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Smashing September Still Showing Weaknesses

As painfully frustrating as the Phillies have been, and still are, you couldn’t ask for a better start to the stretch run of the season. September has begun with a 5-1 mark for a team still searching for a semblance of consistency.

In those six games, the Phillies have won in a number of different ways. However, questions are still abound as to how this team can better itself as it has crept as close as possible to the Atlanta Braves in the National League East. On both sides of the ball, there are a few troubling signs.

Kyle Kendrick:

Can he continue to start? Many will say no, that he’s worn out his welcome. I’m starting to agree with that sentiment. In his last eight starts, KK has failed to finish seven innings. He’s also given up 28 earned runs over those starts, losing four decisions. His inconsistency as the fifth starter isn’t the worst thing in the world, it’s the same with many teams.

Atlanta can’t find a guy to successfully fill that position, either. Kenshin Kawakami, the Braves fifth guy, is 1-10 on the season, yet the team is in a playoff position. The Giants ran Todd Wellemeyer out there for 11 starts before realizing it was an awful idea, then turned to youngster Madison Bumgarner. Cincinnati’s rotation is ugly at the bottom as well, with an old Aaron Harang and an inconsistent Homer Bailey sharing duties as a “fifth starter”.

Every game, every inning, every pitch becomes much more important at this point in the season. Where do they turn now? Do they stay with Kendrick, knowing he’ll provide 5-6 innings and allow 4-5 runs? Or do they take their chances with the unknown?

Vance Worley made his first career start on Monday and showed some promise, however, he doesn’t have overpowering stuff either and is likely to get hit around, too. Worley is a guy who will allow baserunners (160 hits/46 BB in 158 innings in Double and Triple-A this season) so his job is to minimize the damage, just as Kendrick attempts to do.

Nate Robertson is another name that has surfaced recently. He’s been around the block before, but offers little to no upgrade over either pitcher.

Those three are basically your options at this point in the season. Which do you feel most comfortable with? I’d be remiss in saying I didn’t want to see more of what Worley can do, because let’s face it, it can’t be much worse than what Kendrick has given. On the other hand, is there really a difference? We’ve come to find that Kendrick can be very good when he’s on. Perhaps his flaws, mechanical or otherwise, will be fixed in time for his next start.

Werth with runners on base:

One-hundred. Jayson Werth’s average with two outs and runners in scoring position is exactly .100.  He has six hits in 60 at-bats, a hugely disappointing number. To show a parallel, or not, Wilson Valdez is hitting .286 in that same spot over 36 at-bats. Hell, even Jimmy Rollins, who is batting 60 points lower than Werth for the entire 2010 season, has a .371 average with a RISP/2 out.

This is scary.  Of course, looking at it from a wider angle you’ll see it’s a small sample size that we’re using to justify Werth’s clutchitude. Still, in 60 at-bats, if you’re really the superstar you believe you are, you’ll have to come up bigger in those situations. He hasn’t done it. It’s a worrisome fact that he hasn’t really produced under pressure this year and how can you prove otherwise?

Forget the two outs on the board, Werth is just as awful in any situation that would require a hit of some sort with runners at second or third, or both. He’s hitting .158 overall with RISP. Does this mean that his nearly-.300 average is hollow? You could make that case, because Werth does most of his damage without anyone on base, which is nice for his personal numbers, but sad for the team. Werth is hitting .327 with the bases empty.

If the Phillies want to make some noise as a unit on offense, Werth will have to pile up the RBI. Many have wondered why that total has dipped dramatically. Look no further than his inability to show up in big situations. He still has time to turn it around, the questions is; can he?

Madson’s arm is falling off!:

It’s am important time of year, sure. And during this time, the best relief pitchers are needed. However, Ryan Madson has been seemingly overused. Since early August, Madson has gotten more than two days rest just twice and lately he’s been a horse. That’s all fine too, because it appears he can handle the load. Madson has been a savior in the back end of the pen as he has not allowed an earned run since August 23, a span of nine straight appearances.

It worries me how much he’s been used, and I understand Charlie Manuel needs him, but I hope they give him a fresh start right now by saving him for a few days, if possible, to ready him for an extreme workload from here on out. They’ve given Lidge many breaks recently, they should do the same for an equally-important arm in Madson.

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