The Phillies are not yet circling the drain, they really aren't, even if we all are perched now on the edge of the sink, staring nervously at our watches.
This mess is still entirely fixable. The National League East is still within their reach. Even if the odor is persistent, they are in better shape after 127 games this year, with a 68-59 record, than they were in either 2007 (66-61) or 2006 (64-63). Their pitching is much better and they're better-off in the standings, too, sitting 2 1/2 games behind the Mets.
And the answer isn't that complicated, either.
It's just baserunners.
You can slice the numbers a hundred different ways, but it all comes down to baserunners. The Phillies don't need anything heroic here. They just need a walk and stolen base, or a bloop double into short leftfield.
You might or might not be surprised to know that, when you compare the first 127 games this year to the first 127 games last year, the Phils have actually hit nine more home runs this year while scoring 66 fewer runs. The problem is not an absence of power. The problem is not too many strikeouts, either -- they have struck out about 50 fewer times this year compared to the same point in '07. And it isn't a Terry Murray choking situation -- the Phillies' batting average and slugging percentage with runners in scoring position is virtually identical to last year (the slugging percentage is actually a tick higher).
Repeat: it's just baserunners.
That the Phillies have been unable to scrounge up a usable bat to stick into the bottom of the lineup -- just to change the mix every once in a while, especially considering that So Taguchi never plays -- is ridiculous. Because we have entered the what-the-hell stage of the proceedings. Anything is worth trying at this point, just to alter the balance a little bit.
Now, every individual game tells its own story. But in a meta/macro/big picture sense, this is the whole thing: last year, the Phils averaged 12 plate appearance per game with a runner in scoring position and this year they're averaging 10. That's it. That number changes or they die.