The 2022 Phillies played with fire and made it to the World Series before their untimely loss to Houston. Anticipation was high going into 2023, and almost at the gun, the team was dealt a severe blow: losing Rhys Hoskins to an ACL tear. Bryce Harper was undergoing Tommy John recovery and wasn’t able to come back, at least according to everyone not named the Phillies front office, until June. Bullpen overhauls and a superstar signing in Trea Turner has made the Phillies a sure-fire candidate for maybe dethroning Atlanta. A lot of questions would soon come up from the fanbase: can they repeat the magic without “Rhys Lightning”? When will Bryce come back? Is Rob on the hot seat?
As the season started, Bryson Stott set the team ablaze, being able to spark the team and do amazing things, even setting a record for most consecutive games with a hit to start the season. Aaron Nola, however, would like to forget this contract season, struggling since the start of the season and not hitting the stride seen in the postseason. The team itself struggled to set itself apart from the pennant-winners of last year. Spring is where the team sputtered, not really clicking as they struggled early against the likes of the Mets and the White Sox, getting one hit once each by the clubs. Combined, the team went 25-30 to start the season.
Come June, and the Phillies exploded. Kyle Schwarber hit many home runs, and currently has 35 as of writing. Nick Castellanos has come into his own and Alec Bohm have become fan favorites, and Bryce Harper came back…as a first baseman alongside DH duties. July and August continue to be hot months for the club, as the offense figured things out and the rotation is working on supporting the hitting and the bullpen. Zach Wheeler has started to shine, and Taijuan Walker is a solid acquisition. Ranger Suarez came back from triceps surgery and injuries to become solid. New acquisition Michael Lorenzen threw a no-hitter and the bullpen is becoming a strong piece. Hitting corps is also starting to become a strong piece, putting together series wins that once thought were impossible: series wins against the Tigers, D-Backs, Cubs, and Rays throughout the season.
So, there’s all this good about the team. What’s struggling? Aaron Nola, as mentioned, hasn’t been as advertised given it’s a contract year for him. There are days where he starts well, but then he becomes a chef and throws meatballs to the opposing hitters. The hitting itself is confusing: Kyle Schwarber is a great homer hitter, but is often struggling to stay above the Mendoza line (the .200 average line) and strikes out like it’s going out of style. Trea Turner has struggled immensely but appears to have turned a corner since the beginning of August. Craig Kimbrel has also been solid, recording his 400th save and shaking off the early season blues. The bullpen can really support the rotation and has quietly become a strength of the team.
At the time of writing this, the Phillies are a solid 13.5 games back of Atlanta in the East, but own the first wild card spot. The Phillies need to do the following in order to effectively make the most of the playoff chase:
Continue finishing off opponents and going the distance from starters. Currently, the Phillies rotation goes on average 6 innings per game, the most in the majors at this point. It leads to rest of the bullpen and consistency from starters.
Don’t be afraid of the big boys. The team swept Baltimore when they were starting to come into their own and the Phillies can make magic with nothing. The season ends in September playing powerhouses in Milwaukee and Atlanta. If the Phillies continue to play tough ball and play consistently, they have a solid chance to either make solid ground in chasing Atlanta or solidifying their hold on the first wild card.
Keep players healthy. Christan Pache and Jose Alvarado remain injured and timetables are uncertain for their returns. The team needs to work on conditioning to help make sure the team can stay healthy in time for the playoffs.
The only way the roller coaster ends will be with a successful postseason run. The run will be hard with facing the juggernauts of LA and Atlanta, but anything is possible in the world of baseball.
Shared by Dave Hummel