Phillies in a Season Full of Unmet Expectations Through 50 Games

Phillies' right fielder Bryce Harper exits game after being hit in jaw by pitch (Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire)
ST. LOUIS, MO – APRIL 28: Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper (3) is helped off of the field after being hit in the face by a pitch during a Major League Baseball game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the St. Louis Cardinals on April 28, 2021, at Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Mo. (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire),

Following the Phillies’ 4-2 loss versus the Marlins on Wednesday night, the Phillies have officially reached the 50-game mark on the season. Today, we take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly from the first 50 games of the 2021 season.

With a 24-26 record, the Phillies have been the definition of mediocre on the year, scoring 201 runs while allowing 219.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Bad

Since there’s plenty to talk about, we will begin with the bad.

Pitching Acquisitions

In addition to re-signing J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius, the Phillies’ most important offseason acquisitions have been in the bullpen as well as the back-end of the starting rotation. Unfortunately, these acquisitions have not all lived up to par.

The biggest bullpen piece this offseason, Archie Bradley, has not pitched to the best of his ability so far. After making four appearances in the first eight games of the season, Bradley came down with an oblique strain, sending him to the Injured List. Since returning from the IL on May 18th, Bradley has appeared in three games for the Phillies. Over that stretch, he has allowed three earned runs on four hits and seven walks. The former closer has yet to truly find a rhythm this season, though he will certainly have an impact when he does.

Jose Alvarado and Sam Coonrod have each had their share of success since coming to Philadelphia. While Alvarado was suspended at the beginning of the month after throwing at Dominic Smith, he has been a cornerstone of the Phillies’ bullpen so far. His 99-mph sinker combined with his 94-mph cut-fastball keep batters guessing, giving him a team-high 13.5 SO/9. Coonrod, meanwhile, has thrown 22 innings on the mound for the Phillies, pitching for a 2.86 ERA and whiffing 23 batters. Coonrod, while pitching well overall, took the loss in Miami Wednesday night, allowing three runs in 1.0 innings pitched.

Brandon Kinztler closes out the Phillies’ bullpen acquisitions with a dud. Having thrown 15.1 innings across 17 games, he has pitched for an 8.22 ERA, allowing a bullpen-leading five home runs and 26 hits overall on the season.

Looking at the rotation, Chase Anderson and Matt Moore have not done much better for the Fightin’ Phils. Moore, who is currently on the IL due to a back injury, owns a 7.36 ERA on the season and has mainly transitioned into the bullpen after only three starts on the season. Anderson, though healthy, has not had any better luck this season. Anderson owns a 7.46 ERA and was recently skipped in the rotation in favor for Spencer Howard.

Struggling Offense

Last year, the Phillies owned the sixth-best offense in Major League Baseball. Through 50 games this year, the Phillies own the 19th overall offense. To put this into better context, the Phillies scored 306 runs over the course of 60 games last season or 5.1 runs per game. So far, through 50 games this season, the Phillies have scored 201 runs, 4.00 per game. Given that the Phillies have had 17 games decided by one run (going 9-8 in those games), that extra run per game is critical.

Alec Bohm falling into a sophomore slump has certainly not helped the Phillies’ offense so far this year. The young third basemen has only hit for a .567 OPS this season, striking out 54 times in 179 at-bats. In addition to his slow bat, Bohm also has struggled in the field, committing five errors at the hot corner this year.

Alec Bohm179.21258
Didi Gregorius118.22974
Andrew McCutchen158.209100

Bohm is not alone, however, in struggling at the plate. Didi Gregorius is currently on the IL due to swelling in his elbow. Gregorius has a history of elbow problems, including Tommy John surgery in 2018. Prior to his injury two weeks ago, Gregorius had only been batting .143 in his previous seven games. McCutchen, while healthy, has also been performing poorly, barely scraping the ‘Mendoza line’ with a .209 average. Additionally, Cutch has been less than inspiring in left field as the aging outfielder proves he is no longer the defensive giant he was in center field for the Pirates.

The Ugly
The Center Field Debacle

Adam Haseley, Roman Quinn, Scott Kingery, Mickey Moniak, and now Odubel Herrera have all had chances to start in center field this season for the Phillies. A larger revolving door than the Mets’ injured list, the Phillies may have finally settled on Herrera on their center fielder.

And that says it all.

Yes, Herrera is performing well in center field (and I will recognize that shortly) but the fact that the Phillies went to their fifth option, a player who hadn’t played in two years whom half of the fanbase has been (rightfully so) abrasive to is a desperate move.

But that is what it came to. Haseley was struggling at the plate and is now struggling off the field. Kingery hasn’t been the same since 2019. Quinn is barely an outfielder. Moniak is inexperienced. None of them were even batting .200. A team making a playoff push cannot be faced with so much turnover at a position this early in the season.

Managerial Decisions

Joe Girardi is an experienced manager and a well-respected name across baseball. And yet, with some of the decisions made so far this season, he has been comparable to Gabe Kapler in the eyes of some Phillies fans. From the plethora of double switches to lineup card fiascos, Girardi has left a lot to be desired.

Not to mention the fact that, within the past week, Girardi has had a public argument with Jean Segura and has withheld information on injuries while leaving the injured players on the roster. While Girardi’s decisions are costing the Phillies fewer games than some fans will suspect, Girardi is certainly not helping the team’s chances either.

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The Good
Three Aces… Or Maybe Four?

While there have been issues at the bottom of the rotation, the top of the rotation has been on point this season.

Aaron Nola3.721.1010.47
Zack Wheeler2.380.9410.32
Zach Eflin3.841.178.95

Zack Wheeler has had a tremendous season, leading the rotation with a 2.38 ERA. The Phillies, meanwhile, just wasted another Aaron Nola start versus the Marlins on Wednesday night. Eflin has also been proving himself to be a reliable number three pitcher for the Phillies.

But the surprise of the season so far: Vince Velasquez.

Vince Velasquez2.951.28211.0

Every fan’s favorite starting pitcher, Velasquez has had the rockiest of careers in Philadelphia, never coming into his own. Though now, in his last chance, Velasquez appears to have found his groove. Entering into the rotation from the bullpen, Vinny Velo has now made six starts on the year for the Phillies, pitching a 2.30 ERA in those starts.

While he is far from a bona fide ace for the Phillies, Velasquez is showing glimpses of brilliance so far this season. If he can sustain this success, he just might solidify his place in the rotation for years to come.

Offensive Bright Spots

While the Phillies’ center field has been a mess this year, Odubel Herrera is beginning to prove that he can still play ball. Batting .247 with a .696 OPS, Herrera has been far from amazing at the plate but is not necessarily hurting if placed toward the bottom of the order. He has certainly performed better than any of his competition for the starting center field job as well.

Herrera has also made some strong plays in center field, including robbing a home run Wednesday night in Miami.

Additionally, Nick Maton has proven himself worthy of a roster spot following his promotion earlier in the season. Batting .268 with a .702 OPS, the rookie is learning the ropes while covering at shortstop for Gregorius. 33 strikeouts in his first 100 AB’s is concerning, but nothing that can’t be smoothed over as he progresses in Philadelphia.

Rhys Hoskins, meanwhile, is turning the corner out of his slump. He is hitting .265 on the season with 10 home runs overall. Additionally, he is beginning to walk again, having walked five times in the past six games for the Phillies.

Once Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, and Didi Gregorius all return from the IL, the Phillies will be set to turn things around offensively.

Phillies Still in the Middle of NL East Race

Despite all of the ugly that has been the first 50 games for the Phillies, they are still in the middle of the race for the NL East. The Phillies are only two games behind the Mets for first place in the division while every team in the division is within three games of first.

Each team across the NL East has struggled outside of the gate whether due to injury, COVID-19, or just due to underperforming. The winner of the NL East race just might be the team that gets on a hot streak first and can maintain the lead. For the Phillies’ sake, they better hope the next 50 games sing a different song than the initial 50.

Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire