Tonight I watched Joe Blanton give up bomb after bomb to the Nationals, and I came to an unavoidable conclusion: Blanton is not very good.
But that’s OK. He doesn’t have to be very good. In fact, none of the Phillies pitchers have to be very good. They just have to be better than they’ve been.
So far this season the Phillies are 10-8 despite a woeful team ERA of 5.68.
The pitching is the bad news.
The good news is, well, just about everything else.
The Phillies have a solid offense, more powerful than last season with Jayson Werth playing fulltime in right field. And they have outstanding defense — especially now that Ryan Howard has gotten in touch with his inner Doug Mankiewicz. (Seriously, Howard has been a remarkably improved defender in 2009. He was never quite as bad as his reputation suggested, but he was never very good either. He might not win the Gold Glove this season, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he got a few votes.)
I’m not too worried about the team’s bullpen. Ryan Madson is rounding into form, Clay Condrey has been great, and J.C. Romero will be back before you know it. Sure, I’d feel better if Brad Lidge wasn’t complaining about knee pain just one year after major knee surgery. And I’d love to know why he’s throwing so many more sliders. But the bullpen, like all bullpens, is a work in progress. It’ll get there.
The starting staff is what worries me. So far this season, all but one of the team’s 10 wins has been a come-from-behind victory. If not for the offense’s flair for the dramatic (47 runs in innings 7-9 compared to 26 runs in innings 1-3), the Phils would be buried in last.
It’s become clear that the Phillies bats will find a way to win, if only the pitchers can keep them in the game. But so far they haven’t done a very good job.
Come on Brett Myers, it’s a contract year! Come on Joe Blanton, it’s a contract year for you, too! Come on Jamie Moyer…well, OK, you’ve got a pretty good excuse. You’re really old. Plus, you were pretty solid in your last start against the Marlins.
But the rest of you, let’s see some improvement. We’re not asking for much. You don’t have to be good. Just better.