Monday, April 8, 2013

The Phillies are 2-4, and maybe already dead

Not exactly a face of triumph
Today in South Philly, the home team dropped the rubber match of their series with the Royals, despite a big ninth inning comeback. They squandered an early lead despite Cole Hamels being on the mound, saw a slow drip of offense for the opposition build to a torrent, and didn't get enough done on their own, despite a loud and loyal crowd that isn't really the usual crowd of Philly defeatists. (That's something new in the last decade, because the home crowd has spent almost all of their time in the new park expecting, and getting, good results.)

And while I'm not sure that the way that they've lost four out of six games so far is terribly indicative, the bigger issue is, well, they've dropped four out of six. In the meanwhile, Atlanta is 5-1, and the Nats are 4-2. (I'm going to ignore the Mets also having four wins, in that those came against the Padres and Marlins, but I probably shouldn't. The young pitching has been great, and the offense, better than expected. But they aren't germane to the point of this post.)

The bigger point, and this isn't very different from what was being said in spring training, is that the 2013 Phils could be a lot better than the 2012 edition, and not have it matter very much. Domonic Brown looks a lot better. Michael Young is having the last hurrah bounce back year that going to the weaker league more or less predicted. A full year of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard -- especially the former, who is playing like the best second basemen in MLB again -- is going to do all sorts of good things for them. (Let's assume, for the moment, that they still healthy, despite the fact that there's no reason to expect that, given their ages.)

The bullpen has been the biggest reason why they've gone 2-4 so far, but there are some quality arms there, and a bad week does not mean they are going to have a bad year. I still think they'll be better than they were last year. Losing two of three to Atlanta on the road is not exactly a hard thing to do, and I think the Royals are a .500 club that's going to hit this year; one more hit in today's game would make them .500.

But last year, this team was 81-81. This year, they could be a half dozen games better than that, and never get near a pennant race. The Nats and Braves look that much better in the everyday 8 -- hell, the Braves outfield alone looks like they could all make the All Star Game -- and not demonstrably worse in the rotation or bullpen.

If they were in the Central or maybe even the West, there would be more of a margin for error. But they aren't. So 2-4 matters, and can't be shrugged off as just being early, or something that can be ignored until May or June. This team does not have the ability to let any game go, from April on.

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