The Phillies said Rich Harden was arguably best they’ve seen this season. I’ll take their word for it.
Harden, who fanned a career-high 11 over eight innings, issued the fifth zero the Phils have taken this season. They’ve lost seven of their last eight and 11 of their last 15, comprising the half-month stretch considered to be the toughest patch in the entire 2008 schedule.
Two schools of thought are penetrating the comments thread concerning the offense and what this cold spell means. Some believe the 404 runs they’ve scored – 2nd in NL – is an accurate marker for overall performance. They’re playing well enough to win the division, and indeed, hold a two-game advantage over Florida. They've simply lost to better clubs lately. Others consider it a shallow indicator, skewed by two, 20-run games and earlier outbursts against weaker clubs. They've been held to three runs or less over 30 times. And there are many readers who fall somewhere in the middle. Readers write ...
“Harden IS a very good pitcher. So was Ervin Santana. So were Saunders and Weaver and Lester and Lohse. But even good pitchers can be hit, and often are. Saunders has been pummeled in 2 of his last 5 outings. Lohse was pummeled in his last outing and was mediocre in his last outing before he faced us. Santana got pummeled in his last outing before facing us, and he got pummeled again in his first outing after facing us. Moreover, if good pitching were the sole explanation behind our recent struggles, then you would expect the Phillies' offensive ouput against these guys to be about the same, if not better, than the typical output of every other team that the pitcher has recently faced. Yet, that's clearly not the case.” – bay_area_phan
“If the games were determined by statistical rankings, then yeah, we'd win the division. Which is what we're currently doing and look like we'll probably continue to do. Of course this team has some major needs, that's why I wouldn't call it a great or dominant team, but it's clearly above average. We have the 9th best record in baseball, and there are 30 teams, so it's just a fact that we are. As for this team visually proving the irrelevance of stats because it's lost a lot recently even though it has good numbers, of course stats aren't very predictive of what will happen in any single game or even any ten games, but over the course of a season things do average out. It's very difficult to end the season with a bad record if you outscore opponents by a run per game, as we have.” -- Tray
Note, if there’s one point where readers are of one mind, it’s this: The Phillies are a good, but not elite, team. They are not a championship team.
That wasn’t the case before they took this interleague exam.
Beerleaguer: What happens when Chase Utley and Pat Burrell aren't hitting like machines? We're seeing it. It's been a goofy season offensively, and admittedly, it's getting a wee-bit uncomfortable picturing what the bats may not be able to accomplish should they reach the post-season.
Where has the offense come from this season when Utley and BurrellI aren't unreal? Very few places. Perhaps Ryan Howard, who leads the team with 65 phantom RBIs. To me, the .764 OPS cleanup hitter embodies all that is hollow about their offense. Where else? Jayson Werth had his 15 minutes. That's over. Jimmy Rollins is having a very mediocre season. The last time he did anything dynamic was when he got his 20th triple on the last day of the 2007 season. Geoff Jenkins either strikes out or pops out. His numbers are way down. At his age, that's a real concern. Where else? Chris Coste?
Minor notes: The prospect-rich Reading Phillies, who will send four players - Jason Donald, Lou Marson, Greg Golson and Carlos Carrasco - to the All-Star Futures Game, now have less wins (30-47) than the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (31-51). Pitcher Antonio Bastardo was also selected to the Futures game, but is scratched due to injury.