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Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Phillies in big trouble without Roy Halladay


His teammates have already spent the last two months masquerading as cast members on "Survivor." But how do the Phillies survive this? How do they survive losing Roy Halladay for the next six to eight weeks?

Once upon a time, they were a team constructed around the thumpers in their lineup. But this isn't 2008 anymore.

The 2012 Phillies are a whole different monstrosity, a club built around their parade of aces -- Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. And now they'll be missing the ultimate ace, with a messy latissimus dorsi strain, until sometime after the All-Star break. Good luck on that.

Hamels is 8-1, and off to the best start of his career. But he's not Roy Halladay.

Lee -- despite the absence of a single "win" on his stat sheet -- was still leading the league in WHIP going into his last start. So he's an excellent guy to have around at a time like this. But he's not Roy Halladay ...

Because nobody is.

Since 2006, Halladay either leads the major leagues outright or is tied for the lead in innings, wins, complete games, shutouts, WHIP and Wins Above Replacement. He also threw a postseason no-hitter that you might recall, finished in the top five in the last six consecutive Cy Young elections and was the only pitcher on the continent to top 220 innings in all six of those seasons.

So losing that guy would be a pass-the-Advil blow for any team. But the Phillies of 2012 were already playing without their No. 3 hitter (Chase Utley), their No. 4 hitter (Ryan Howard) and a starting pitcher who went 11-3 last year (Vance Worley). So now that they've lost Roy Halladay, it's official. They're in trouble.

Big trouble.

Asked Tuesday if this Phillies team, as currently constituted, can survive the loss of Cy Halladay, one NL scout replied: "Not the way they've played. I know they've been up and down, and they've managed to survive so far. So maybe they can survive this, too. But I don't see how."

When executives from other teams look at the Phillies, they always ask this question: What do they do better than the other teams in their division, other than march their starting pitchers out there and hope they dominate somebody?

And the answer, obviously, is: Not much.

Their offense has already been held to one run or none 12 times. That only happened to the 2007 Phillies 11 times all season.

They're 29th in the major leagues in bullpen ERA (4.65). And if you factor out the closer, Jonathan Papelbon, that ERA inflates to 5.15.

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.

So maybe they can survive this, too. But while they try, there will be all sorts of questions. Such as:

So for the Phillies, this isn't just another name they'll be typing on their already lengthy list of Disabled List All-Stars. This one feels different. This time, it's The Ace of Aces. So this time, it feels like a season-changing experience.