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The Big Bounce

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Last week on phuturephillies, in a discussion of how the club should approach the trade deadline, I wrote the following:

Unless Hamels, Lidge and Rollins perform much closer to their established norms, the 2009 Phillies aren’t going to win. There are four weeks left until the deadline; were I Amaro, I would wait at least for three weeks to see if those three guys start to come around. If they don’t, then we should stand pat. If they do, then see where the market is on July 25 or so.

Since then, Jimmy Rollins has gone 10 for 19 with four doubles, a homer, six RBI, six runs scored, and five walks for a line of .526/.625/.895. Brad Lidge has pitched two unblemished innings, striking out five of the six batters he faced. And Cole Hamels won for the first time in more than a month, throwing seven innings of three-hit, one-run ball (and picking up two hits of his own, including a double that drove in two). The Phils have re-established a bit of breathing room over the Marlins (two games), with the Mets and Braves falling back to 4.5 and 5 out respectively. Given the state of those competitors, there's reason to think things could get better still. 

Still, if I had one word to share with Ruben Amaro Jr., it would be "patience."

Just as the Phillies weren't as bad as they looked during the 4-14 nightmare that preceded the last four games, they aren't as good as they've seemed since David Wright and the Seven Wrongs stumbled into town late last week. Decimated by injuries and gobsmacked by their self-inflicted wounds, the Mets are a shell of themselves right now. The Phillies deserve full credit for taking advantage--that's what good teams do--but aside perhaps from the win on Sunday against Johan Santana, those victories shouldn't inspire all that much more pride or excitement than would an undefeated weekend against triple-A opponents. And last night's annihilation of the Reds was, obviously and literally, a once-in-a-century event. 

Granted, Lidge's utter filthiness against the Mets on Sunday (starting with a three-pitch strikeout of Wright) would play against anyone. And the fact that Rollins has drawn more than a quarter of his walks all season in the last four games is very encouraging. I have less confidence that Hamels is "fixed"; after getting staggered with those 16 runs in the first four innings, the Reds weren't exactly working counts. But he did what he had to do last night, and so long as he's healthy, it's a realistic hope that he'll "find it." Add in the expected return of Raul Ibanez, and the team could be poised to go on a roll--which would justify giving something up in a trade for one or more needed pitchers. But unless a too-good-to-pass-up deal is offered (think Erik Bedard for Eric Bruntlett), I'd still wait until as close to the deadline as possible, when the advantage might flip from seller to buyer and a Jarrod Washburn, or even (dare to dream) a Roy Halladay, could come free for one great prospect and a couple okay ones rather than all five guys in your system who give Baseball America columnists the vapors.