If this past week has taught us anything, it’s that consistency is not a strong suit for this ball club. After 11 games the Phillies are 5-6 and played there last eight against tough competition. Sure they spilt both series with the Yanks and Braves, which in and of itself is actually pretty good. Though this team seems to have trouble finding ways to string wins together dating back to June of last season. There are certainly highlights through all of it. We have had some ups and some downs to this point in the year. Which by the way, for the rest of the league not counting the Phillies, Marlins and Cardinals, is actually the quarter mark of the season (Geez!) So considering we are about to finish the first 25% of the season, let’s take a look and those Ups and Downs to this point. Let’s call it… 3 up and 3 down??
UP: The Rotation
Not including one Vinny Velasquez, the Phillies elations to this point has actually pitched quite well. Collectively they have the 5th best starting ERA in the league. Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler have proven to be an effective 1-2 with Nola giving back to back outings with double digit strikeouts and an ERA under 3 through his first 3 starts of the year. Arrieta is showing major improvement on the movement and effectiveness of his pitches. Zac Eflin, though only having started once, looks to be a capable #4 for the club. We even got a glimpse of the future with Spencer Howard making his debut with a respectable first outing against a tough Braves lineup. A rotation that looks to be in mid season form is a good sign, and much needed to counteract the first down.(see below)
DOWN: The Bullpen
To say this bullpen has been bad is quite the understatement. The two series splits the club just managed to get, were all winnable games in the late innings. The common denominator for why it was a split and not series wins, this joke of a pen. Headlines by Nick Pivetta and his shalacking in the ninth inning at the hands of the Braves. In 31 innings pitched through the first 11 games, the Phillies bullpen has allowed 34 runs… Thirty…. Four…. Runs! That just screams champions doesn’t it?!?! Luckily the club made a few moves like sending Pivetta to the taxi squad in Lehigh Valley and calling up Blake Parker. Not sure the organization has the answers internally for this year, but they better hope they do. Or else this club will have a very short season indeed.
UP: J.T. Realmuto
The BCIB has given the organization more than enough reason to lock him up for the foreseeable future since he was acquired before the 2019 season. So far in 2020, nothing has changed. JT’s defense and game calling is second to none and his ability to throw out runners who dare try to steal on him is a sight to see. Couple his defense with a .306/.359/.722 batting line with 5 home runs and 12 RBI’s (both leading the club) and he is well on is way of retaining that title of best catcher in baseball.
DOWN: Scott Kingery
2019 was a tale of two seasons for Scotty Jetpax. A first half emergence and a second half struggle. 2020 so far has reversed course. Though so far it isn’t a struggle, it’s flat out bad. Through the first 11 games, Kingery is hitting a horrid .114/.184/.114. He hasn’t recorded even one extra base hit and only has one RBI to his credit. A move back to his natural position and allowing him more consistency on a daily basis was supposed to give him a chance to take the next step. We can cut him a bit of slack. He got a late start to summer camp after recovering from Covid-19, so a slow start isn’t all that surprising. Unfortunately though in a shortened year with a DH, and a few options at playing second basemen on the roster, Kingery will need to pick it up quickly or find himself riding the pine more often than not.
UP: Upcoming Schedule
Sure we this is exactly something the team or an individual player did, but good news is good news. The Phillies have held there heads above water to this point, and with an expanded playoff format are right in thick of a postseason spot with a bunch of teams jumbled together with similar records. So the next few series become even more reason to be excited about the Phils maybe making a move up the standings. The Orioles, Mets, Red Sox and Blue Jays are in store for the next 10 games and have a combined 25-35 record to this point. With a week plus of games against teams .500 or worse, that’s something to be excited about. A 5-5 record through this stretch is going to be quite the downer, it’s time to start a winning streak.
DOWN: New Bullpen Rules
One of the many reasons Phillie Phans were excited about the organization acquiring World Series winning manager Joe Girardi this offseason, was due in part to his immaculate reputation of managing bullpens. Now, it can’t be totally held against him that most of the arms out in center field have been as useful as a box of rocks, but the new rules have certainly taken away what made Girardi so good at controlling the tempo of not just each inning, but each individual at bat. The 3 batter minimum rule and a terrible bullpen is a really bad combination to have any year, even worse during a shortened season. Girardi, as well as the rest of the managers are going to have there hands full adjusting to these changes. Though Joe looks to have a lot of added pressure with not having too many reliable arms outside of his closer.
There certainly is a ton more to talk about then what was covered here. A lot of positives along with a few too many negatives unfortunately. But this team thus far and shown it’s full of talent and is capable of competing against some of the better teams in the game. That doesn’t necessarily mean wins are inevitable, but it certainly gives reason to be optimistic going forward that this can be a winning ball club. Optimism doesn’t win games though, and consistency is going to be key to push these Phillies into postseason baseball.