Don’t look now, but the Philadelphia Utley-Howards are slowly creeping back into this wild card race. Last night against the Cardinals, the three big Phillies storylines all came out positive: Chase extended his hit streak to 33 games, Howard smashed homerun number 36, and of course the Phillies won. Scott Matheison garnered his first big league victory by allowing just 3 runs and 3 hits over 5 innings. The Phillies have now trimmed their Wild Card deficit to 4.5 games and 6 teams. "Shhhh. We are going to just stay below the radar and just try to keep on winning games," warns Howard.
Staying below the radar is probably the only option the club has with its current roster. The moves made at the deadline seemed to put people on notice that they can look forward to the Eagles season if they so desire. But what if Gillick made some big trades that put the Phillies on the map, would they now have a real shot at the playoffs? Here are a few trades that could have been:
- Burrell, Rhodes, and Lidle for Ichiro
- Burrell for Rodrigo Lopez of Baltimore
- Lieber to Texas for prospects (still could happen)
Perhaps only that first trade one would have been of any significance. Losing Abreu while gaining Ichiro would have been a big improvement in my eyes. Both players have above-average on-base percentages (career – Ichiro .377, Abreu .411), but whereas Abreu’s OBP is supplemented by a record-breaking amount of walks, Ichiro tallies anywhere from 30-80 more hits per season than Abreu. Simply put, hits move baserunners better than walks. But with Ichiro batting lead-off and Abreu batting third, both players might be more formidable if they swapped places in the lineup. But I digress.
All of this is of course just wishful thinking on my part. The Phils with their current squad still have chance to make the playoffs (though Baseball Prospectus lists it at just 2.5%). After starting the season by being swept by St. Louis the Phillies dug themselves a little hole in the standings. This series would be a prime opportunity for some revenge on the Cards and also a chance to show the Phils can beat quality teams. Once they depart St. Louis, the Phillies only have 13 remaining games against teams above .500 (all versus the Mets and Reds). So while the Phils might not have landed any immediate impact players over the weekend, it could be that for the rest of 2006, they really don’t need any.