Monday, July 5, 2010

Philadelphia Phillies' 10 Item Checklist to Overtake the Braves and Mets- Part 8

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher J.A. Happ reacts after walking Los Angeles Dodgers' Andre Ethier with the bases loaded in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the National League championship series of at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California on October 16, 2009. Los Angeles Dodgers' Russell Martin scored a run on the play. The Dodgers won the game 2-1. UPI/Lori Shepler. Photo via Newscom

Part 8 of 12

7. J.A. Happ is back and productive— or Kyle Kendrick makes a leap in consistency

After initially pitching out of the bullpen,  J.A. Happ replaced an ineffective Park and became the team's second best starter over the balance of the 2009 regular season.  Had the team not acquired Cliff Lee at the trade deadline, Happ would have been considered their most successful starter. 

Had Happ not had such a fine rookie campaign, and later had the Phillies not acquired Lee and Pedro Martinez, it is highly doubtful that they would have even made the postseason. 

The young lefty was clearly a key component to last season's success as he gave the team a strong chance to win virtually every time he took the mound.  

Happ just completed his fifth rehab start and is clearly not pitching at the same level that earned him Sporting News Rookie of the Year honors. He is starting to re-gain his command, but his velocity is 5-8 mph lower than normal.  

A return to health and form would provide a huge boost to the 2010 club. Right now, that appears to be an iffy proposition, so it could be some time before the form re-appears despite the indication that he is feeling better. 

Should that not materialize, current fill-in Kyle Kendrick needs to take his game to the next level to find better consistency. He has turned in some fine performances, but also some very poor outings as well. 

Monday night's loss left Kendrick with a 4-3 mark and 4.88 ERA. If the team hopes to win another division title, they will need better from Happ or Kendrick. 

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