Having spent most of the week looking at the Phillies offense it seems important to remember that it's not really that big a deal. The Phillies starting pitching in the first 87 games of the season was absolutely terrible. It was bad enough that the team could probably not have kept pace with the white-hot Mets no matter what the offense had done.
At the break the Phils
have given 52 starts to pitchers who went into the break with an ERA above
five. That doesn't include Cory Lidle, who got 18 starts and went into
the break with a 4.95 ERA.
Phillies starting pitchers had the worst ERA in the National League. They threw the fewest innings, putting a tremendous burden on the pen to clean up their mess. I expect there will be a cumulative effect there, if the starters continue to struggle horribly we can't expect the pen to be among the best in the league. The drop off has already started -- after leading the league in bullpen ERA for much of the season, the Phillies have dropped to third.
The Phillies starting rotation is badly broken. More badly broken than any other part of the team. Fixing it is a huge challenge for Gillick and the Phillies front office.
The Phils pen at the break has thrown the second most innings in the National League.
Everyone has pretty much put the Mets in the playoffs if not the World Series and they may be right. I think it's too soon for the Phillies to give up on the year, however. The Mets have pitching problems of their own -- their guys in the pen have been fantastic but have thrown the most innings in the league. That's going to add up on them the same way it's going to add up on the Phillies. The bad news is it sure sounds like they're about to get Livan Hernandez, which would go a long ways towards stabilizing the rotation and giving the pen a break.
The other thing about the Mets that may be cause for hope is this: the list of Mets who may drop off in the second half is long: Reyes, Delgado, Beltran, Jose Valentin, Endy Chavez. Reyes goes into the break slugging 95 points higher than he did last season and on-basing 57 points higher. Beltran's on a pace to slug .600 for the first time in his career and hit 45 homers after never hitting 30 in a previous season. Delgado is on a pace to hit 40, which he's done once in the last six years. David Wright is clearly great, but is he really going to approach 40 homers at age 23? He might -- Pujols hit 43 at age 23, Vlad 42, but it would be a tremendous feat, especially if he can provide good defense at third base.
Whether any or all of those guys drop off in the second half isn't going to matter if Phillies starting pitchers continue to be the worst in the league. Here's a look at the numbers for the starters and relievers in the division for the teams in the NL East at the break: