Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Is it Time To Panic for Phils Season?

Like many Phillies fans out there, I haven't been real comfortable with the start of the 2012 season.  Something about this year's slow start felt different than others in their recent past.  Maybe it is the fact that there seem to be gaping holes in the lineup similar to Andy Reid's failure to have an adequate punt returner or fullback to start a season.  Maybe it's the fact that there is a new Natitude in the division with all four of the teams seeming to have gotten better.

So during my down time in worrying about the Flyers sudden collapse, I have decided to analyze the Phils of recent years and also what they appear to have coming back.  What I have found is pretty remarkable and have decided that it is time for all of us to relax and enjoy what the next four plus months will be providing.

First, I looked at their record.  As of May 8th, the Phils stand at 14-16.  For all intents and purposes, this is .500 for this analysis.  Since 2007, the Phils have finished April below or just above (no more than 2 games over) .500 every year except for last year.  In 2007, their first year of their current playoff run, they finished April 11-14.  More or these numbers coming up.

This week also provided good injury news for the team.  We learned this past Saturday that Chase Utley was re-joining the team.  It sounds like he is going to be with them for about a week and then head down to Clearwater to not just rehab but possibly start playing extended spring training games.  So although the Phils have refused to give a timetable on Utley, is June 15th or even June 1st out of the question?

Ryan Howard has already started back in Florida and had a full week rehabbing last week and as of yesterday started taking batting practice.  All indications from the team so far have been that the Achilles itself is in good condition.  Could Howard make a trip north sometime in mid June?  By the way, if after the dust settled after Game 7 last year and you were asked if Howard could come back sometime in June, would you have taken it?  I sure would have.

Lastly, is Cliff Lee.  He threw a bullpen session on Saturday and reported no issues.  The Phils currently have him scheduled to start against the Mets Wednesday night.

What does all of this mean?  Will then win 100 games because these guys seem to be coming back soon?  I doubt it.  But Lee helps immediately.  The Phils lost all three game Kendrick started in his place and putting him back into a suspect bullpen can only help. 

Will Howard and Utley be their 2009 versions when they come back?  I doubt that too but just their presence would really help this lineup. For one, it will put guys back into their more natural batting order.  It will also give Charlie Manual a chance to move Ty Wiggington, about the only guy hitting consistently, to left field, a spot the Phils have gotten very little production so far.

Going back to the numbers, where do the Phils need to finish to make the playoffs and will they need to play .700 ball to make it?  Not at all.  Going back to 2007, the Phils have averaged playing .594 ball from June 1st on.  For the sake of argument, let's say they are at .500 by the end of this month, putting them at 21-21.  With 120 games left to play, the .594 clip would finish them 71-51 for a record of 92-72.  Those 92 wins might not win the division but since 2003, it would have at least gotten a tie for the National League wild card every season.

I think instead of panic, we should hope for the healthy return of Lee, Howard and Utley.  We should hope that RAJ can add some bullpen help at the trade deadline and that they play how they have played the second half in recent years.  If so, we will be biting our nails in October for the sixth straight year.