One of the nicest things you can say about the month of July for the Phillies is that....well.....at least wasn't June.
You might remember that in June of this year, the Phils got their guts stomped out by the American League and it cast a negative pall on the Phils season.
July saw the Phils climb out of that June funk somewhat, but they still do not look like that confident team that worked like a buzzsaw through the NL East. They did manage 11 wins in the month against NL East opponents, but 8 of those wins were against also-rans Atlanta and Washington. For the month of July, the Phils were 3 - 10 against Florida and the hated Mets. That is significant, because they are the two teams that are chasing the first place Phils as of this writing.
So, with that, onto the numbers for July.....
The number of wins for the Phils in the month of July 2008. As previously mentioned, the Phils racked up 11 wins against the NL East; most of those against the weaker sisters of the division. They dropped 5 of their 7 games against the Mets, but I wonder if that doesn't have more to do with how well the Mets are playing and not so much about how the Phils are playing.
The Mets probably played among the best baseball in the Majors in the month of June. The Mets managed to lead all of the Majors in team BA in the month of July, hitting .304 (a full 37 points higher than their season average) and amassed 18 wins during July.
So, while the 15 wins is definitely an improvement over June, there is definitely room for the Phils to pick up the pace. And once they do, you have to figure that the Mets won't be playing at the .692 clip they played to in the month of July.
The July 2008 batting average for Shane Victorino.
Victorino was arguably the Phils' best player in the month of July, hitting 7 homeruns and accounting for 20 RBI. He also had a hefty (for him) 1.000 OPS for the month.
The July 2008 batting average for Chris Coste.
Pick up the pace, old man. Between you and Carlos Ruiz (.224 in July), the catcher's spot in the lineup is quickly becoming a black hole.
Wins in the month of July for Jamie Moyer. The ageless wonder did it again in July, pitching at least 6 innings in every July start. He won starts against the Cardinals, Marlins, and Nationals and had an ERA of 2.76 for the month. You shudder to think where the Phils would be without their pitching Yoda.
The July 2008 ERA of Adam Eaton. This ERA was good enough to get Eaton sent down to the minors, where he will probably be relegated for the forseeable future. Eaton will go down as Pat Gillick's worst move during his tenure as Phillies GM and it would be a mercy move to release Eaton in the offseason.
Incidentally, when Eaton was sent to the minors, he went to Class A Lakewood, where he got raked in his only appearance to date, giving up 4 earned runs in 3 2/3 innings. You have to believe he's thrown his last pitches at the major league level for the Phillies.
The number of players the Phillies sent to the All-Star game in July of 2008. It was not a memorable showing for the Phils' representatives Brad Lidge and Chase Utley. Lidge took the loss for the NL and Utley, upon being booed during intros before the HR derby, dropped an "F" bomb on national television.
While it did feel like the Phillies pulled themselves out of whatever doldrums they were wallowing in during the month of June, the offensive components of this ballclub still do not feel like they are firing on all cylinders. That the Phils considered trading for Manny Ramirez at the trade deadline should tell you that the front office has significant questions about the Phillies' ability produce consistent offense.
Maybe it's the heightened expectations from last year and maybe we're expecting too much out of a flawed ballclub. Regardless, the Phillies seem far too caught up in trying to set themselves up for the 3-run homerun, rather than getting themselves on base and putting pressure on the opposing pitchers by extending pitch counts, etc. Honestly, some of this begins with the NL MVP. Rollins' OBP is about where his career OBP sits, but his BA (.263 for the year) is 13 points below his career average and 33 points behind last year's totals. His power numbers are way down, with his slugging percentage down around his 2005 totals (.431 slugging percentage with 12 homers in 2005). Rollins has been the engine that has made the Phillies' offense go in the past two years, and he has just not played to expectations so far this year.
Going forward through the month of August, the Phillies should concentrate on finding some consistency in their offense and try to battle through two really tough 4-games series on the road against the newly rejuvenated LA Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs. That consistency more than likely begins and ends with getting Rollins back on track.