A Report Card With Mixed Grades For Phils

With the first month of the season drawing to a close, it's been a back and forth start for the Phillies. For a while, they looked dead in the water. Then, suddenly, they looked like the team we all thought they would be. Of course, then the Marlins came to town and it fell apart again, only to pick up over the weekend. The only constant with this team is inconsistency.

Another week gone by, and yet another sweep at the hands of the Florida Marlins. It is really getting kind of ridiculous, how the Phillies can do everything right and still lose to a team who on paper looks inferior. And not only are they losing, but it is in the worst possible fashion. Before the series started exactly a week ago, the Phils had not scored more than six runs in a game all year. So what happens against Florida? They score seven runs in the final two games and lose both! It seems when the bats are on, the pitching isn't, and when the pitching is on, the bats aren't, as shown by the 3-1 loss to open the series. Of the Phils ten losses this season, six have come at the hands of Florida.

But if there is such thing as a curse against Florida, it's a good thing that Montreal is in the division, so that the Phils have someone to beat up on. Of the seven wins this year, five have been over Montreal, including two in this past weekend series, in which the bats exploded for 15 runs in the first two games, but were shut out in the last. It is the kind of inconsistency that is driving fans mad, scoring eight runs one game and zero the next. If the Phillies hope to win the division for the first time in over a decade, the inconsistency has to stop, or else it could mean the end of playoff hopes and the Larry Bowa regime.

This week, the Phils face two outer-division foes when they travel to St. Louis to face Albert Pujols and the Cardinals, and come back to host Randy Johnson and the Diamondbacks. It should make for an interesting week, and hopefully the Phils can make up some ground on the Marlins for the NL East division lead.

So, after the first month comes to a close, it's time for my monthly grades on each starting position player. Next week, we'll grade the pitchers:

Pat Burrell – A: Burrell has turned his career back towards the promise he showed two years ago instead of the futility he showed at the plate last year. He leads the team in runs batted in, and has the second highest batting average of the starters. A well-deserved grade for Pat.

Jim Thome – A: Once again showing that the Phils were right in shelling out for him two winters ago, Thome already has five homers and leads the team in batting average and on-base percentage. He remains one of the most feared hitters in the game, and another season like last year could very well put the Phils over the hump.

Marlon Byrd - D+: After his rookie campaign last year in which he batted well over .300, Byrd has returned to his early season form of last year in which he looked completely lost at the plate. Bowa has no idea what to do with this guy in the order, because he isn't getting on base nearly enough to lead off, and does not have the power to provide solid protection for Burrell. His .222 batting average is third worst among starters.

Bobby Abreu - C+: Bobby started out extremely cold, one of the worst hitters on the team in the first two weeks. He seems to have regained his form however, with three homeruns and nine RBI's entering the week. It isn't enough though given his past production, and if the Phils hope to do damage this year, Abreu needs to be much better.

David Bell – C: Bell has been the epitome of a marginal player since he was signed as a free agent two years ago. He has been known as a great defensive third baseman, yet his errors against Florida cost the Phils the game. He has improved at the plate from last year, but if the bats continue to struggle we may see a Chase Utley call-up soon.

Jimmy Rollins – F: Hopefully, he can only get better, because right now he cannot get much worse. A few years removed from an All-Star season, Rollins currently has the 40th worst batting average out of the entire major league shortstops, backup or starter. Rollins has been downright terrible at the plate at times, and with only 10 hits in 17 games, he had better get it fixed soon. His speed is an asset, but how can he steal bases if he can't get on base?

Placido Polanco – B: Polanco has been good this season, but not near the level he was playing towards the end of last year. His numbers are decent and his defense is solid, but there is room for improvement. The Phils most versatile player, he will have to improve as the season goes along.

Mike Lieberthal - F-: Like Rollins, he can only go up from here. Still in single digits in the hits category, this has got to rank up there as one of the worst slumps of Lieby's career. Four of the Phillies five starting pitchers are ahead in average, and he only has three more hits than Randy Wolf. If he does not change things quickly, we may see a lot more of Todd Pratt behind the plate.

Questions or Comments? Contact me at Ace13135@hotmail.com

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