants to see leave after this season.

The success of many of the Phillies’ pitchers has also baffled many.  The starting rotation has gotten way more out of Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick than the Phillies front office would probably like to admit, no matter how confident they spoke publicly about their staff before the season. If the Adam Eaton project had actually worked out this season, I would have completely lost faith in everything I previously believed in about sports.

The bullpen has been confusingly phenomenal.  After being forced out of Houston, Brad Lidge is pitching better than he ever has in his career.  He finished last season strong and has been a top closer in the past, but I?don’t think anyone expected him to not have any blown saves so late into the season.

He is not the only one.  J.C. Romero showed what he was capable of last year.  But Ryan Madsen?  Chad Durbin?  Rudy Seanez?  Even Tom Gordon had his moments of greatness this year.  If not for the bullpen, the Phillies would not be anywhere near the top of the standings right now, and no one would have said that before the season.

A team plagued by slow starts in the past, the Phillies came out this year and looked like they were going to run away with the division. The Mets might not be a strong team, but the fact remains that this is going to be a race to the finish and probably come down to the last weekend of the season.

The Phillies always finish strong.  They came back to take the division on the final day of last season and must have a similar conclusion to the year.

One could assume that the same is possible this year, but if this team has proved anything this season, it is to never assume.