Philadelphia Phillies Have Positive Elements Within Their Early Game

Philadelphia Phillies Chase Utley

Kim Klement–USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Phillies haven’t started the 2013 season in fine fashion, but there are a number of positive points that can be made about this team.

After dropping the 2011 National League Division Series, it was fair to wonder what the future might bring. Last spring a variety of injury issues foreshadowed what became a lost season.

A winning era doesn’t end with one down year. So, the 81-81 record that Charlie Manuel’s team produced in 2012 could become a blip on the diamond radar if he can lead his Philly boys of summer into a renewed fall campaign. There have been some encouraging signs in that regard, despite the team’s sub-.500 record through late-April.

The team’s fielding percentage (.986) ranks fifth in the National League and their 1.24 WHIP mark ranks seventh in the NL.

Hitting remains a challenge, as the Phillies’ collective .678 OPS mark reveals. Their twelfth-ranked offense (in that NL category) must improve if a playoff run is to take place.

Chase Utley is moving well in the field. While he’s never been a gold-glover, number 26 continues to handle his position well. The future of the greatest double-play combination in team history (Utley and Jimmy Rollins) isn’t secure beyond this season. But, as of now both men still look good up the middle.

Utley’s team-lead in numerous offensive categories isn’t totally surprising, as his heart has always remained healthy.

Michael Young’s bat has been as advertised and he’s only made one error so far. No one expects him to be Scott Rolen in his prime, or Placido Polanco in his better days. The new third baseman’s main purpose is to help balance the middle of the Phillies’ batting order and he’s delivered in that regard.

Other than some fine early efforts by the bench, every other regular (or semi-regular) must improve offensively.

Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick have been steady so far. Cole Hamels has started slowly, while Roy Halladay’s game has sharply improved lately. ‘Doc’ has a reduced capacity, but seems to be learning how to pitch with what he’s got left.

Jonathan Papelbon has kept on chugging this year, while Antonio Bastardo looks like the excellent 2011 version of himself.

Mike Adams was effective for the first few weeks of the season, but has developed some health issues. Hopefully his issues are minor matters, because his consistent eighth inning presence is vital.

It would be foolish and historically naive to view April’s won-loss record as less important than any other month’s work. The Phillies haven’t been great to-date, but it’s still reasonable to be realistically hopeful about the 2013 season.

Follow Sean on Twitter @SeanyOB, Facebook, Google+ and read his blog Insight.

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