Things haven’t exactly gone swimmingly for the Phillies to begin the season.
Their former No.1 overall pick and this year’s Spring Training darling Mickey Moniak suffered a hairline fracture in his wrist after being hit by a pitch just days before Opening Day. Moniak, who recently returned to the field and began his rehab assignment, has been out of action for the last month.
At the big-league level, things haven’t been going much smoother. The blazing star of Aaron Nola continues to fade, Bryce Harper has been hampered by a lingering UCL injury, and J.T Realmuto has unexpectedly become a ghost in the heart of the lineup.
Making matters worse, the frequent ineptitude of Phillies manager Joe Girardi has cost the teams more than a few wins. This swirling, mounting dysfunction and misfortune have caused the Phillies to stumble out of the gates.
Even with an MVP-caliber hot streak from Bryce Harper, the Phillies are still a meager 9-11 in their last 20 games and sit at 19-22 overall this season. Furthermore, although they are currently in second place in the NL East, they rank a healthy eight games behind the new-look Mets.
Still, even with certain key players struggling, things aren’t all bad for the Phillies.
For all the talk of struggling Phillies batters, the team still grades out favorably in every major offensive metric.
Through the first quarter of the season, the Phillies are in the top ten in hits, home runs, batting average, and runs. They are also just outside of the top ten in RBIs with 173 so far this season, the eleventh-most in the league.
Although the offense has yet to be as dominant as advertised, they are still producing at an incredibly high level. Fueled by the reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper, this year’s Phillies offense has been one of the steadiest in recent memory.
Through the first quarter of the season (41 games), the Phillies have scored four or more runs 25 times (or 60% of their games). The team has scored five or more runs 16 times, which is nearly 40% of their total games played.
Things haven’t been too shabby on the pitching side of things, either. Aside from Aaron Nola’s continued regression from the Cy Young-caliber form he displayed a few years ago, the pitching staff has been just what the doctor ordered for Philly.
Zack Wheeler has been his usual, dominant self, Zach Eflin continues to make strides towards being an established front-end starter, and even Kyle Gibson and Ranger Suarez have done admirably in their roles.
Gibson, a trade deadline pickup last summer, has excelled as a fifth starter since his arrival in Philly. Gibson, 34, is 7-8 through 20 starts as a Phillie, and has taken a step forward in his sophomore year with the club. On the season, Gibson and Suarez are a combined 7-4 with a 4.05 ERA, respectively.
Out of Sync
You may be wondering, if the Phillies are grading out so favorably, why are they eight games out of first place in the division?
Well, there isn’t just one answer to this but one of the biggest issues is that the team can’t seem to get hot at the same time. For as good as the Phillies’ offensive numbers are on paper, they are the result of sporadic offensive outbursts and are bolstered by a monstrous start to the season by Bryce Harper.
J.T Realmuto, Kyle Schwarber, and Rhys Hoskins- each thought to be a pillar in the Phillies lineup entering the year- are all currently batting under .250 on the season. While they have offered some pop with that low batting average, the trio simply must be better if the Phillies want to compete for the division crown.
Right now, Jean Segura is the second-best hitter in the lineup, and as Charlie Manuel would say “that ain’t gonna cut it.” If the Phillies can get consistent production from the star power they’ve invested in, it would go a long way towards turning the season around.
Another thing that would greatly impact the season is improved decision-making from incumbent Phillies skipper Joe Girardi. Since his arrival in Philly, Girardi has failed to establish any semblance of a team identity or expectation of accountability in the locker room.
As a result, the Phillies have been stuck in a lukewarm state with Girardi at the helm. If the Phillies are going to snap out of their funk, they will need their manager to first have a mental awakening.
Far From Over
Still, as flawed as the Phillies are, it would be foolish to count them out of playoff contention so soon. Although the gap between first and second place in the NL East is fairly sizeable, there’s still plenty of time to narrow the lead.
Additionally, the Phillies are only 3.5 games back for an NL Wild Card slot despite their slow start.
So, yes, the Phillies have been fairly bad this year, but there are 162 games in a season for a reason. If the Phillies can play up to their potential for the better half of the remaining schedule, they should be fine at the end of the season.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Matt Slocum