What to Make Of the Phillies’ Slow Start in 2024

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Philadelphia Phillies’ Jose Alvarado reacts after the team’s victory over the Atlanta Braves in a baseball game Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

“Relax, they’ve played just four games.” – Phillies fans across the Delaware Valley.

Indeed, the Phillies have only played 4 games of their 162-game schedule. It is also true that how a team plays in a small sample size will dictate their season. In 2023, the Phillies started 0-5, before finishing with a 90-72 record.

A slow start out of the gate doesn’t hold much weight if the team turns things around. I would expect this Phillies team to turn things around, and I feel we will see a much better product on the field soon enough.

The question, or concern, that comes to mind with the 1-3 start to the season isn’t about how it happened. The concern, however, comes from why it happened and why the Phillies seemingly continue to get off to these slower starts.

Atlanta Braves’ Ronald Acuña Jr., left, adjusts his gear in front of Philadelphia Phillies’ J.T. Realmuto after a close pitch during the sixth inning of a baseball game Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Nothing New for the Phillies

In December, I posted an article here on Philly Sports Network that described my thoughts on how the team should change its approach heading into the new year.

After slow starts in 2022 and 2023, I explained how a team cannot afford to continuously dig themselves out of big holes as the season plays on. It might have worked out for the club in 2022 and 2023, resulting in deep playoff runs, but how sustainable can that be?

All off-season, the players spoke about how they wanted to win the National League East. After falling short to the Atlanta Braves over the last couple of years, the Phillies want to prove they have what it takes to stake dominance in the East. In order to do that, they knew they would have to get off to a better start than previous seasons.

They had a great opportunity at home against Atlanta to start the season. On Opening Day, everything seemed to be going well. Zack Wheeler had pitched 6 strong innings, and the Phillies held a 2-0 lead. Then came a collapse. The Phils blew the lead and allowed the Braves to strike for 9 runs off the team’s best relief pitchers.

The following day, the Braves did it again. They marched their way to another easy victory, taking the series and looking for a road sweep against their biggest competition. While the Fightins pulled it out on Sunday to salvage the opening series, you cannot help but feel like the Braves walked away with more confidence than before.

Philadelphia Phillies’ Alec Bohm, right, is doused by teammates Brandon Marsh, left, and Bryson Stott during an interview after the team’s baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Bad Brand of Baseball

Three of the team’s four games have featured a bad brand of baseball to start the 2024 season.

The first two games against the Braves were a disaster, and the team could not seem to buy outs in those games. Game one against the Cincinnati Reds was more of the same, but this time poor baserunning reared its ugly head. Bryson Stott and Johan Rojas were picked off late in this game. Rojas had entered as a pinch runner for Kyle Schwarber and should be, in theory, the best base runner on the squad.

These two outs hurt the Phillies, as they were making an effort to take the lead. A 2-2 ballgame would go into extra innings, where the bullpen would let this game get out of reach once again. But had the Phillies taken advantage of their opportunities when they had them, the game would have been over before the 10th inning would have even been a thought in their heads.

The bullpen has now allowed 18 runs across 4 games this season. You cannot expect to win baseball games playing this way, regardless of how good the offense is supposed to be.

What is the Fix?

There is a simple fix to these slow starts for the Phillies. The fix is to play better baseball (genius idea Matt!).

But in reality, there needs to be more of a focus on the here and now. The team has made it known they want to win the World Series and the National League East. They have made it known that they expect to be one of the best teams in baseball and they feel as though making the playoffs is no longer good enough.

That is great to hear, but they cannot lose sight of the path towards getting there. Before thoughts of October come to mind, focus on April first.

Every good book is sold on its ending, but if the journey is not worth the wait, you’ll lose your audience. In 2024, the story should be how the Phillies changed their course and were one of the top teams in baseball all year long. Competing with the Braves for the East, having one of the best records in the game, and having some statement performances along the way.

The season has just begun, and while there is a lot of promise for what is to come, taking a step back and enjoying the ride might be the best way to approach 2024. Starting with winning the series against the Reds and heading down to D.C. with a 3-3 record would be a great place to start.

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)