It’s all happening, Ryan.

The Phillies welcome back their big money slugger in time to lead the Phillies back into the playoff picture? Sure, there is a lot of baseball remaining and adding Ryan Howard is…not nothing. The Phillies as a group got unspectacular production from their first basemen in Howard’s absence, putting up a .246/.306/.416 line, translating to a .313 wOBA.

Even the most cautious projection system has Howard posting better numbers than that in 2012. The question remains: is it enough?

Quibble with the current batting order as I might (against Tim Hudson I’m tempted to move Utley to second, Pence to third with the struggling Victorino batting sixth but, really, who cares?) the bottom of that order still features Juan Pierre and Mike Fontenot, with Kyle Kendrick pitching.

You might be very surprised to learn that Juan Pierre has played very well for the Phils this year, stealing bases efficiently and getting on base in his Juan Pierreish way. You will even more surprised to learn Mike Fontenot has actually hit the ball a little bit, due in no small part to his .410 BABIP, a figure higher than his slugging percentage. I don’t know how that is even possible.

The Phillies need help – in the cosmic sense as well as the trade deadline sense of the word. They are built to win and win now, the only way know Ruben Amaro knows to operate. Getting Ryan Howard and, eventually, Roy Halladay gives them a great shot – the core of a 103 win team is essentially unchanged, save the addition of one the game’s elite relief pitchers.

The task left for this veteran group is a daunting one: the sheer number of games and teams they must overcome makes the playoffs a longshot. As Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley points out, many things need to break their way should to Phillies reinsert themselves into playoff conversations. Crazier things have happened but “crazy” is what you must be to think the Phillies have a realistic shot at the playoffs in 2012. Bummer.