Coming into the season, the Phillies pitching was all anyone could talk about.
Throughout the first few weeks of the season the pitching staff — both starters and relievers — have done exactly what was expected of them, if not more.
Cliff Lee leads all of baseball with 60 strikeouts to this point.
Roy Halladay (57) and Cole Hamels (52) are third and seventh on that list, respectively.
Halladay also ranks sixth in the Majors for most innings pitched (53.1) and is tied for most wins (5) in the National League.
Hamels’ 47.2 innings and 4 wins put him atop the leader boards as well.
Only one other pitcher in the National League (St. Louis’s Jaime Garcia) has as many complete games as Halladay (2).
With the weekend series against the Atlanta Braves in the books the Phillies stand tall with a 22-11 record through the first 33 games.
If it were not for their pitching, though, who knows what the standings would look like right now. It’s no secret to anyone who watches the games: their offense needs a spark.
Looking at the numbers can be a bit deceiving.
True, they only scored five runs total in the three game series against the Braves this weekend.
That’s not what you would expect from team that, even minus Jayson Werth, should be able to post some pretty formidable numbers.
But they also scored 18 runs against the Washington Nationals over the three days prior to the Braves series.
That’s the type of offense that people have come to expect from the Phillies.
The argument comes in when you look at exactly whom the team is facing.
Just look at their success against the pitching staffs of the Nationals and Braves alone and you can see that the much-stronger Braves rotation was able to keep the Phillies in check.
Results are results, though, and the fact that the Phillies are tied with the Cleveland Indians for best record in all of baseball bodes well for our hometown team.
But they still need to figure out a way to score more runs.
The good thing is the Phillies have a few bright spots to look forward to offensively.
First is the fact that catcher Carlos Ruiz, who was put on the disabled list Sunday, could be back as early as Friday.
While his .226 batting average might not say it, Ruiz has some sort of calming effect on this team that goes farther than what he does at the plate.
Even bigger news for the Phillies is the approaching return of second-baseman Chase Utley. Utley, who has yet to make is 2011 season debut due to “patellar tendonitis in the right knee” according to the team’s official website, took part in extended spring training over the weekend.
While it is just the first step towards returning to the team, it is a big one.
Utley went 5-for-7 in his first game (he was instructed to hit third in every inning) hitting two impressive homeruns.
While Wilson Valdez and Pete Orr have done an admirable job filling in for Utley in his absence, their offensive numbers do not stand up to what Utley brings to this lineup.
Numbers aside, Utley being out has caused Manager Charlie Manuel to shuffle guys around from their normal hitting slots to fill in the gap.
With Utley back, presumably hitting in front of Ryan Howard, everyone can go back to where they are most suited to hit.
Whatever the solution may be, the Phillies need to figure out how to start scoring runs again because their schedule puts them up against some pretty strong pitching staffs the next few weeks.••