With a 1-0 win on Opening Day, the Philadelphia Phillies are officially underway in defending their divisional crown. If you like offense, then it was a snooze-fest, but for those of us who love a great pitching match-up, we couldn't have asked for more (except for a healthy Chase Utley and Ryan Howard).
Nevertheless, here are a couple observations about what went down in Pittsburgh.
Roy Halladay is really, really, really good: This one is kind of obvious, but it never ceases to amaze me just how good he is. Aside from a little hiccup in the first inning, where he allowed the first two batters of the game to reach, he was outstanding. From the third batter of the game, up until he completed the eighth inning, he didn't give up a single hit, and the only two baserunners came on hit batters. And you know what? I'm going to argue that Halladay did that on purpose, just to send a message. (Not really, but two baserunners over his final seven plus is outstanding.)
He never really looked dominant, but that's okay, because he never does. And I mean that in the sense that he doesn't overpower hitters like Justin Verlander, and he doesn't have one crazy-good pitch like Jonny Venters. He just throws strikes and constantly stays three or four moves ahead of the hitters. It's like watching Rembrandt turn a blank canvas into Artemisia without breaking a sweat.
Oh, and let's not forget that after Roy, the Phillies have Cliff and Cole. You may have heard of them.
The offense is going to be okay: You can't tell it by this game, but I'm going to take the side of the optimists and not worry too much about the Phillies perceived offensive woes (I might, and in all likelihood will, change my mind on this). I've been thinking about it, and the offense isn't too much different from what they had on the field this time last year.
Aside from first base, where the Phillies have to make do with a platoon of Ty Wigginton and Jim Thome (and sometimes John Mayberry) until Ryan Howard gets back, they are just about the same around the diamond. Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Shane Victorino and Carlos Ruiz are going to be about the same as they were last year, provided they can stay healthy, and Hunter Pence is going to be better than whatever combination of players the Phillies put out in right field until he arrived in July.
In left field, John Mayberry should be about as good as Raul Ibanez with the bat, and he'll be much better with the glove. And at second base, it's same to assume that Freddy Galvis will provide better defense than either Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez, and he should prove to be about the same kind of hitter.
A 1-0 win against the Pittsburgh Pirates isn't going to instill any sort of confidence in this team's ability to score runs, but consider that Erik Bedard is a better than average pitcher and that, at the end of the day, it's just one game, and we shouldn't judge their future performance based on Game one of 162.
Are they going to be the 2007 Phillies? Nah, but the rumors of their offensive demise have been greatly exaggerated.
There is a long way to go in the season, but after getting this first win out of the way, I remain very optimistic about the 2012 Phillies.