Phantasy Philes: Phillies Finding Their Groove

The Phillies are finding their groove and edging closer to those division leading Braves, and you might think it's because of a significant improvement from some of the underachieving stars. However, that thought wouldn't be entirely true. So in this week's Philes, we'll take a look at which guys are leading the current surge, and those who are still dragging along. In addition to that, as always, we have our non-Phillie of the week for those of you in need of a boost in the standings.

It's difficult to overlook the contributions Jim Thome has made to the offensive effort recently. His nine game hitting streak, along with six homers and nine RBIs in that span, has really given the Phils the productive force that they've been looking for all season. The exciting thing about Thome is that this could just be the beginning. Over the last three years, he's averaged a line of .344/8/23 in July, making that his best month at the plate. So, with those numbers in mind, don't be surprised if his current .262 batting average ends up being much closer to .290 by the end of this month. If his July trend does in fact continue this year, it will certainly put the minds of many fantasy owners to ease, since it seems as if many are worried about Jim's batting average in particular. Even now though, his power numbers are right around where they usually are, as he is on pace for 44 homers and 120 RBIs. Bottom line with Thome is, if your looking for an upgrade at first base on that fantasy roster right now, look no further than this first year Phil. He probably won't be cheap, but it will be an addition that should pay dividends in the not so distant future.

We discussed Joe Table a few weeks back, and since then he's actually improved a bit. In fact, Mr. Mesa is the new Phillies career saves leader. Who knew that would happen three years ago? Over the last week or so, Jose has been able to lower his ERA into the 4.00 range and add a couple wins and saves to his totals. He's even fanning more batters, with 11 strikeouts in his last 10 innings pitched. I wouldn't get too excited about this nice stretch from Mesa though. Look for the roller coaster ride to continue in the second half of the season, with Joey ending up with his usual 40 saves. Just don't expect a pretty ERA or WHIP this season.

Another pitcher that is really starting to turn things around is Vicente Padilla, who's gotten the W in four of his last five decisions, including three in a row. It seems that the pitch tipping was the big problem for Vicente because he has looked more like the guy that made the All-Star team last season ever since it was corrected. As Padilla continues to regain his confidence and get more comfortable on the mound, we should see more of what he did in the first half of last year. I doubt he'll have another terrible second half, since he did stay away from winter ball this season, so that shouldn't be a worry. If you're a fantasy owner looking for a quality pitcher to add to your staff, you may want to consider Padilla, especially since he might come at a relatively low price.

Now for the bad news, including the black hole in the batting order named Pat Burrell. What hurts most about Burrell's awful season thus far is that he hasn't shown any signs of life that would lead us to believe he might play like the real Pat the bat anytime soon. Over the last seven days, Burrell has hit just .172, and is once again bellow the Mendoza line for the season. I'm still convinced that Pat will end up with more than the 23 homers and 56 RBIs that he's on pace for, but as a fantasy owner, I'm really losing patience with him. Trading him now just to get rid of the headache he causes might not be a bad idea. With the all the questions surrounding if, when, and by how much Pat can improve this year, cutting your losses now and getting someone a bit more consistent could be the way to go.

The guy that has surprised me most with his recent struggles would have to be Kevin Millwood. In about a month, Millwood saw his ERA rise from 2.94 all the way up to 4.03 on his way to losing five of his last seven starts. What happened to the guy that threw a no hitter not too long ago? Well, Kevin really hasn't been as bad as his numbers would suggest. If it weren't for that one really bad start against the Reds halfway through June, where he gave up eight runs in just over three innings, his ERA and WHIP wouldn't be nearly as bad as they are (for a staff ace that is). So, if you've got Millwood on your team, don't freak out. He was due for a few bad starts, and it just so happened that they all came about at once. His last outing, a win against Baltimore, should get him back on track, as will the delay of contract negotiations with the Phils from the All-Star break to the end of the season.

This week's non-Phillie is actually someone we've discussed before, but due to a change in his situation, I felt the need to bring him up again. The trade of Roberto Alomar from the Mets to the White Sox should really make fantasy owners that hung on to the second baseman happy. After a year and a half stinking it up in New York, I think most would agree that a change of scenery, and a lot less media scrutiny, will relieve some pressure for Alomar. Also, Roberto will be reunited with his brother Sandy, who has been a member of Chicago's American League team for a few years now. Watch Roberto closely to see if a turnaround does take place soon after he unpacks his bags in Chicago, because he could make a for a good fantasy league acquisition as well.

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