1. The everyday lineup is solid at the plate. They hit well enough to contend. Barring injury, it seems as likely to me that they could improve (because of Willingham returning and Jones leaving) as go the other way.
2. The defense is not even league average, and they are going to have to get better, or luckier, to stay in the race.
3. The starting pitching is erratic. Miller's bad starts are getting less bad, and his good starts are getting better and more frequent; likewise Olsen. Mark Wiley is doing a very good job. I am high on Tucker, but in fairness it is too soon to tell what sort of impact he will have the rest of the year.
4. The relief pitching, which started the season so strong, is still pretty good, but not as good as it was. The starting pitching needs to get better to lessen the stress on the bullpen.
5. The NL east race has also changed significantly. I must say that I think the Phillies are by far the toughest competition they have in the division (and they are 3-3 in the season series so far). The Mets just can't seem to get untracked, and the Braves (also 3 games under .500) are snakebit. Chipper Jones has had a historically great year so far. What happens if Jones doesn't continue at his current torrid pace? Somehow, I doubt if the NL is going to be a 4 team race. That makes the wild card more of a possibility than I had thought, and it makes the Marlins less likely to win the division. I can easily imagine Philadelphia going into September with a fairly big lead (say, 6 or 8 games).
6. Their interleague schedule also appears much tougher today than it did before the season began. Oakland and Tampa Bay are better than we thought, and Seattle is not as good.
There are many more reasons for optimism today than there were on opening day: they are a much better team than we thought, and better without Willis and Cabrera than they were with them, which is a pretty amazing thing to me at least.
Beinfest is just amazing at finding talent. (If he could figure out a way to bring back Perry Hill, or find a suitable replacement. . .) I suspect he will be looking to make a move before the trade deadline, looking to improve the team because he thinks they are close enough to contention to merit taking the risk. If he makes a move in the next few weeks, then you know he thinks they can be in contention all year.