The Philadelphia Phillies are in first place in the NL East!!! At least, most Phillies Phans would like to speak this statement with that type of enthusiasm, but there is no way they can. The Phillies are for sure in the first place position, but with a 12-13 record. The highly anticipated competition for the NL East title has now turned into a battle of who can get over .500 baseball.
This is strangely familiar to Philly sports fans who just dealt with an abysmal NFC East division in National Football League where all the teams finished with losing records. Philly sports fans do not want the poisonous fumes of one franchise to leak over to another. In the Phillies case, they made moves for the better but the players are not performing at the level they are paid or hoped for by the city of Philadelphia.
The Glaring Problems That Are Still Here
Phillies Phans are seeing play out as failures in every stadium the Phightin’ Phils are showing up in. During this first month of the season, the Phillies used Mickey Moniak, Roman Quinn, Odubel Herrera, and Adam Haseley to name a few in the centerfield spot. Haseley’s case is different given the personal nature of his exit, but the others either have not received a long enough chance or have clearly overstayed their welcome.
Moniak only got a week and previously never played a game over AA baseball. Moniak deserved more of a chance before he left and he definitely will by the end of this season.
Roman Quinn has no business playing in a major league uniform for his terrible fielding, baserunning, and hitting. The Phillies need to cut him or trade him because he is negatively affecting the team. Odubel is back in the majors for the first time in a while and he brings his streaky hitting once more so, who really knows what will happen. Herrera has barely hit the ball and probably is not the answer to this solution either.
Overall, the Phillies organization needs to find an actual centerfielder who can at least not collide with another outfielder and at least has an above .200 BA. These are small things to ask for as Phans and it needs to happen this month, not by the trade deadline.
- Bullpen Security
As for the bullpen, the Phillies’ relievers are much better than the terrible performance from the 2020 season but they still are not sporting anything fancy. Phillies pitchers sport a team ERA of 4.31 which ranks 20th overall in the MLB. The Phillies offense is not backing them up enough which is evident in their ranking of 16th overall in BA with a measly .232. There are flashes of consistent late-game pitching, but the lack of consistency is still present in these hurlers.
The Phillies need Neris, Bradley, or whoever to shut down the ninth inning. There needs to be a more reliable arm to close out games consistently. Trading for a premium closer is not going to be a proverbial walk in the park but it might be something to consider if that 4.31 ERA balloons any higher.
- 4th and 5th Starters
The backend of the rotation was not something initially a worry with bringing in the revamped Matt Moore and hopeful bounce back of Chase Anderson, but this experiment has not panned out. Matt Moore has started three games with 9.82 ERA which is the 2020 Phillies bullpen level. This is not what the Phans or the team needed out of a pitcher who showed promise with his performances in Spring Training, but as soon as the regular season started Moore started throwing meatballs. There is still hope for Moore, but if he keeps pitching nervously he will never be able to get out of the hole he has dug himself into.
Chase Anderson is not doing as bad as Matt Moore but a 5.40 ERA, 1-3 record, and a 1.43 WHIP are not sweet to look at. Phillies Phans can only hope that the two starters fall into place and perform better or a rush order of Spencer Howard into the rotation is another possibility. Howard still needs room to develop and the Phillies rotation needs to figure out a scenario where they can squeeze out 5-6 innings at least from all their starters.
The need for improvement is here and the urgency needs to catch up because the Phightin’ Phils cannot afford to have another early to midseason collapse.
One of the big issues is the strikeout rate that Phillies batters are accumulating only one month into the season. Four out of the six core hitters are batting below .240 which is not relieving the pressure from the first three problems discussed. Alec Bohm, Didi Gregorius, Rhys Hoskins, and Andrew McCutchen need to step up their game in the batter’s box. These four are key to the Phillies’ success and offense for the entire season and they have to perform better if they want to at least make the playoffs as a wild card team.
The other issue is the management. Girardi and Dombrowski are significant names to have been brought in to save this core of players from being cellar-dwellers. The patch jobs and questionable decisions of pitchers being left in too long and favoring hitless wonders such as Roman Quinn is concerning. In the words of Pat Gillick, “Baseball is about talent, hard work, and strategy. But at the deepest level, it’s about love, integrity, and respect.” For Girardi’s sake, there better be a method to his madness, and hopefully for the Dombrowski train Phillies Phans will be getting off at the stop that reads “October Baseball” instead of “Welcome to Offseason.”
Photo: Steven M. Falk/The Philadelphia Inquirer