No other national writer follows the Philadelphia Phillies like Jayson Stark follows the Philadelphia Phillies, so I took special notice when I saw that he'd written something about how that club will be affected by the loss -- for somewhere in the neighborhood of two months -- of Roy Halladay.
Stark (via ESPN.com):
So what was their formula for running off the kind of mid- or late-season winning streaks they've patented in recent years -- like the 49-19 blitz they closed with in 2010? The formula was to get their aces on a roll and ride that wave. That's what. But how does that happen now?
Which means this is a team that will be forced to keep treading water for weeks -- until Utley, Howard and Halladay return. And by then, said one scout, "Washington might run away with that division."
The counter-argument, of course, is that Halladay wasn't himself for most of this year, anyway. Since winning his first three starts of the year, he was 1-5 with a 5.29 ERA, had all but given up on throwing his fastball, and couldn't finish his curve or cutter with any consistency. And still. the Phillies were tough enough to hang in the race, and even to run off 11 wins in their past 16 games.
But what if this team was with Utley, Howard, Halladay and Worley? In 2010, they began that 49-19 blitz on the 22nd of July. Utley and Howard are supposedly progressing in their rehabs. Worley's expected to rejoin the Phillies' rotation next week. And with Halladay expected to miss six to eight weeks, he should be back by ... well, right around the 22nd of July.
Which isn't to suggest the Phillies will put together another run like that one. Or that when all these guys are healthy, other guys won't be injured. With Halladay out for maybe two months, the Phillies are obviously in bigger trouble than they were already in. But it's not over yet, not by a long shot. The Nationals are overachieving, the Braves suddenly can't pitch, and the Marlins and Mets -- their 27-22 records aside -- have been outscored this season.
The Phillies aren't the favorites any more, because they're in fifth place and they've got big holes. But it's far too early to count them out.