The Phillies finished the first month of the season with a 2-1 win over the visiting Mets on Saturday afternoon. Their 18 wins in April set a new franchise record and their 18-8 overall record is good enough for 1st place in the NL East and the 2nd best record in baseball. There were a number of questions from the media entering the season, especially about the Phillies bats and after the first month it seems as those the Phillies really don’t need much from their lineup to win. Overall there were a few ups and downs but at the start of May the Phillies have lived up to their billing.
The Phillies Four Aces are at the center of attention and rightfully so. In April the big 4 went a combined 11-5 with each having just one bad outing. Halladay led the pack with a 4-1 record and a 2.14 era. He also compiled 46.1 innings pitched with 47 strike outs and just 7 walks; a very impressive April for the Phillies actual ace. Both Oswalt and Hamels were equally impressive, each ending the month with 3-1 records. Oswalt ended April with a 3.33 era and 21 strikeouts, Hamels racked up 34 strikeouts and has an impressive 3.13 era. Cliff Lee ended his first month back with the Phillies with a 2-2 record, 30 strikeouts and a 4.18 era.
While the starting pitching did their job, the bull-pen went beyond expectations, currently ranking 6th in baseball. They’ve only pitched 67.1 innings, but they are 5-2 with 8 saves and 2.67 era. Antonio Bastardo has been the most impressive ending April with 10.1 innings pitched, 16 strikeouts to only 4 walks and an era of 0.87. Like other areas, injury has been a cause for concern but the Phillies are built to overcome them, even when they have to call up a pitcher from triple A, they can get a win.
The lineup has been hot at times and ice cold at others. Raul Ibanez has had an April to forget finishing the month with 1 home run, 10 RBI’s and a .161 batting average. Carlos Ruiz has also struggled so far this season heading into May with a .226 era. The power bats of the last few seasons have disappeared, with the exception of Ryan Howard, and they have had to learn to manufacture their runs. Even with what seemed as though to be a down April for the lineup the Phillies do rank 9th in baseball in batting. They have hit a combined 23 home runs and 117 RBI’s. They are currently ranked 10th in batting average at .261 and their slugging percentage of .390 is good for 14th.
The highlights for the lineup were Ryan Howard and Placido Polanco. Polanco set a new franchise record with 41 hits in the month of April, compiling a .398 batting average which is good for second in the NL and 2nd overall. To add to his impressive batting average Polanco has a .481 average with runners in scoring position to go along with 19 RBI’s and 2 home runs. Ryan Howard had a very impressive April ending the month with a .290 batting average and 6 home runs to go along with his league leading 27 RBI’s.
Heading into May the Phillies are in a great position to really pull ahead and put some distance between them and the rest of the NL East. They have suffered a few injuries to Jose Contreras, Joe Blanton and Carlos Ruiz. The good news is all of the Four Aces are intact and pitching up to and above expectations. The lineup has pushed through even in the absence of Chase Utley and recent news has led me to believe he will soon start his rehab stint in Florida. I expect Utley to return to the lineup sometime at the end of the month or beginning of June. The Phillies have fought through injuries before and they have the players to survive them again. If they can get to 18-8 with injuries and a lineup that hasn’t yet gotten hot, they can only get better as players get healthy and the weather gets warm; which is bad news for the rest of the league.