On the surface, the Phillies are in an enviable position at the moment.
Their 28–18 record (at the time of this writing) ranks them atop the National League, and second in all of baseball, just behind the Cleveland Indians and their surprising 29–15 record.
The Phillies also have four of the best pitchers in the game — any one of which most other teams would love to have — in a five-man starting rotation. Add to that the pretty big contributions from guys who weren’t even supposed to be here this year and almost any team would be better off in the standings.
To anyone who is paying attention, however, things are not as peachy as the Phils and the fans would like them to be.
As you probably know by now, the Phils’ offense is nothing to brag about.
Even though they lead the league, the Phillies have scored just three or fewer runs in 27 of their first 46 games. Of those 27 games, they surprisingly have won 11, but most of those have resulted from stellar pitching.
If not for the four potential Cy Young candidates, who knows where the Phillies would be right now?
Their 146 runs scored for the season ranks them 23rd among the 30 major league teams, two behind the lowly Washington Nationals and just three ahead of the perpetually mediocre Pittsburgh Pirates.
They also have just the 19th-best team batting average (.245) in baseball, a long way away from St. Louis’ leading .282 average.
Help is on the way, though, for those who want to get excited. The Phils recalled top prospect Domonic Brown last Friday; on Monday, the team activated second baseman Chase Utley.
Brown is a total X factor at this point because he has yet to prove a single thing on the major-league level. Whatever he provides, though, cannot be worse than what Ben Francisco has been turning in on a daily basis, but to expect Brown to make a major difference is way too optimistic for the moment.
Utley’s activation and insertion into the starting lineup on Monday definitely created an air of jubilation among fans prior to the start of the current series with the Cincinnati Reds.
A few words of warning seem appropriate. First, no single player can have the impact offensively that the Phillies need right now.
The gap between where they are and where their potential puts them is much bigger than one man can fix.
Second, Utley is coming off a pretty significant injury. Just how often he can play — and how productive he can be — remains to be seen.
But he is Chase Utley; he has been known to do great things. The one positive element that a healthy and productive Utley can provide is a sense of normalcy for a team that has been battling the injury bug for most of the season.
If he can step in and settle this starting lineup, with other starters shifted back to where they are accustomed to playing, then better days possibly could return.
Charlie Manuel, the Phillies skipper, needs to be careful with Utley, too. The perennial all-star has played through major injuries before, but he has been extremely willing to take his rehab slowly and smartly this time around.
To me, that says he realizes this could be a much bigger issue if he tries to play through it.
I do not want to put a damper on Utley’s return; I too am excited to see him back on the field for the Phillies.
There’s just a need to keep things in perspective when it comes to thinking that this offense will suddenly be a hit machine. ••
Columnist Matt Godfrey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org