Jennifer D. Wade Journal

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Blog posts April 2011

The 60% Solution

The 2011 baseball season has begun. Nine games in, the Phillies are 7-2 and leading the NL East. It's early days yet, but it's a good start and a series win against the Braves this past weekend is a positive sign.

I haven't had a chance to watch many of the games thus far, but here are my impressions of this version of the Phightin' Phils.

So far, they don't seem to be missing Chase Utley (DL), Brad Lidge (DL) or Jayson Werth (lost to free agency) on the field. Even though Utley is on the DL, he's still traveling with the team, so his presence is felt in some capacity. Jose Contreras has handled the closer role well early on. And, as for Werth, his replacement, Ben Francisco, is off to a decent start and has gotten a couple of key hits already. I did see him get picked off first base against the Braves, but Werth was also known to wander out there. The key will be whether the guys playing now can continue to perform over the long haul. It's one thing to cover for a guy like Utley for 10 games. It's another thing to try to cover for him for 80 games (or more).

Another promising sign is that the offense has gotten off to a good start. The Phils currently lead the majors with a team batting average of .334. Shane Victorino is hitting over .400, Ryan Howard is making good contact and so is Jimmy Rollins. Another plus, the Phils' pinch-hitting has been clutch. John Mayberry Jr. had a big hit on opening day, and Carlos Ruiz belted a pinch-hit grand slam against the Braves. I don't expect the bats to stay this hot all season, but it's fun while it lasts.

Of course, the most fun this season is expected to come from the pitching staff. With Halladay, Lee, Oswalt and Hamels anointed as "The Four Aces," it seems as though the only chance the Phillies have to lose is when poor Joe Blanton takes the mound. That hasn't been the case in the early going, though. Halladay and Oswalt have been good in their first two starts, but Hamels and Lee have each been roughed up once. Blanton's lone start went well for a few innings before he blew up.

Mostly what I think about the starting pitching is that it improves your odds of winning each game, but it doesn't guarantee a win each time. The Phillies won't go 160-2 for the season. But, I think the starting rotation gives them a good shot at winning somewhere in the neighborhood of 60% of their games. If it plays out, that would put the team a few games shy of 100 wins for the season. Add in a few key hits and keep further injuries to a minimum, and 100+ wins are certainly possible.

Here's my guess for the regular season record: 104-58. All they have to do is keep winning series and they'll find themselves in the World Series once again.

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