Phillies season is better than expected

By Matthew Shinkle '14

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Our Philadelphia Phillies, ladies and gentlemen, are piecing together better than expected. A 15-15 record has them playing .500 ball. However, there are still many improvements that need to be made.

Offensively, I personally can’t complain. Chase Utley is batting a crisp .333 and among the top in the National League. Marlon Byrd, the Phillies newest replacement out in right field, has continued from his bounce-back year in 2013, in 2014 as he finds himself in the top 10 in runs batted in in the National League as well. Ryan Howard has returned (slightly) to his old form, belting six home runs, which leads the team, and 11 of his 27 hits are for extra bases.

On the opposite side of the mound is where the biggest problems lie. Cliff Lee, one of only three bright spots of Phillies pitching, is pitching like, well, Cliff Lee. Free agent signing A.J. Burnett has pitched like Burnett of old since learning of a hernia in his groin, having the Phillies won all five of his last five starts. Jonathan Papelbon is also having early season success in 2014 after a harsh start to last year’s season, having converted nine of his first ten saves, carrying a 2.19 earned run average and a 5:2 strikeout to walk ratio.

As a team, the offense has shown up for the most part of this year. Pitching is the only concern, as the bullpen, as it almost always has since the 2008 World Series, needs some fine tuning. With a 15-15 record, the Phillies are somehow only two games back in the NL East. Although that puts them in last place, they are currently in the closest division in all of baseball.

As the Atlanta Braves continue to struggle, and they’ve now lost seven in a row, the Washington Nationals, Miami Marlins, New York Mets and our Philadelphia Phillies have closed the once large gap between the division leader and the rest of the teams. The Phillies run differential, which is the comparison of runs scored against runs allowed, stands at -14. Any chance of staying in contention for the remainder of the summer lies within that single stat. Being able to score runs while limiting the damage the opponent can do is all part of baseball.

The Phillies faithful have always supported their teams, through the good and the bad. Regardless of the new and old faces we are currently seeing this year, we should be optimistic of the potential this team holds. With potential all-star starts for this season in Chase Utley, Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett and even Marlon Byrd, I, as a fellow fan, can do nothing but hope that the Phillies continue to play their best. With the Phillies going to New York to face the division rival Mets for their next series, I can’t wait for them to play their best at a time when they truly need to–against their division.

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