1. Will general manager Ruben Amaro add a more capable righthanded hitter?
Outlook: As Placido Polanco's back injury has gotten more acute, his batting average has dropped like a stone in the sea. Switch-hitter Shane Victorino is hitting .390 from the right side this season and has emerged as manager Charlie Manuel's best option as the No. 5 hitter. The other notable righties, besides catcher Carlos Ruiz, are Ben Francisco (yawn) and John Mayberry Jr., who has shown flashes lately. The Phillies are vulnerable against lefthanded pitchers, particularly relievers.
Fearless prediction: It's hard to envision Amaro sitting still, especially when the levee breaks and every other team starts making trades. Among the names being floated around most often are Ryan Ludwick (Padres), Josh Willingham (Athletics) and even switch-hitter Carlos Beltran (Mets). Beltran will be the most difficult piece for the Phillies to add since he's owed about $9 million for the rest of this season and the Mets would have to take a chunk of that.
2. What will the bullpen look like in late September?
Outlook: Considering the injuries, the Phillies might be trailing the Braves if it wasn't for Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo.
Fearless prediction: Ryan Madson comes back as the closer, Bastardo is the eighth-inning guy, Stutes, along with Brad Lidge, takes a reduced role. Adding a veteran to the 'pen, especially with Jose Contreras' (forearm) suffering another setback recently, wouldn't be terrible either.
3. How many 20-game winners will the Phillies have?
Outlook: Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels each have 11 wins and are on pace for 20. Cliff Lee (9-6) is looking at 16 - or 24 if he pitches like he did in June. Vance Worley (4-1, 2.20) has been the biggest surprise and could pitch his way past injured starters Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton and into the postseason rotation.
Fearless prediction: Hamels wins 20 on his way to a Cy Young and Halladay and Lee come up just short as their innings-pitched gets cut in September.
4. Which of these first-half anomalies is most likely to change in the second?
Outlook: The choices are Placido Polanco hitting .156 since early June. Vance Worley looking like Roy Halladay, except for the Mohawk. The Phillies leading all of baseball in wins despite being 20th in hitting.
Fearless prediction: Given how everything evens out in baseball, it's gotta be Worley coming back down to earth. And if that happens, look for the kid to regain his bearings. He's got a terrific mental makeup.
5. When will Ryan Howard homer off a lefthander?
Outlook: He's dingerless in 120 plate appearances this season, though he does strikeout less frequently against lefthanded pitchers.
Fearless prediction: Howard will go deep against the Cubs' James Russell in Chicago some time Monday-Wednesday. The young lefty has given up 20 homers in 98 career innings. Got a better guess? Email me the first lefty Howard homers off (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a chance at a Daily News T-shirt. It's a tough economy, so in case of a tie, one winner will be chosen randomly, though all winners will be cited in print.
The Daily News posed these five questions coming out of spring training:
1. Are the Phillies confident enough in Michael Martinez to keep him on the roster over one of either Luis Castillo, Delwyn Young or Pete Orr?
Answer: Martinez hasn't hit much (.229), but he has started at five different positions while the Phillies juggled their way around injuries.
2. What about Luis Castillo?
Answer: Umm, that didn't work.
3. Is John Mayberry Jr. a lock for the bench?
Answer: That's still playing itself out.
4. Where does that leave the rest of the bench?
Domonic Brown wasn't an early-season option because of a thumb injury. He has shown enough to earn platoon consideration and strengthen Manuel's bench slightly.
5. Might the Phillies go outside of camp with their final spot in the bullpen?
They did not. They gave Antonio Bastardo and David Herndon the final two spots and eventually brought up Michael Stutes. J.C. Romero was released, and Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras have been hurt.