What happened to the Phillies in the month of June?

Philadelphia Phillies Zack Wheeler
TAMPA, FL – MARCH 07: Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler (45) delivers a pitch during the MLB Spring Training game between the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees on March 7, 2021 at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire)

Final Phillies June Record (12-12)

It’s symbolic that the Phillies would end their month with rain against a bunch of fish.

I remember when the month got off to a hot start. The Phightin’s opened June by jumping all over the Cincinnati Reds with seven home runs in a 17-3 victory. They followed that up with series victories against the Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, and New York Yankees.

The bullpen was holding, we all got to meet Luke Williams, and Zack Wheeler was on his way to starting the National League All-Star Game (that hasn’t changed). Life was good.

The follow-up performance left much to be desired.

Philadelphia went on to drop ten of their next fifteen games, many of which came on the West Coast. Purely anecdotal, but I don’t remember a West Coast run leading to anything positive for this organization. Just stay home.

Now, things may seem bleak, but they’ve actually managed to escape with a June record falling squarely at .500, just 5 games out of first place in the NL East. Quite frankly, it could have been worse given their daunting June calendar.

So let’s take a look at what went right and what went horribly wrong for the Phillies as they torpedoed their way into the summer.

Phillies Standouts

With the flurry of injuries Philly’s fought through, an unlikely hero had to arise. In this case, that man was veteran left-fielder Andrew McCutchen, who many consider DOA throughout the early stages of 2021.

Appearing in 22 of 24 games, McCutchen has been responsible for 20% of Phillies’ home runs in June (6 of 30) while sporting an OPS of 1.027. His batting average alone has been 21% higher than the team average of .248 over the last 30 days, according to BaseballReference.

The former (and I mean former) MVP of the National League came to life right when they needed him.

Meanwhile, while much of the offense wilted, the aforementioned Wheeler kept this team afloat.

The inconsistent, high-upside project once belonging to the New York Mets is nowhere to be found. He’s a beautiful Philadelphia flower, and he may have just pitched the best month of his career, featuring an ERA of 1.44 and 10.9 K/9 through five starts.

With the inconsistency displayed thus far from his running mates, it hasn’t been since Cole Hamels that the Phillies could feel as confident as when Wheeler hits the rubber. Give him another $20MM.

That’s all the positives I’ve got for you. Let’s get mean.

Phillies Flops

I’ll get to the bullpen but let us first examine the rotation. Beginning with Spencer Howard.

The young man can’t seem to breakthrough. After predicting the Phillies would need a big June from Howard, the month closes with his demotion to Lehigh Valley. Through four June starts, Howard never recorded more than 4.0 Innings Pitched while tallying an ERA of 6.10. That’s why you call it a prospect.

Aaron Nola, a top prospect of yesteryear, had struggles of his own. Although finishing the month with an 11 strikeout performance, the Phillies ‘ace’ saw his ERA balloon to 4.44 on the season. Thank the Philadelphia gods for Wheeler.

I mentioned the bullpen started the month with a bit of success. Through twelve games, they owned an ERA of 3.34 through 32.2 total innings. They did admirable work; however, things only got worse.

Through 24 total games, said bullpen’s ERA finished the month at 4.38, and of thirteen save opportunities, the Phillies blew nine of them.

Hector Neris led the way with four, but everyone’s been guilty. Connor Brogdon, Archie Bradley, Jose Alvarado, Neftali Feliz, and Ranger Suarez added one apiece. Not only does that indicate that your closer can’t do it, but that you tried just about everyone else, and they can’t either. Not a great sign if you think this is a playoff team (hmm).

Offensively, Rhys Hoskins didn’t miss a start until the final day of June but hit just .135. He also produced six homers. It’s a negative, undoubtedly, but a confusing one at that.

The book on Hoskins has been his inability to maintain consistency, but I won’t lose hair yet; he’s still young. Right?

And, of course, in case you forgot what a mental body slam the sixth month of the year provided, here’s baserunning:

What’s Next?

As they head towards the All-Star Break, it sounds like Didi Gregorius will return to the Phillies lineup in the coming days. I love Nick Maton, but I’m ready for something resembling the Opening Day lineup.

Hopefully, the heart of this Phillies lineup can do a little better than hitting .250. They’ll need it as they head towards the halfway point with a homestand against the San Diego Padres, a trip to Wrigley to face off against the Chicago Cubs, and finally to Fenway for a tussle with the Green Monster.

Those three teams have a combined run differential of +126. The Phillies, meanwhile, at -24. Not apples to apples, but I’m making a point.

Enjoy your Fourth of July. No fireworks here.

Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire