Taking stock of Phillies’ issues with season nearly one-third complete originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
ATLANTA — The Memorial Day checkpoint has arrived and the Phillies are largely in the same position they found themselves in a year ago.
The Phils are 25-28 and seven games behind the Braves in the NL East after splitting a four-game series in Atlanta over the weekend. With the season nearly one-third complete, they are on a 76-win pace.
At this point in 2022, the Phillies were 24-29 and two games into Rob Thomson’s tenure as manager. They won eight in a row and 14 of 16 when Thomson took over and were never fewer than two games over .500 the rest of the season.
The 2023 Phillies haven’t played particularly well in any phase thus far.
• They’re 21st in the majors in runs per game with 4.28, below teams like the Pirates, Reds and Giants.
• Their .231 batting average with runners in scoring position ranks 26th.
• Only six offenses have walked at a lower rate.
• The Phillies have been fourth-worst in Baseball-Reference’s defensive efficiency metric, which measures the percentage of balls in play converted into outs.
• Their starting pitchers rank 24th with a 5.02 ERA.
• Their relief corps has a league-average ERA but only four bullpens have put more men on base than the Phillies.
“We haven’t played well, we haven’t played up to our abilities consistently,” Thomson said after Sunday’s 11-4 loss. “Now we’ve got to get going and start playing in all four phases of our game and be consistent with it.”
Some players or aspects of the team are ripe for positive regression.
Does anyone who’s watched his near-decade-long career believe Trea Turner is going to be this bad for four more months?
That Ranger Suarez will allow a run per inning?
That Kyle Schwarber will hit 43 points lower than he has in any full season?
That J.T. Realmuto‘s on-base percentage will be 25 points lower than it was the last five years?
It’s not to say all the issues will disappear or correct themselves quickly.
Teams are taking extra bases regularly against Schwarber and there’s no solution to the problem of left-field defense until Bryce Harper is ready to play first base after the All-Star break, allowing Schwarber to DH.
The No. 5 spot in the rotation is a huge problem. Some would argue there are more important weaknesses but the Phillies are 1-9 in that rotation spot and have taxed their bullpen because of how short the starts have been.
Maybe you can get away with lousy performances at the very back of the rotation if the middle is performing, but Suarez and Taijuan Walker have a combined 6.30 ERA in 14 starts (11 from Walker).
Every game matters but this is an especially crucial part of the Phillies’ schedule. After Monday’s off day, they have their first series against the Mets, followed by a three-game series in D.C. they must win.
The Phillies next face the Braves on June 20 in Philadelphia, and in between Atlanta plays 13 of its 19 games against four of the worst teams in baseball: the A’s, Tigers, Nationals and Rockies. The deficit is already seven games.
“Nobody’s really run away with the division,” Thomson said Sunday night, but the Braves enter Memorial Day with the biggest lead of any of the six first-place teams.
A potential saving grace is that the Phillies have played only seven of their 52 NL East games. It’s no longer early, but there are still plenty of head-to-head matchups that would allow them to rise in the division if they can get their act together.
Tuesday night in New York is a big game, not just because it’s the first Phillies-Mets tilt of the season but because they desperately need to see progress from Suarez in his fourth start. Nearly every inning he’s pitched since returning from an elbow injury has been stressful. He’s thrown 29 first-pitch strikes and 26 first-pitch balls. This is a guy who had a 2.72 ERA in 261⅓ innings the last two years.
The Phillies’ push late last season is proof that you don’t need to hit your stride in the first two months in order to make a deep playoff run. But it’s a new year, a new team and a new set of inconsistencies.
“Every guy is going to have to look in the mirror and understand what their job is, what their role is,” Harper said last week. “We need to have urgency every day that we play. It doesn’t matter if we’re in first place, last place or in the middle.
“I don’t like the mindset of, ‘Oh, it’s early, it’s May.’ You play this game with urgency.”
Source: Yahoo Sports