Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Phillies Take NL East

For the third consecutive season the Philadelphia Phillies are the NL East Division winners. They clinched the division with a 10-3 victory over the Houston Astros.

It has been an interesting season for the defending World Series champions. Their starting pitching faltered. 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP Cole Hamels struggled, Brett Myers got hurt and Jamie Moyer got old. Joe Blanton and rookie J.A. Happ became the most consistent pitchers in the starting rotation until acquired Cliff Lee from the Cleveland Indians and signed free agent pitcher Pedro Martinez.

The bullpen has been even worse. In 2008, Brad Lidge converted 41 saves in 41 save opportunities. He was perfect. In 2009, Lidge was far from perfect. Although Lidge has 31 saves he has also blown 11 save opportunities. Not only is it living dangerously it is living on the Lidge. Complicating matters is that set up man Ryan Madson has been no more effective on the handful of occasions he has been given the task of closing out a game. The Phillies are very vulnerable in the NLDS especially if they face the Colorado Rockies.

Yet the Phillies offense is so powerful one can never count them out until the final out. They have come from behind 42 times this season. This is due in no small part to the Phillies having four players with 30 or more homeruns - Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jayson Werth and off season acquisition Raul Ibanez. Throw in Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and the underrated Pedro Feliz and you have an offensive juggernaut.

The Phillies have a legitimate shot at winning back to back World Series. No National League team has won back to back World Series since the Cincinnati Reds when the Big Red Machine won in 1975 and 1976. The only regret Phillies fans will have about winning back to back World Series would be that Harry Kalas didn't live to see it.

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