The young arms from the farm have shown some real talent (as Simon Cowell would growl) and stepped up into roles vacated because of typical injuries (Nina, from "Black Swan"). Kudos to Antonio Bastardo, Michael Stutes and Vance Worley for pleasantly surprising us all . . . extra kudos to Rich Dubee for his ingenious management of his staff (See: Gekko, Gordon, of "Wall Street" fame).
The Phils offense has been modulated a bit this year, but continues to flash surprises, especially when faced with Cliff-hangers (cue "Indiana Jones").
Charlie Manuel's smarts and shrewdness (go check out "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town") continue to simmer through tough personnel and game decisions. One could call him "Mr. Lucky," but there's got to be something more given his constancy of success.
The end result: Expect the summer blockbuster season to play well into October, with an Oscar-worthy parade at the end of the month!
Cherry Hill, N.J.
As I anticipated, the arrival of Cliff Lee made Cole Hamels step up his game and the threeaces are the elite of the NL. I also figured the offense would struggle without Chase Utley for more than just his production, but also losing the way he approaches his at-bats and making the pitcher work and show his hand. Now, not only has their record been superb with Utley back, but the approach of the hitters has been more fundamental, and I believe a lot of that has to do with Utley's quiet leadership and "do anything it takes to win" attitude. For the second half, I expect more dominating starting pitching and hopefully a few of the injured pitchers can come back. With Placido Polanco and Shane Victorino getting healthy, I also expect Ruben Amaro to make his usual trade deadline move to improve the offense, and I think it will put us as even more of a clear favorite to win the NL and better our chances if we make it to the World Series. I'm 38 years old, I'm going to enjoy the ride, as it's been since I was a little kid since they have been this good for such a long time.
Going into the season with the best starting pitching in Phillies history, I am shocked that they have the best record in baseball at the All-Star break, with everything that has happened. Considering that we are on our fourth closer along with all the other injuries, down two starting pitchers, Chase Utley out for half the first half, and a No. 4 hitter who at times looks as if he would have trouble hitting the ball off a tee, it is amazing that they win as they do. What will the second half bring? I look forward to Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels to continue their dominance. I look for Vance Worley to continue to develop and Joe Blanton returning as the fifth starter or the long guy. Kyle Kendrick and Blanton should be penciled in for every fifth day, because you'll need them both to get to the back end of the bullpen. We need Ryan Madson to return to have the trio of Michael Stutes, Antonio Bastardo and Madson to finish games, and we need either or both Jose Contrares or Brad Lidge to return and be healthy. The past weeked showed that maybe Juan Perez might be the answer to J.C. Romero as the situational lefty. There is a lot of talk about another righthanded bat, and I think we all assume it would be an outfielder. But, I think they seem to be commited to Domonic Brown against all pitching, and Raul Ibanez shows signs of getting hot. Where is this righthanded bat going to play? With the injury to Placido Polanco and his steady decline all season, I would suggest that maybe a flexible infielder might be a better bet.
We have been spoiled. As lifelong Philadelphia sports fans, we have been accustomed to preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. The 2011 Phillies season is just like this . . . The Phils have the best record in baseball at 57-34. That's a game and half better than the Red Sox and 2 1/2 better than the Yankees and the Braves. We continue to win series, taking two out of three, and yet, we are still unhappy with the results! The Phils can play better, the pitchers can pitch better, and the bats can absolutely hit better. Are we happy - yes! Are we satisfied - NO! As well as our team has been doing in this year of the four aces, Charlie Manuel has made some head-scratching decisions when taking out pitchers and replacing them with pitchers who some of us feel shouldn't even be in the major leages (David Herndon, Danys Baez). As in the recent history, we all know the Phillies are built for September and October. I am anticipating an improved second half of the season, as our players return to healthly status and we get our full lineup into the "swing" of things. Go Phils!!
Season has been great so far. Still concerned about the lack of offense from time to time. I think the pitching staff has been great. I hope to clinch early and move on to the playoffs with the bats hot.
Love the season so far, but we all have to take a breath and realize that our offense can still be our downfall. If everyone remembers, last year we lost the pennant because we were only scoring two or three runs a game. I believe we still need to go out and get a consistent righthanded bat to bat behind Ryan Howard. The Braves series showed how vulnerable we are.
Having said that, my favorite Phillie of all time is Steve Carlton, and this present staff is, like, see him pitch every night. I am really enjoying the season. I just visited Cooperstown and people were walking up to me in my Phillies jersey and talking about how loaded we are and how we are going to win the Series again. Maybe its because I am a lifetime Phillies fan, but the offense can still cause our down fall. Lets hope I am completely wrong.
Anthony F. Bruno
For this team to have the best record in baseball is remarkable. Four closers, three regulars spending significant time on the DL, two starters out and still 57 wins at the break is unbelievable. My first-half MVP is, no doubt, Ryan Howard. For all of those who say he doesn't come through in the clutch, you don't get 72 RBI by accident. A lot of credit should go to the bullpen. A question mark at the beginning of the season, these guys have stepped up and become an asset.
For the second half, I would love to see more consistent offense. The pitching was a godsend this first half . . . think it's too much to ask for them to be as good in the second half. Need the offense to step up. I think it will, thanks to guys coming back from injuries (Chase Utley, Shane Victorino) plus more experience from Domonic Brown and John Mayberry. I would like to see the Phillies keep Mayberry up here as the righthanded bat they've been looking for.
I'm thrilled with the team so far. Joe Blanton, Roy Oswalt and three closers hurt and we still have the best record in baseball. Chase Utley looks healthy. And if Ruben Amaro Jr. wants my opinion on a cheap upgrade over Ben Francisco, I'd like to see him get Jeff Francoeur. We'll need a little power at DH this October.
Considering all of the injuries, I am amazed that they have the record of 57-34. I have never seen a team with so many injuries, and, to an extent, I really question some of them; however, that being said, I see them going to the playoffs, but to get to the World Series, they better get healthy and start hitting the baseball more consistently. They are very streaky at the plate, and that could be their undoing come playoff time. As good as their pitching is, that can only guarantee a tie ballgame. You must be able to score a run to WIN! I am cautiously optimistic. GO PHILS
This team is exactly what they were predicted to be: the best team in baseball.
Upper Darby, Pa.
At the All-Star break, I believe:
* Ruben Amaro Jr. has something that Eagles management hasn't quite garnered - the wisdom to retool your team with weapons just at the right time. The pitching staff he has assembled is the reason they have the best record in baseball. He found the right answer at the right time as his aging team's potent power fades with age. MLB 2011 has produced the year of the pitcher, and the Amaro-led Phillies are a team that saw the trend coming. The Phillies were correct in converting their bat strength to arm strength. That has made all the difference this season.
* Ryan Howard has become a better overall player, but is not going to be the Babe Ruth we all expected. He has improved his defensive skills and produces RBI in a variety of ways, not just putting the ball in the seats. Will he ever have the bat discipline to ignore low outside curveballs? The last few seasons say no.
* Kyle Kendrick will continue to tease the fans with moments of great pitching, but is not consistent enough now to be relied upon.
* Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley will continue to fade with age. Amaro's next move must be to retool his infield. Older players are injured more, and those injuries will diminish the greatness of these players.
This team has the pitching power, poise and grit to win a World Series despite its blemishes.
PHILLIES RIGHT WHERE THEY HAVE 2 B! GOT 2 PUT AWAY THE PESKY BRAVES & THE TEAM IS 20+ GAMES OVER 500!
CHARLIE HAS DONE WONDERS WITH A BANGED-UP PITCHING STAFF
WHAT MORE CAN A FAN ASK 4?
Very entertaining first half. The league is a little weak, however. Every team has major flaws. The three best teams, Phils, Braves and Giants, can't score; the Brewers, and Cards can't pitch.
Think the lack of juice has contributed to the raft of injuries around the league?
Domonic Brown is just not ready. In the last 2 weeks, he has almost stopped twice while running the bases and he is a lousy outfielder. The guy is not a baseball player. One might expect that a major league player would at least have his steps down going from first to third or from first to score. He does not. If the team is not going to get any offense from the position, at least it can get some fundamentals. John Mayberry's game has flaws, but he can play the outfield and has good baseball instincts. Smart and a hustle guy, too.
Best feel-good story is those Pittsburgh Pirates. Beat both the Phils and the Red Sox a series at home and contending in their division.
Phils have to be careful not to burn out their starters in the second half. 95 wins will do, as well as 100. Hope Chase Utley remembers that when he was coming up he was a gap hitter and went to left-center quite a bit. Now he is dead pull, and the other teams shift him as they do Ryan Howard. Hope Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins get just a little discipline at the plate and Placido Polanco gets and stays healthy, but the most irreplaceable guy is Carlos Ruiz. If they could get 57 wins with Wilson Valdez, Michael Martinez and Ben Francisco, we should be looking forward to what they can do with the whole team healthy and playing.
Let's see here . . . despite the fact that Chase Utley missed 50 games in the first half and we have three closers on the DL and our All-Star third baseman and centerfielder are hurt and we haven't gotten consistent performances from our corner infielders, WE STILL HAVE THE BEST RECORD IN THE MAJORS! Before the season, we all knew that we had an aging core (hence we would have more injuries), had a hole to fill with Jayson Werth leaving, and a declining Raul Ibanez. We also knew that the starting pitching would have to carry us. Guess what . . . at the break, nothing has changed. This is a team built for the postseason, where pitching is the name of the game. To me, the season has played out exactly as expected, yet if you were to read the papers or listen to sportstalk, you would think we were the Astros. Calm down and enjoy this team. It has flaws, but name me one team that doesn't.