The Phillies' quartet of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick soared while the offense took a dive. (AP Photo)
It turns out that Kendrick, who was glued to Halladay's hip in Clearwater, wasn't the only pitcher who became a Doc disciple. Aside from first-half bust Joe Blanton, the Phillies' staff followed all of Halladay's best practices in terms of efficiency, accuracy, dexterity and maturity. Phillies starters lead the league in innings (563 1-3), fewest walks (132, which is 32 less than the next best team), complete games (10) and K/BB (2.62). Credit Halladay for most of that; in one man's opinion, he has exceeded expectations. But the first half also featured several landmark performances. Moyer and Kendrick each twirled complete games; for Moyer, it was a historic two-hit shutout, for Kendrick, the first nine-inning start of his career. Hamels hasn't gone the distance, but he's equaled Halladay's consistency. With all the talk of Hamels needing to develop a third or fourth pitch, his first-half success boiled down to a better fastball, one with a little more zip and one that generally arrives down in the zone, as it did yesterday. He's also been effective at changing eye-levels, and the added velocity brought out the best in his change-up. He's also demonstrated better poise, something that was often fleeting a season ago. Few can match Doc's efficiency with balls and strikes, but Moyer has been equally economic, an amazing feat for an extreme finesse pitcher who lights up the gun at 80. His K/BB stands at 3.10, his best mark since 1998. True to form, Moyer has handled younger lineups with ease, and to this observer, is working a faster game than at any point during his tenure. As for Kendrick, he's channeled Doc's confidence. He's driving to the plate more than we've seen and hasn't been afraid of contact. He's also honed his secondary pitches.
Blanton will get better, they're holding J.A. Happ on standby with no real rush and Ruben Amaro says he'd prefer to add outside pitching above an infielder or an extra bat.
As long as the innings don't overcome them, the starting five is looking strong atop the slab.
Today: Dane Sardinha cleared waivers and will head back to Triple-A. ... Ryan Howard, the subject of our next midterm report, will DH in the All-Star Game tomorrow night.