Phillies got off to a slow start, but alarm bells shouldn’t ring just yet – Philly Sports
Things didn’t really go well for the Phillies to start 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 rehabilitation mission, was out of action last month.
At the big league level, things didn’t go much better. Aaron Nola’s blazing star continues to fade, Bryce Harper has been hampered by a lingering injury at UCL and JT Realmuto has unexpectedly become a ghost in the heart of the roster.
Worse still, Phillies manager Joe Girardi’s frequent incompetence has cost the teams more than a few wins. This swirling and growing dysfunction and misfortune tripped up the Phillies.
Even with a hot MVP-caliber streak from Bryce Harper, the Phillies are still a measly 9-11 in their last 20 games and sit 19-22 overall this season. Additionally, despite currently sitting second in Newfoundland and Labrador East, they sit a healthy eight games behind the new-look Mets.
Still, even with some key players struggling, things aren’t looking so bad for the Phillies.
Despite all the talk of the struggling Phillies hitters, the team still ranks favorably in all major offensive metrics.
During 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 the top ten in RBI with 173 so far this season, eleventh in the league.
While the offense has yet to be as dominant as advertised, they are still producing at an incredibly high level. Fueled by reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper, this year’s Phillies offense was one of the most stable in recent memory.
In the first quarter of the season (41 games), the Phillies scored four or more points 25 times (or 60% of their games). The team scored five or more points 16 times, nearly 40% of their total games played.
Things haven’t been too bad on the pitching side 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 exactly what the doctor ordered for Philly.
Zack Wheeler has been his usual, dominant self, Zach Eflin continues to make strides to become an established front-end starter, and even Kyle Gibson and Ranger Suarez have done admirably in their roles.
Gibson, a trade-due pickup last summer, has excelled as a No. 5 starter since arriving in Philadelphia. Gibson, 34, is 7-8 in 20 starts as a Phillie and took a step forward in his second year with the club. On the season, Gibson and Suarez are a combined 7-4 with a 4.05 ERA, respectively.
You might be wondering if the Phillies rank so well, why are they eight games away from first place in the division?
Well, there’s no one answer to that, but one of the biggest issues is that the team doesn’t seem to be warming up at the same time. As good as the Phillies’ offensive numbers are on paper, they’re the result of sporadic offensive outbursts and bolstered by a monstrous start to the season from Bryce Harper.
JT Realmuto, Kyle Schwarber and Rhys Hoskins — each considered a mainstay in the Phillies’ roster at the start of the year — are all currently batting under .250 this season. Although they offered some pop with that low batting average, the trio simply needs to be better if the Phillies are to compete for the division crown.
Right now, Jean Segura is the second-best hitter in the roster, and as Charlie Manuel would say, “that’s not going to be enough.” If the Phillies can get consistent output from the star power they’ve invested in, it would go a long way to turning the season around.
Another thing that would have a big impact on the season is the improved decision-making of outgoing Phillies skipper Joe Girardi. Since arriving in Philadelphia, Girardi has failed to establish any semblance of team identity or expectation of accountability in the locker room.
As a result, the Phillies were stuck in a lukewarm state with Girardi at the helm. If the Phillies want to get out of their funk, they’ll need their manager to have a mental wake-up call first.
Far from over
Still, as flawed as the Phillies are, it would be foolish to knock them out of the playoffs so soon. Although the gap between first and second place in the NL East is quite large, there is still plenty of time to close the lead.
Additionally, the Phillies are only 3.5 games back for an NL Wild Card slot despite their slow start.
So, yeah, the Phillies have been pretty bad this year, but there’s 162 games in a season for a reason. If the Phillies can play 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