April 2007 is in the books for the Phightin' Phils and May 1 makes for a good day to do a quick review by the numbers:
The number of wins the Phillies had in the month of April to give them a record of 11 - 14, 5 games behind the division leading Braves. Clearly, the 1 - 6 start hurt them; let's hope it doesn't come to haunt them in September.
The number of games the Phillies won against the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves in the 8 games they played against those two teams. They have yet to beat the Braves this season in four games. The Phillies maddening inability to beat these teams is the single biggest story in this young season. They will not make the playoffs if they don't start beating these two teams.
This is Aaron Rowand's team leading batting average in the month of April. The spark plug centerfielder has been on a torrid streak and has 5 homers and 12 RBIs to go with his gaudy batting average. Hopefully, this quiets those that want to trade him and hand center field over to Shane Victorino (.260-0-8).
This is reigning MVP Ryan Howard's batting average to date. The best thing Ryan Howard can say about the month of April is that it is finally over. It goes without saying the Phils will need Howard to get it going. Complicating matters, in terms of Howard breaking out, is that no one is pitching to Howard in big spots. He's been intentionally walked 8 times; 1 behind ML leader Barry Bonds. A shift in the lineup could be in the offing to get the Big Man going if he can't shake off the April doldrums.
The number of wins by the Phillies' resident Methuselah, Jamie Moyer. The Pride of Souderton and St. Joe's University leads the Phils pitching staff in wins has the second best ERA among starters behind only short-timer Jon Lieber. He has been the stopper of the rotation so far.
The number of strikeouts by "Kid" Cole Hamels. This is good for 5th (as of this writing) in all of the Major Leagues and 2nd in the NL (Jake Peavy, SD, 46 Ks). Hamels looks to be validating the scouting reports many have about him and his ability.
The number of blown saves by closer Tom Gordon. Pat Gillick should be watching this situation VERY carefully for the eventuality that Gordon just doesn't have it anymore. Gordon is 39 years old which, in addition to fear of an eroding skillset, also makes him an injury risk.
The number of extra base hits that 3B Wes Helms has to date in 81 ABs. I don't expect Helms to come in and become Mike Schmidt, but he's got to start hitting with more pop. Here's hoping his bat warms up as the weather warms up.
All in all, this could have been a much worse month for the Phillies. I give them credit for battling back from a 1 - 6 start, but they have a lot of work to do. They are going to need bullpen help and they cannot count on 43 year old Jamie Moyer to be their best pitcher all season. They will need more power from Pat Burell (1 HR) and the aforementioned Ryan Howard (3 HR).
The move of Brett Myers to the bullpen has much less to do, I believe, with Brett Myers or the Phillies bullpen troubles than it does needing to have Lieber in the rotation, if only to show him off to potential trade suitors. How well Lieber pitches and what the Phillies get for him when they deal him will be one of the more intriguing story lines going forward this season.