2024 Phillies Preview: New Tactics or Better Execution?

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Phillies Bryce Harper
Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Bryce Harper fields a ground ball hit by Cleveland Guardians’ Steven Kwan for an out in the first inning of a baseball game Friday, July 21, 2023, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

The Phillies have embarked on quite a successful era under Rob Thomson’s leadership.

Since taking over for Joe Girardi halfway through the 2022 season, the Phillies have seen two playoff appearances, one NL pennant, and plenty of franchise-altering moments.

Like any other professional sports coach, Thomson has faced his fair share of criticism in his tenure as manager of the Phils. Rob is always honest and will tell you exactly what he feels about a situation. He maintains a calm presence but is not afraid to get on his players when needed.

Rob Thomson is a true leader, and his clubhouse follows him faithfully. There is no denying the Phillies have been a winning franchise since Topper took over the team, but after two unsuccessful runs at a championship, should the Phillies change the way they operate in an effort to win the World Series?

Phillies manager Rob Thomson
Philadelphia Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson celebrates after the Phillies won a baseball game against the Houston Astros to clinch a wild-card playoff spot, Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Trends or Coincidence?

Both the 2022 and 2023 seasons have nearly been identical for the Phillies.

The team starts off slow and sits roughly eight games below the .500 mark through May. When June begins, the team catches fire and plays at a 100-win pace through the end of the season. They grab a Wild Card series, beat the Braves in the NLDS, and make their way to the National League Championship series.

Towards the end of the past two seasons, the Phillies began to run out of steam. Their bats have gone cold at the worst of times, and some pitching mistakes proved costly.

Rob Thomson received criticism on the way he handled the roster down the stretch of the 2023 campaign. Thomson refused to change up the lineup during the playoff run and my main criticism during the playoffs was that he left Alec Bohm in the 4-hole for too long.

After the season, Thomson mentioned how going forward, he may execute a different approach when it comes to his lineup and bullpen usage.

On one hand, Thomson’s management style has led to some of the best baseball the Phillies have played in a decade. On the other hand, his style has led to shortcomings in the biggest moments. While it will always fall on the players who take the field, I think that some slight tweaks to the master plan can help get the Phillies over the hump.

Philadelphia Phillies’ Kyle Schwarber celebrates after a home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the sixth inning in Game 2 of the baseball NL Championship Series in Philadelphia, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Rest and Relaxation

Aside from some freak accidents, the Phillies have been a relatively healthy club over the last couple of seasons.

Of their Opening Day starts, five players played in at least 90% of the team’s games. Those players are Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, Bryson Stott, Trea Turner, and Alec Bohm. Schwarber played in 160 of the teams’ 162 games. Being an iron man is a lost art in today’s game, and the Phils were an outlier in this regard.

They had three starting pitchers make 30+ starts this season; Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Taijuan Walker.

If you include the playoffs, the core of this team has played a lot of baseball. If you include those who were active on the Phillies for the 2022 season, those guys have played a lot of extra baseball.

I present this information because I think the Phillies would benefit from resting their players more in 2024. They, of course, should not sacrifice their ability to win, but getting these guys off their feet a little more could keep them fresh for the postseason.

Philadelphia Phillies’ Garrett Stubbs celebrates after the Phillies won an NL wild-card baseball playoff series against the Miami Marlins, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Testing the Phillies’ Depth

The only real way to rest your star players is if the appropriate depth can step up and fill the void.

In 2023, there were plenty of examples of role players stepping up to make a difference. Cristian Pache’s homerun against the Marlins, Johan Rojas’s catch against the Padres, Garrett Stubbs’ clutch bunts, and who can forget Drew Ellis’ two-homerun game against the Nationals.

The bench needs to provide real value, and the best teams are the ones with a strong bench unit. My favorite part of the 2008 Phillies, was the heroic moments that bench players provided.

As it stands, Jake Cave, Garrett Stubbs, Edmundo Sosa, and Cristian Pache would make up the team’s bench. Weston Wilson, Scott Kingery, Darick Hall, and Kody Clemens are options for finding a spot on the 26-man roster.

With free agency heating up, the Phils will likely wait before signing a bat. The team lacks power off the bench, and is one area in which they can improve in 2024. Signing a rotational outfielder with a high-power hit tool would be a recommendation I would have for the club.

Players like Adam Duvall or Teoscar Hernandez could split time between the outfield, DH, and coming off the bench late in games. That role fits what the Phillies are looking for in 2024 and can provide time off to Schwarber and Castellanos.

Whatever move Dave Dombrowski ends up making, the Phillies will have one goal in mind for the 2024 season. They will be playing to win the World Series, and I think managing their workload throughout a long and grueling schedule will pay off as they embark on another Red October.

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)