PN Writers Roundtable: Hot Start

This is the Phillies Nation Writers Roundtable. Every so often, we’ll come up with a topic we’d all like to address and post our opinions on it.  Here’s today’s question:

-The Phillies have started the season at 7-2, but their opponents have not been of the elite status.  A new series begins tonight with Florida, which should give them a better understanding of where they are at as a team.  My question is, what gripes do you have with the Phillies so far in this young season?

Nick “The Beerman” Staskin: “Only two factors this season have given anything to gripe about: the starting pitchers who are not Roy Halladay and Raul Ibanez. With the offense picking up the slack for Ibanez in the meantime, the starters have got to go deeper in games.

Going into the season, the main worries revolved around the bullpen. If they are forced to go 4-5 innings a night, it will not end pretty for anybody invovled. I think that Wednesday night marked the end of the Kyle Kendrick experiment part deux, and I’d be hardpressed to think that Carpenter won’t be getting a call up soon to give it a shot until Blanton comes back. Early word is that Blanton could be back for the Giants series at the end of the next road trip.”

Michael Baumann: “Honestly, I don’t have a whole lot gripe about. Sure, Moyer and Kendrick are replacement-level at best, but we knew that already. Hamels has been mediocre, but he hasn’t been bad enough to hit the panic switch just yet–it’s only been two starts. And while Rollins’ injury is certainly unfortunate, considering how well he’d been hitting, these things happen, and I’d rather lose him for April than September.

So while things haven’t been perfect, and the Phillies haven’t played the Cardinals or Braves yet, remember that it’s just as important to beat up on bad teams as it is to beat your direct title rivals. Considering the competition, the injuries, and the cloud of excitement surrounding this team, I don’t think things could be going any better.”

Amanda Orr: “I don’t have many complaints. The offense is scoring a ton of runs, They’re getting on base and driving in the runners. The only thing I’m worried about is starting pitching. Other than Halladay, nobody has really impressed or lived up to expectations. They really need the other four pitchers to step up because they can’t rely on ten runs every single night.”

Paul Boye: “The big issue is obvious: this team has precious little pitching depth. Halladay is off to an excellent start, Hamels isn’t off to as bad a start as it seems (though not a great one, to be sure) and the bullpen has looked fine outside of one game and one pitcher. The rest of the rotation, though, leaves plenty to be desired.

Joe Blanton’s return will be a welcomed one next month, but I think this team still needs another starter. First name that comes to mind is Pedro Martinez, predictably, but I want no part of him before late July or early August. We saw how his velocity and stuff tumbled down the stretch and in his final start in the World Series, bucking the trend briefly in the NLCS. Blame that on the 130-pitch start against the Mets if you will, but the simple belief is that the future Hall of Famer doesn’t have the endurance to tackle anything more than 10 regular season starts anymore, and the simple fact is I don’t trust him for anything longer than that, myself. Pedro didn’t go through the level of winter workouts and spring training action that most other Major Leaguers did, and so he’s already behind if you were expecting him to be ready by May.

There are no real quality arms in the high minors, and anything beyond Halladay still seems up in the air – even though I do trust Hamels to get much better, and soon – so future success seems a little dubious. I know it’s early and there is plenty of time for the rest of the rotation to turn around, but I can’t help feeling concerned.”

Corey Seidman: “The “who-they-played” argument has little validity to me, and it will still have little validity if they go out and lose two of three to the Marlins.

Six NL teams have given up more runs than the Astros, and while the Nationals have given up 63 (15th out of 16 teams,) that speaks more to the fact that the Phillies can hit than that the Nationals cannot pitch! The Phillies have faced 22 different pitchers this year and they’ve scored off of 18 of them. It’s not as if all of those pitchers stink.

As far as gripes go, my only gripes right now are:

A) Kyle Kendrick – if he makes another terrible start, it should be his last. Pedro Martinez is available (and will likely be back.) Jarrod Washburn is available. Nelson Figueroa is available. Lefties are 9-for-16 with four extra base hits, 9 RBI, two walks, and a hit batter off KK. If this is some semblance of who Kyle Kendrick is, than Kyle Kendrick is not a major league pitcher. Don’t say a word to me about Spring Training, either. There’s a difference between non-roster invitees in meaningless games and major league hitters in meaningful games.

B) The Phillies lost the first game to the Nats (the 6-5 game) because they have nobody on the bench with adequate speed. In the 8th inning of that game, Greg Dobbs walked and Jimmy Rollins doubled, but a run was not scored because Dobbs has below average speed. It was the kind of play that a fast runner would have easily scored on, and the game would have been tied at six. Based on the way they’ve played, it doesn’t take much to assume the Phils would have gone on to win that game and start the season 3-0.

Now, 7-2 ain’t bad, but if you’re going to have a bench featuring two lefty pinch-“sluggers”, a righty fourth outfielder, a catcher, and a utility infielder, than either the righty outfielder or the utility infielder needs to have plus speed. Ben Francisco is as fast as it gets on the Phillies bench. That’s pretty scary.”

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