Saturday, April 28, 2007

NFL Draft

This is it for pick by pick analysis. I'll do certain guys and all Eagles' picks.

34. Buffalo Bills: Paul Posluszny, LB, Penn State- The Poz is the man, and I like their jerseys. I will purchase one. Nice move for Buffalo to upgrade their LBs.

33. Arizona Cardinals: Alan Branch, DT, Michigan- Arizona is insanely fat in the middle.

32. Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Ohio State- Interesting pick, to say the least. They're looking to the post-Marvin days, but at the expense of their team now. They could've added a Posluzny or Houston or McCaulley to improve their defense and try to stay on top of the league.

31. Chicago Bears: Greg Olsen, TE, Miami- He's a good blocker, but Desmond Clark is not a world beater when it comes to receiving. Rex Grossman could use another target, and this gifted athlete could help out right away.

30. San Diego Chargers: Craig Davis, WR, Louisiana State- This pick is woefully stupid. I don't want to even talk about it.

29. Baltimore Ravens: Ben Grubbs, G, Auburn- This was one of the biggest gimmes in mock drafts since the whole process started at the end of the college season. Grubbs had a modest offseason, didn't help or hurt his stock, and he went to the team that definitely needed to improve their interior line.

28. San Francisco 49ers: Joe Staley, OT, Central Michigan- This team still needs Offensive Line help. Larry Allen did a lot for them last year and they have some young pieces, but they still have work to do.

The 49ers are now picking 28th. They traded their 08 first rounder and 07 4th rounder.

27. New Orleans Saints: Robert Meachem, WR, Tennessee- After Joe Horn continued getting hurt and proving to be ineffective, they cut him loose and replaced him immediately. Colston showed a lot for a 7th rounder last year, but Devery Henderson isn't a consistent player and probably shouldn't start.

26. Dallas Cowboys: Anthony Spencer, DE/OLB, Purdue- This doesn't make much sense. Dallas already has Ware, a recovering Ellis and even Carpenter at OLB. Spencer certainly can't play end in the 3-4, so he has to play with his handup, where Dallas already has a bunch of so so guys.

Dallas is now picking 26th. This has to be for Cleveland's 2nd, Dallas' 3rd and 5th.

25. Carolina Panthers: Jon Beason, LB, Miami- Their linebackers have been severely depleted lately with Witherspoon leaving via free agency and Dan Morgan hanging out with Jeremy Roenick and Eric Lindros a bit too much. Beason is a great athlete from a university that seems to produce a lot of linebackers, and Carolina really upgraded their defense.

24. New England Patriots: Brandon Merriweather, S, Miami- Great pick for a team that always has great drafts. They needed help in the secondary, and Merriweather, despite the attitude concerns, is a great athlete who can compliment Rodney Harrison very well. He can line up at corner or safety, and he fits the mold of a Belichick guy who can move around and do a lot of things.

23. Kansas City Chiefs: Dwayne Bowe, WR, Louisiana State- They haven't had a go to Wide Receiver in what seems like forever, and they finally commit a first round pick to one. Bowe really showed what he could do in the Sugar Bowl andin the offseason, and he'll help out whoever KC has at QB.

22. Cleveland Browns: Brady Quinn, QB, Notre Dame- This trade is completely stupid for Cleveland. They got their QB, good for them. Quinn will be good. However, they're trading what will probably be a top 10 pick AND a third rounder this year for him. I don't know about that.

Cleveland is now picking 22nd. Dallas picks up an 08 1st rounder and 07 2nd rounder.

21. Jacksonville Jaguars: Reggie Nelson, DB, Florida- The Jags take the hometown player to fill a hole in the secondary. Although the defense is consistently one of the best in the league, another young player in the defensive backfield couldn't hurt. He's a great athlete that could player corner or safety.

20. New York Giants: Aaron Ross, CB, Texas- Griffin's backfield mate goes one pick later. Sam Madsion was not good last year, and the Giants needed some youth in the secondary. Ross had a very productive college career and should be able to contribute for New York early.

19. Tennessee Titans: Michael Griffin, S, Texas- Everyone expected a receiver here, but they go DB. Chris Hope had a great year and is really underrated, and I don't know how much they needed to get another safety. They could also upgrade elsewhere on defense.

18. Cincinnati Bengals: Leon Hall, CB, Michigan- The Bengals get a good value pick at a position of need here. Johnathan Joseph showed flashes of being a good player last year, but more help in the secondary is needed. The defense was brutal again last year, and any defensive player can't hurt.

17. Denver Broncos: Jarvis Moss, DE, Florida- They need some players at end, but I don't get this. They moved up four picks to get a guy that would've been there anyway. He's a good pass rusher, and Denver has needed some more of them lately, but this doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Denver Broncos are now picking 17th. Jacksonville picks up Denver's first, third and sixth rounder.

16. Green Bay Packers: Justin Harrell, DT, Tennessee- Although they signed Ryan Pickett last year, they still need to improve up the middle on defense. They actually have some talent on defense, but they weren't particularly strong at tackle. This was however, a little bit of a reach.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Lawerence Timmons, OLB, Florida State- This move tells me Tomlin is waiting to transition to a Cover 2 defense. Timmons doesn't strike me as an outside guy in the 3-4, but he does seem like he could play Linebacker in Tomlin's defense. Very gifted athlete.

14. New York Jets: Darrelle Revis, CB, Pittsburgh- This trade up doesn't make sense, but they get a good player. The Jets overacheieved last year, and their defense still needs some help, especially at corner. Leon Hall is a better player, but Revis will still help them.

New York Jets now picking 14th. Carolina trades the 14th and their 6th round pick and picks up the Jets' first, second and fifth.

13. St. Louis Rams: Adam Carriker, DE, Nebraska- The Rams need help up front, and Carriker can rush the passer and play the run as well. He's a high motor guy (white) and with Leonard Little aging and a struggling pass rush under recently hired coordinator Jim Haslett, it's important to add depth.

12. Buffalo Bills: Marshawn Lynch, RB, California- After trading Willis McGahee to Baltimore, the Bills had literally nothing in the backfield. With no free agent solutions available, the draft is the only way to go, and they get a talented player. They still have some needs defensively.

11. San Francisco 49ers: Patrick Willis, LB, Mississippi- The 49ers defense was brutal last season, and they needed help all over. Nate Clements will help out the secondary, but they still needed some help at Linebacker. Willis could play inside or out in the 3-4, and he'll be a good fit.

10. Houston Texans: Amobi Okoye, DT, Louisville- This is a very good pick for Houston. Okoye is physically gifted and has high potential. Houston is still looking to transition to the 4-3 on defense, and Okoye is a prototypical 4-3 DT.

9. Miami Dolphins: Ted Ginn, WR, Ohio State- Here's the first shocker of the draft, and this is a funny one. Everyone was penciling in Quinn to Miami, but apparently they're still counting on Culpepper or maybe a Trent Green trade. Ginn is a great athlete, but receiver wasn't exactly a pressing need for the Dolphins.

8. Atlanta Falcons: Jamaal Anderson, DE, Arkansas- Jamaal Anderson is back, in D-Line form. The Falcons front seven was very disappointing last year, and Anderson will help bring back a pass rush that should've been a lot better. Anderson played really well and is physically talented, and he should be able to help right away.

7. Minnesota Vikings: Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma- Although they already have Chester Taylor, Peterson is a special talent and the Vikings got a steal here. Childress really tried to commit to the running game last year, and Taylor wore down and didn't have much relief.

6. Washington Redskins: LaRon Landry, S, Louisiana State- Sean Taylor is a waste and they don't have much at safety other than him, so Landry should be able to step in and start right away. They absolutely need to improve their bad pass rush, but Landry was the best defensive player on the board.

5. Arizona Cardinals: Levi Brown, OT, Penn State- The line needs help and Brown can definitely make holes for Edgerrin James, but this was a bit of a reach. Brown was a fringe top 10 talent, and the Cardinals didn't make a good pick here.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gaines Adams, DE, Clemson- Adams is a top pass rusher in the mold of Simeon Rice. The Bucs' defense is aging badly and after losing DeWayne White in free agency, Tampa could use some help on the Defensive Line. It could also create a trade scenerio with Detroit if they feel the need.

3. Cleveland Browns: Joe Thomas, OT, Wisconsin- Great pick for a team that has been searching for a franchise tackle for what seems like years. People have been clamoring for Brady Quinn because he grew up as a Browns fan, but teams don't draft hometown players just for kicks.

2. Detroit Lions: Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech- People are going to have a good laugh about this because it's another first round receiver, but be reasonable. Calvin Johnson is the most talented player in the draft, and Mike Furrey isn't exactly a long term solution at receiver.

1. Oakland Raiders: JaMarcus Russell, QB, Louisiana State- They needed a QB, and Russell is the prototypical Al Davis wet dream. They need to commit to improving the team around him now. They need to get a couple tackles that can give him some time, even with his scrambling abililty.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

In Zack Segovia's Defense...

It’s a tired old cliché, and I’m certainly not a fan of it, but let’s take some time to discuss it. I’m personally sick of hearing it. I don’t think it’s true, and people need to stop using it as the end-all definition of a championship team. You can cite the Ravens from a while ago all you want. Their offense was still in the top half of the league in scoring, including several good playoff performances, in addition to their great special teams play. The Pistons still had three good scorers and a pretty deep bench. The Spurs have a legitimate superstar, as well as two viable scoring options.

This rings true even less in baseball. Talk to anyone from Prospectus or BaseballCube and they’ll tell you that bad defense will at most, cost a team a few runs per year. That’s not a significant difference to actually cost anyone some games. Good pitching and good hitting are needed more than defense for a team to win a championship. That sounds stupid, but it’s true. Defense is not equal to the other two. However, despite the evidence, I’m beginning to wonder if defense will hurt the Phillies this year.

In Zack Segovia’s first major league start on Sunday, he gave up 5 “earned” runs in 5 innings pitched. To someone reading the box score, this looks like a bad day. To someone who watched the game, it becomes clear that those runs shouldn’t have been earned.

In a four run 2nd inning for Florida, two misplays in right field by Jayson Werth led to three of the four runs. After a home run by Mike Jacobs, instead of picking up the young pitcher and making the plays in the field, Werth gets a bad jump and doesn’t have the range to field a line drive by Cody Ross, resulting in a double. Joe Borchard hits a single advancing Ross to third. Alejandro De Aza hits a sac fly, allowing Ross to score. Because Ross’ line drive should’ve been the first out, this means at this point, instead of two runs across and only one out with a runner at first, there should only be one run with runners on first and third and two outs. The next play, Werth does more damage by diving after a ball instead of letting it drop and holding Matt Treanor to a single. The ball rolls all the way to the wall, scoring another run and resulting in a triple for Treanor. Scott Olsen comes up and executes a squeeze play, scoring another run. Had Werth played better defense, the Marlins would not have been able to do that play.

The Marlins hitters were the beneficiaries of a hometown official scorer, so no errors were charged. All runs go down as earned, even though Segovia was making his pitches. The defense, specifically Jayson Werth, didn’t take care of business.

Fast forward to the 5th inning: different player, same story. With two outs, Dan Uggla chops a ball down the third base line that Helms can’t field cleanly. Miguel Cabrera then doubles, scoring Uggla from first base. Again, no error is charged and Segovia’s day looks a little worse. That run makes five on the day for Segovia, and he’ll be taken out of the game. The bullpen did not allow anything else, so assuming Werth and Helms take care of business, the damage is minimized and the Phillies have a chance to win the game.

Remember that one year where the Mets went out and got Robbie Alomar and Mo Vaughn? They had awful defense. It was so bad, one could watch the game, and expect them to drop a pop up or make a bad throw. If I weren’t a Phillies fan, it would’ve been painful to watch. That was detrimental defense. Their fielding cost them countless outs and runs. That was a bad team.

The Phillies won’t be quite that bad, but I wonder if defense could hurt them. In terms of range and actually making plays, I think Jimmy Rollins, Aaron Rowand and Shane Victorino do a good job. They’re athletic players that can get to a lot of balls and cover a lot of ground. Pat Burrell has lost most mobility in the field due to injuries. Utley’s very inconsistent. Howard actually does a decent job playing first base, but he has a difficult time making throws. Wes Helms needs a substitution late in every game. Even Jon Lieber can’t field his position.

In terms of making throws, Pat Burrell, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and our catcher duo can make the plays. Victorino’s arm just isn’t that strong, and Rowand has trouble making accurate throws. In the infield, Helms can’t do anything and Howard’s arm has been the subject of much criticism. As a whole, this is just a below average defensive group. I’m convinced that after the Rolen trade, we’re never going to have another good third baseman.

Since it’s a whole week after I intended to post this, here are some thoughts from this week’s games.

This team needs to get a killer instinct. They need to be able to deliver a crushing blow and put up some insurance runs. The Phillies lead the league in walks by far, and without actually looking at any numbers, I’d say at the pace they’re walking at now, they’re going to set the ML record. Five runs is nice and should be good enough to win a ballgame on most nights, but when pitchers have been offering free passes like they have been so far, the Phillies need to get more runs across. If guys like Scott Olsen and Oliver Perez are going to be giving us 10, 11 or however many freebies, there’s no reason at least 7 of them should score.

In general, hitting has to be improved with runners in scoring position. It’s absolutely ridiculous that this team is leaving double digits on base every game. It’s inexcusable. It’s not like this team has to rely on the home run to score, because there are guys that can make good contact. They just have to actually do it.

Not even the most pessimistic fan could’ve predicted the bullpen would be this bad. They’ve already blown three games and have given up runs in just about every game. Something different has to be done. I don’t know how Charlie Manuel can keep running Ryan Madson out there. He has good stuff, but for whatever reason, he just can’t make his pitches. I always liked him, but his time in Philadelphia should be done. A change of scenery would be best for both parties.

Tomorrow and later in the week, look for an “investigative” look into Opening Day rosters, and a Flyers and maybe even Sixers wrap-up.

Monday, April 9, 2007

April 8th MLB Power Rankings

After one week of baseball, Gengler is back for knee jerk power rankings. We tried to loosely base them on our preseason ranks, and there was no set way teams were rewarded/penalized for opening week performances.

  1. Anaheim Angels- The Angels shot out of the gate on the backs of the pitching staff and very early MVP-frontrunner Vlad Guerrero.
  2. Boston Red Sox- Dice-K dazzled, and Big Papi finally fired up his bat to avoid a near sweep to Texas.
  3. Minnesota Twins- Despite having a makeshift rotation, the pitching staff took care of business early on.
  4. New York Yankees- We gave them an inordinate amount of respect, but they’re better than they’ve played so far.
  5. Atlanta Braves- The Braves are back in charge early on, sprinting to a 5-1 record against their two biggest competitors.
  6. New York Mets- They got off to a hot start against the Cardinals, but their longtime foe tripped them up a little bit. Open at home tomorrow.
  7. Los Angeles Dodgers- After getting dominated by Ben Sheets, the Dodgers woke up and beat up on their rivals.
  8. Toronto Blue Jays- They held their own against the AL Champs and then mostly took care of business against Tampa.
  9. San Diego Padres- The offense is lagging a bit thus far, but their bullpen will be their forte regardless.
  10. Cleveland Indians- Grady Sizemore got off to a hot start, but he couldn’t warm up mother nature.
  11. Cincinnati Reds- The bullpen has been strong early, and they’re definitely beating expectations so far. Josh Hamilton is a great story.
  12. Detroit Tigers- Gary Sheffield hasn’t done anything yet, but he should come around and add some major power to the lineup.
  13. Chicago White Sox- Kenny Williams was confident in what he had in terms of pitching in the offseason, but they haven’t pitched like they can yet.
  14. Chicago Cubs- They went on a big spending spree this offseason, and it got them to .500 after week one. The rotation could hurt them.
  15. St. Louis Cardinals- After three duds against the Mets, they come back to beat another struggling central team.
  16. Milwaukee Brewers- This team can contend for the division, but Ben Sheets must stay healthy.
  17. Arizona Diamondbacks- They have a young core, but I don’t think they’re all there yet.
  18. Florida Marlins- The Marlins are off to a literally running start, but they played a couple of struggling teams so far.
  19. Pittsburgh Pirates- I felt the Pirates were actually a bit underrated coming into the year, but I don’t think they’ll keep up the pace they’re on now.
  20. Oakland A's- The A’s once again have a few new faces to get accustomed too. They need to score more runs.
  21. Philadelphia Phillies- They’re off to another slow start, and Charlie Manuel has to be on the hottest seat of all managers at this point.
  22. Houston Astros- They made some moves to get better in the offseason, but nothing’s working so far. They’re usually great after the break, but think of how easy it would be if they won more than 3 games the first few months.
  23. Seattle Mariners- They should try playing some games so they can be evaluated.
  24. Texas Rangers- Gagne is unsurprisingly on the DL, and Sammy Sosa has to take a urine test before every at bat.
  25. Colorado Rockies- Clint Hurdle and Dan O’Dowd were extended, and O’Dowd’s extension is really questionable.
  26. Tampa Devil Rays- The young guys are showing some ability, and they’re being brought down by only a few specific players.
  27. San Francisco Giants- It seems that every 30+ year old free agent lands here. Barry Zito hasn’t exactly worked out the way they hoped.
  28. Baltimore Orioles- They hung with the Yankees pretty well, but overall they’re just not very good.
  29. Kansas City Royals- After beating the Sox on Opening Day, they’re the Royals again.
  30. Washington Nationals- They were expected to be very bad and they’re doing a nice job of meeting expectations.
Later today, expect an update about Segovia's start yesterday, and what might hold back the Phillies this season.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Chris Coste Optioned?

There have been reports that Chris Coste has been optioned to Ottawa. This is a pretty disappointing development, because Coste really developed into a fan favorite last year. He epitomizes what people like to see in athletes: he’s had to work for everything, he’s a great guy and he can play ball too. Coste did great things coming off the bench last year, and hopefully he gets another shot at it after an injury or trade later this year. The story of his path to the majors is nothing short of inspiring, and he should be on a major league roster somewhere.

On one hand, I can see the writing was on the wall. The team is committed to Barajas because they spent pretty decent money on him in the offseason. Jayson Werth is needed as an extra Outfielder. Charlie Manuel loves using Abraham Nunez and Michael Bourn as late inning defensive replacements, and Bourn is also one of the fastest guys in the league and is a great pinch runner. Greg Dobbs had a great spring and it’s tough to deny him a roster spot, so where’s room for Chris? Bourn was a likely candidate to be sent down, but he’s important as a pinch runner and offers a lot of speed on the bench. Coste was a 34 year old rookie last year, and people say there’s a reason it took him so long to finally stick, and they’re probably right. His season definitely could’ve been a fluke, but after what he gave the team last year, he should’ve been brought back.

The bench could use some more pop. Nunez can’t hit, and Werth and Bourn are unknowns at this point. Werth is still recovering from his wrist injury and Bourn has no real ML experience to make a judgment on at this point. Dobbs and Coste bring pretty much the same thing to the table, but Coste could still be valuable as a pinch hitter.

Down the road, he should be back because of an injury, trade or at worst, September call ups. He’s nice insurance to have at Ottawa, even if he probably should be in Philadelphia.

The Phils dropped another tonight after Myers got hit around. He wasn’t necessarily making bad pitches, but the Florida hitters were all over them, and they were driving balls hard. Tomorrow Zach Segovia will make his first start against Scott Olsen, who is very fond of Philadelphia. The Phillies probably want to hit him hard.

In other Philly sports news, the Flyers wrap up their dreadful season tomorrow afternoon against Buffalo on NBC. I’ll have a recap of the year in the coming days.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Takeo Spikes and More

The Eagles offseason has seen the team essentially move laterally on offense and make an upgrade on defense.

The centerpiece of the offseason so far has obviously been the Takeo Spikes deal. A couple weeks ago, the team sent DT Darwin Walker and a conditional 2008 7th round draft pick to Buffalo for WIL Takeo Spikes and QB Kelly Holcomb. The Eagles are looking to make room for last year’s top pick Brodrick Bunkley to play more snaps and upgrade the Linebackers.

Darwin Walker, when fresh and motivated, is probably one of the best interior pass rushers in football. He’s got strong hands and he can get off the ball when he feels like it. Problem is, since getting his contract extension several seasons ago, he lost his fire. He’s lazy and is beaten off the ball on most of the snaps he plays. Unfortunately, because Bunkley wasn’t ready to play last year and Sam Rayburn isn’t very good, Walker had to play too many snaps and he wore down. He was too tired to fire off the ball and he got beat up. Bunkley is going to have to step up now and become the player the Eagles expected him to be when they drafted him last year. Fans really didn’t like Walker anymore, but he definitely made a difference in both games against Dallas this year.

Spikes, although not the player he used to be, is an upgrade for a LB Corp that desperately needs it. It means either Dhani Jones or Jeremiah Trotter see fewer snaps, and that can only be a good thing. Spikes is expected to play the WIL position, bumping Omar Gaither out of the slot he occupied at the end of last season. Gaither could either move to SAM, his position at the University of Tennessee, or take some snaps at MIKE, what the Eagles intended when they selected him last year.

Takeo has suffered from a couple leg injuries in recent years, and they’ve stopped him from reaching his potential. He was never the same player he was with the Bengals after he was acquired, but he still had his moments. He brings good athleticism, solid tackling ability and leadership to bring some life into an uninspiring defense as of late. No matter where he plays, and he can play all three Linebacker positions, Spikes will make a difference in Jim Johnson’s aggressive defense.

Kelly Holcomb was probably thrown in the deal to trim payroll. Assuming he’s not traded on draft day, he won’t be any more than the 3rd QB behind Donovan McNabb and A.J. Feeley. He’s a good fit in the role because under the unlikely circumstance both McNabb and Feeley get hurt, it’ll be nice to have a veteran with starting experience ready to play. This is the deepest the Eagles have been at QB for a while.

Losing Donte Stallworth hurt, but Kevin Curtis should be an adequate replacement. It’s going to be interesting to see how he does finally out of the shadow of Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce. He has great hands and some pretty good downfield speed, so he should be able to make a difference. The offense had no problem putting up points last year even when Stallworth is hurt, so I doubt they miss a beat with another good receiver in his place. Bethel Johnson was also added to bring some speed to the table and possibly challenge Jeremy Bloom for the kick returning job. Like Ed Jasper, I expect Johnson to be cut before week one.

Montae Reagor was added to improve depth on the line. Some say he’s about as good as Darwin Walker, and even though he’s another small guy, it was a good signing. He has a lot of experience and for a couple years, he was a good pass rusher. Hopefully he allows us to have a good rotation on the interior and keep Patterson and Bunkley fresh.

There’s still some work to be done through free agency and the draft. Offensively, they’re pretty much set. They may opt to draft a Tight End in anticipation of L.J. Smith walking after this season, and the Eagles have shown the tendency to look down the road during the draft instead of drafting for quick fixes. Some versatility could be added in the backfield, and it would make a lot of fans happy if they drafted Brian Leonard from Rutgers.

Depth is needed on defense. Some size could be added on the line to improve the run defense, and allow Trent Cole and Patterson to rotate in and out and stay fresh. At Linebacker, the Eagles could still use another future starting caliber player. Trotter is getting older, and his snaps need to be limited. Dhani Jones needs to be removed from football, and I have no idea why he’s still on the roster. Gaither and Spikes should have starting spots secured, but it’ll be an open competition. The Eagles really want to see what guys like Gocong, Richmond They all have the physical ability, but they need to stay healthy and show they can be football players. and Roper can do.

The secondary needs some help, and I expect the Eagles to address it early and often in the draft. At the moment, there’s only really one starting quality safety on the team in Brian Dawkins, and he’s 34 years old. Youth needs to be added, and I don’t mean with a second day pick like Sean Considine. The Eagles need to get someone who can step in right away to replace Sean and eventually becoming the next Free Safety. At corner, Lito Sheppard proved he’s still a great player, but this year it was Sheldon Brown who struggled. Rod Hood walked in the offseason and Will Peterson is a decent player when healthy, but they still need to add another CB.

That Aussie punter was added as well. Hopefully he either pushes or replaces Dirk Johnson, who had a very inconsistent year last season.

Overall, the Eagles have had an okay offseason so far, and have done just about as well as they could with as little cash as they had to spend. Early indications are that next year’s cap numbers are a lot better, so the Eagles could make some gains next March. It’s too early to worry about that now though; we have a potential NFC Champion quality team to watch this year.

Friday, April 6, 2007


No one likes to lose on Opening Day, especially at home, but being swept to start the season in consecutive seasons isn’t a good way to start. Let’s take a look at why they may be struggling so far. Of course, this is only one series out of several that will be played this season, so even if some of these guys are playing poorly now, it doesn’t mean they still will be down the stretch.

Sitting at 9 runs, the Phillies aren’t scoring enough. At the top of the lineup, I think Rollins is doing his job. His patience at the plate during March has continued into games that count early on, and that’s important for leadoff hitters. He’s giving the heart of the order a chance to drive in runs, something they just haven’t done so far. Rollins’ patience is going to lead to a career year if it keeps up. He’ll be getting on base more, giving him more chances to steal bases and score runs, and if he’s only swinging at the better pitches he sees, he’ll be getting his hits too.

Shane Victorino could be hitting better. With the small sample size (Shane didn’t start today’s game, Werth batted in the #2 hole instead,) Vic’s OPS is very misleading. His two hits have been doubles, and a walk he drew upped his OBP. I expect the OPS to stay about the same as it is now, except more of his OBP will become hits than walks. He’s swinging very aggressively at the moment, and he needs to be more patient. He needs to wait for his pitches and the hits will come. The steal attempt definitely hurt in game two.

Chase Utley and Pat Burrell, as much as people don’t like to hear it, are hitting well. Burrell could stand to strike out a bit less, but he’s always been a guy that gets rung up a lot. He is not the problem, has not been the problem this season, and will not be the problem this season. Let’s get that on record right now.

Aaron Rowand has totaled a bunch of hits so far, and it’s good to see him making contact early. He was a disappointment at the plate last season, injury or not. He’s even taken a couple of walks, something he’s not known for. He had a pretty rough spring, so getting off to a fast start is good for him.

Ruiz’ only game at C so far was a pleasant surprise. He hasn’t shown much power in his career, but he’s one of two Phillies to hit a home run this season. Barajas has literally done nothing, which is pretty much what everyone expected of him.

That leaves two regulars in the lineup: Wes Helms and Ryan Howard. Helms has struggled early, with only two hits and four strikeouts in three starts. I expect him to improve on his numbers and be a decent contributor. He can’t be any worse than Nunez, right?

If I had to pick one guy who you could point the finger at for the offensive problems so far, and I hate to do this, but it has to be Ryan Howard. I know he won MVP last year and he hit 58 home runs and all that, but he just didn’t hit anything against Atlanta. The Braves definitely pitched to him carefully, which can be seen with the four walks, but he’s not making contact like he can. He didn’t get a single hit with RISP, and as much as I hate using that split, Ryan simply had runners to drive in this series and he didn’t. When he clicks, the offense will click, and become dangerous again.

In general, the lineup didn’t have much pop. Guys like Utley, Rowand, Helms and obviously Howard didn’t reach SLG% levels fans should expect, and our only home runs came from Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz, not exactly big sluggers. Atlanta used the long ball to kill the Phillies, and they couldn’t use it themselves to battle back. They’re not going to be getting any breaks at Dolphin Stadium this weekend, but hopefully we’ll start seeing some more extra base hits.

In terms of starting pitching, I haven’t seen anything that worries me. Eaton’s start obviously sucked, but after his spring, that’s probably what we should have expected. His career numbers don’t indicate that he’s this bad, but I’m definitely questioning the logic in a possible Lieber trade if Eaton continues to pitch poorly.

It’s a shame that Brett Myers and Cole Hamels had great starts wasted by the bullpen. I’m confident with those two at the top of the rotation for the next ten years. Myers has been improving every year in his career, and after working hard in the offseason to be in better shape and being rewarded with a contract extension, he should gain more consistency start to start this year and have a breakout season.

Hamels will probably have a few bumps in the road as a sophomore pitcher, but he ceiling is high. He already has one of the best changeups in the league, and when he’s in command of all of his pitches, he’s deadly. Even though this will only be his second year in the league, he’s already top of the rotation material.

Speaking of the bullpen, in the understatement of the year, they need to pitch better. They need to execute better and hit their spots with their pitches. Leaving breaking balls inside and over the plate is a big no-no, especially when you’re being counted on to hang onto a small lead. Tom Gordon is getting paid big bucks to finish games, and it’s just not acceptable to come out on your first save opportunity and give up a double and home run immediately.

Why not shake things up in the pen? It was nice showing confidence in Madson by running him out there a second game, but he couldn’t handle it again. We know what Gordon and Alfonseca bring. Why not let Geary get some save opportunities? Why not put in Bisenius or Condrey when the game’s on the line? Maybe we can catch lightning in a bottle and one of them can make a difference. Something needs to be done.

This weekend, the Phillies will take on the Marlins in their first series at home. Moyer vs. Mitre, Myers vs. Willis and Segovia vs. Olsen are the pitching matchups for this early season weekend series.

I expect the first win to come on the shoulders of a good Moyer start tomorrow. It’s too early to press the panic button, let’s see how they respond against the fish.