First I think we have improved by a substantial margin our 'position players' with whom we will make our run.
But secondly and more importantly, I believe we are on the cusp of substantially improving our rotation. I started the season extremely excited as I thought we had the makings of a great rotation with Hughes and Kennedy being joined by Joba a few months in.
Problem was that IPK and Phil (understandably) were overwhelmed and lost focus when they were both "given" a rotation spot on "The NY Yankees", and then were both "chosen" over the great Santana. I do not hold it against them that they didn't handle it, as they were both in a very unique situation. And I don't believe it casts any additional doubt going forward. I think it was just "their" personal growing pains that we all expected would come at some point (I just didn't think it would be as soon as it was)
In Kennedy's case he even developed a mechanical flaw of throwing more across his body than usual. In Hughes case he somehow broke a rib. Now I am very much looking forward to getting back the same pitchers who contributed so mightily in our stretch run last year, and I am very confident we will.
IPK is ready NOW, having thrown 3 (full pitch limit) games, and dominating in all 3 as he is again pitching with a lot of confidence having corrected the mechanical flaw . I hope is comes up this week.
And Phil is well on his way too, having pitched 3 impressive innings in his first rehab start this past week.
I still have faith in both of them and still believe that they have much more upside to any waiver pickup we may get. Enough upside to start believing that #27 (even without Wang and Posada) is within our reach, especially when combined with the fact that Joba has already shown he is a legitimate ace.
Having watched us weather a lot of storms, and finding ourselves only 4.5 games out of 1st and 1.5 games behind the Mannyless RS, I like our chances of not only reaching the playoffs but winning againt anyone including the Angles to reach the WS. Joba, Phil and IPK ... the fairytale story is STILL a possibility and I'm finally getting excited again.