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Philadelphia Phillies Fantasy Report

July 24, 2008 | By RotoRob | comment on this post

Having dropped two of three from the Mets this week, the Phils have now seen their NL East lead completely evaporate and now find themselves a game behind New York and just a half-game above the Fish.

Since an excellent start that saw the Phillies at 39-26 in early June, the team has sputtered, going just 15-22. If 90 wins is the magic number to make the playoffs this season – and with St. Louis still two and a half games ahead for the NL Wild Card lead it would seem that many victories will be a necessity – Philly needs to play .600 ball (36-24) from here on out to achieve that goal.

The offense continues to shine, ranking second in the NL in runs and slugging (yet surprisingly just eighth in team BA), but the pitching has been middling at best, currently eighth in OPS against and in WHIP.

Although So Taguchi grounded out Thursday in his pinch-hitting assignment, he’s gotten off the schneid recently, and could emerge with some value should injury strike the deep Philly outfield. Relegated to a very bit role this season, Taguchi failed to record a successful pinch hit until Tuesday, when his two-run double tied the game and helped complete a tremendous comeback win for the Phils. Taguchi has been in manager Charlie Manuel’s doghouse, but with bench coach Jimy Williams handling the team after Manuel had been ejected, Taguchi got his chance and delivered. Remember that last year he led all of baseball with a .406 BA as a pinch hitter, but this season he’s been so bad that, at the age of 39, looked to be ready to pack it in. It’s been a long time since Taguchi was someone worth considering for fantasy purposes, and it’s going to take an injury to provide him with any real PT, but with hits in three of his last four at bats before Thursday, he’s at least working his way out of the doghouse.

He slowed a bit in June, but with six homers and a .318 BA in July, including hits in six of his last seven games, Pat Burrell’s career year has continued. Having already reached 25 homers for the sixth time in his career, things are going so well for Pat the Bat that he’s recently been shifted from fifth to third in the revamped Philly lineup, with Chase Utley moving up to the two-hole and Shane Victorino dropping to sixth. This should mean plenty more RBI chances, but note that over the last three years, Burrell has hit only .240 as the number three hitter. During that period, he’s enjoyed the most success as the No. 6 man in the Phils lineup, batting .316 and slugging .616. By the way, as impressed as we were last year with his improved patience, he’s been even better this season.

Dropping in the batting order hasn’t seemed to have affected Victorino so far, as he’s hit safely in six straight games. The way things are going for him now, it makes more sense to have him batting lower in the order. Victorino is suddenly bashing the ball, with five July homers compared to four total at the end of June, and he isn’t stealing bases (just two this month). But with a BA over .300 this month, I like the RBI possibilities he brings to the table suddenly. Of course, that’s not why you drafted the speedster, is it? But hey, if he isn’t swiping bags, I’m sure you won’t moan about getting some surprise pop from him. By the way, despite his injury and awful start this year, how consistent has Victorino been? Since becoming a more or less full-time player starting in 2006, check out his season OPS totals: 760, 770 and 765.

Joe Blanton, who we’ve been waiting to be moved since the preseason, certainly didn’t do much in his first start as a Phillie to make NL-only owners jump all over him, did he? Tuesday’s outing was pretty ugly, in fact, although with the Phils coming back for a dramatic win, the focus was taken off his beating. Blanton seems to be getting worse as the season has gone on, but I do believe that once he adjusts to the NL, and understands how to treat the bottom of the order, he’ll put up better results. He was definitely helped by pitching in Oakland, but Citizen’s Bank Ballpark has actually been fairly friendly to pitchers this year, and I really believe that Blanton will be able to reduce his home runs allowed by pitching there. I’m expecting him to rack up more wins in the second half, and record an ERA in the low 4s. If that interests you, keep an eye on his waiver wire status in your league.

I really like the idea of Utley going back to the two-hole. In recent years, he’s had more success there than in any other batting spot and with him slumping badly now, this may be just the ticket to get him back to his 2007 performance levels. How bad a year would Utley be having if he hadn’t had that unbelievable April? He’s batting just .262 since May 1. Okay, so he’s 0-for-12 in the three games since moving up in the order – not exactly inspiring confidence in my theory – but don’t worry, RotoRob says this is the right move to get him going. Make it so.

Ryan Howard took an 0-for-3 Thursday, fanning three times to run his total to 135 Ks in 389 at bats (on pace for a career worst 214 Ks), but don’t sweat it. He came in with a six-game hitting streak and has been really grooving in July with a .320 BA, nine homers and 20 RBI. Remember the second half he put up during his MVP season in 2006? I’m not saying he’ll duplicate that .355, 30 HR, 78 RBI showing, but you know what he’s capable of. I expect RyHo to be one of the NL’s top performers from here on out.

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