The Phillies have seen a historically bad month of June.
The offense is ice cold, the pitching staff is slowly disintegrating, and the injuries are mounting up faster than our limited depth can manage.
All things considered, the fanbase, rightfully, is in full-on meltdown mode.
While you may feel frustrated, disappointed, and/or miffed that this Phillies team is, put plainly, imploding — allow me to stem your bleeding.
I, as The Good Phight Staff Kingpin of Positivity™, am never one to stray toward the negative, and, therefore, like to do all I can to aid those around me in doing the same.
So, without further ado, your Phillies positives going forward:
A Rebound-Prone Offense:
This past offseason, Matt Klentak went out of his mind to acquire some of the premiere offensive talent of the National League — stripping JT Realmuto from the Marlins, as well as Bryce Harper from the rival Nationals, while also adding studs like Jean Segura and Andrew McCutchen in the process.
Unfortunately, the bulk of the aforementioned acquisitions haven’t exactly panned out in the way that was expected. JT Realmuto has been an absolute stud behind the plate, but has struggled to swing an impactful bat. Bryce Harper has hustled his way into the hearts of Philadelphia, but his numbers don’t exactly encompass that of an expected MVP candidate. Jean Segura is in the midst of a deathly frigid streak, and Andrew McCutchen, an everyday iron man, is heartbreakingly sidelined for the year with a torn ACL.
Just our luck, right?
However, while some bats may be quiet, others have picked up the slack, and erupted in dramatic fashion. Jay Bruce, who was added in early June in a fleece job by Matt Klentak, has been an absolute force in Philadelphia, slashing an excellent, but watered down .276/.306/.621 with 6 home runs over 16 games in red pinstripes.
Scott Kingery is also in the midst of a breakout year, and, even after a small stint on the Injured List, has consistently hit all throughout 2019. He’s putting up an excellent line of .326/.370/.625 with 9 home runs in 45 games.
Yet, as far as offensive reinforcements go, that’s about it. We’ve got two players swinging scorching bats, while the rest of our team is wading through the swamps of mediocrity. This team is so deeply entrenched within the throes of their own struggles, that their most recent catastrophe, a 3-game sweep against the Marlins this past weekend, has a majority of the fanbase exclaiming that the season is over.
So, where do we go from here?
Well, there’s only one way you can go once you’ve hit rock bottom — up.
There is a reason that this offense was so highly touted to begin the regular season. The Phillies were considered a major team to beat, a heavyweight contender! Are we going to let one rotten month spoil an entire offseason worth of anticipation?
Jean Segura is one of the league’s premiere contact hitters, and has hit .300+ over the course of his last three seasons. JT Realmuto is, without question, the best catcher in baseball. Bryce Harper is a six-time All-Star, a former MVP, and a premiere offensive talent of Major League Baseball.
These guys will not remain at this glacial pace forever. It is only a matter of time before this offense does exactly what they were brought here to do — and when it does, the National League best be prepared.
The Resurgence of a Top Bullpen:
The Phillies’ bullpen was considered one of the team’s many strengths coming into the 2019 season, and rightfully so. The addition of David Robertson to an already well-rounded bullpen was huge, and gave the Phillies a closing option where they seemingly had none.
But, after a slow start for the ‘pen in early 2019, catastrophe struck. All of Tommy Hunter, Victor Arano, Pat Neshek, Seranthony Dominguez, David Robertson, Edubray Ramos, Adam Morgan, and more spent (and are still spending) extensive stints on the Injured list, and left the Phillies with a pile of newbies to take up the bullpen mantle — and, while the Phillies have received encouraging contributions from young arms like JD Hammer, Edgar Garcia, and the like, rushing their development was never part of the plan.
Hector Neris, thankfully, has shone through as the one bright spot of an injury-ridden bullpen. His 2.59 ERA, 12.4 K/9, and 15 saves in 16 opportunities have proven that he is, more or less, that same pitcher that we grew to admire throughout the second half of the 2018 season. He has been a saving grace for the Phillies on multiple occasions.
Luckily, the Phillies won’t need to worry about laboring the bullpen for too much longer. Adam Morgan and Edubray Ramos have returned, Tommy Hunter is extremely close, and David Robertson is due to begin throwing from the mound soon.
Fear not, for help is on the way.
The Bounce-back Candidate:
By far, the most prominent flaw of this current Phillies team is their lack of an ever-present ace in the rotation.
In 2018, Aaron Nola was just that. His 2.37 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 17 wins were enough to have him finish 3rd overall in the NL Cy Young voting, behind two of the game’s best in Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer.
In 2019, Aaron Nola has been... not that. His 4.55 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, and alarming 3.7 BB/9 have many surmising that 2018 was a simple fluke for the young right-hander — not ideal.
Whether you blame it on fastball command, arm slot, cold conditions, or any underlying injury in the books — there is no denying that Nola has seen the worst of it in 2019.
However, while his struggles have been plentiful thus far, Nola turned in an absolutely brilliant start against the Marlins last Friday, tossing 8 innings of 1-earned-run ball, and striking out 10, while walking 1 (!) batter. Regardless of the opponent, that kind of work from Aaron is EXACTLY what we want to see.
Having a guy on the mound that you, as a player, know is going to give you the best chance to win every game they start, acts as a massive confidence boost. If the ‘Geauxt’ can reaffirm any semblance of his prior success, we could be looking at a pitcher that provides just that.
An Interesting Trade Deadline to Come:
As the July deadline creeps closer and closer, there is only one thing to be certain of:
The Phillies, in some capacity, will be buyers.
The only question is; to what degree will they buy?
Will they push all of their chips to the middle, and buy high on a controllable, break-out guy like Mike Minor?
Will they exercise their tendency to spend and take on the contract of a guy like Zack Greinke?
Will they go bargain hunting and look for niche upgrades, as they did with Jay Bruce?
Or, will they take the road less traveled, and hybridize their deadline to ship some of their own pieces, like Jake Arrieta, Cesar Hernandez, or even Hector Neris, while simultaneously filling out the holes in their roster.
I suppose we won’t know until we get there, but it certainly will be interesting to see what Matt Klentak, who is known for his trade savvy, will come up with.
A Blessing in Disguise:
The Philadelphia Phillies, while dramatically improved, were far from expecting to contend for a World Series title 2019. The goal was, and always has been, to compete for a title by the year 2020.
Heading into the 2019 season, however, Matt Klentak placed his faith in the Phillies’ in-house options, perhaps, in hindsight, a bit too much:
SEVEN simultaneous relief injuries.— Alex Carr (@AlexCarrMLB) June 24, 2019
Altherr DFA’d. Williams demoted. Quinn injured. Herrera suspended. McCutchen shut down.
Pivetta’s struggles. Irvin’s lack of transition. Eickhoff’s injuries. Velasquez shifted to the ‘pen.
Everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong.
None of this was to be expected.
The fact of the matter is; this roster HAD depth. Whether that depth was proven or not seemed unimportant — but those who were then unproven are beyond proven now, for better or for worse.
Klentak has undoubtably learned from this mistake, and will surely not allow history to repeat itself in 2020.
So, perhaps this minor collapse is a sign for the front office to not go stir crazy and shell out the entirety of the farm system this coming deadline.
Instead, it could very well be time to prime ourselves for another big offseason, in which the pitching class runs deep — with names like Gerrit Cole, Madison Bumgarner, Alex Wood, Cole Hamels, and many more making their way into Free Agency.
After all, with promising talent in Alec Bohm, Spencer Howard, and many, many others making their way down the pipe, perhaps purchasing upgrades in Free Agency is the best option at this juncture, instead of wrapping up all of your plus talent up with a bow and shipping it off for an overpriced rental.
If the Phillies were to ship off less-impressive or sell-high pieces like the aforementioned Arrieta, Hernandez, Neris, or even Maikel Franco, Jay Bruce, or Jose Alvarez at the deadline this year, all while retooling with buy-low candidates to keep the team competitive, the Phillies would be in a MUCH better position to revamp the roster in 2020, and, hopefully, achieve their ultimate goal.
Regardless of what you think of the current iteration of this team, the fact remains that this group of guys are a ton of fun to watch.
Even throughout this pathetic stretch of theirs, when the team clicks, all else fades away.
These boys are young, they’re hungry, and they won’t go down without a fight.
In the words of Rocky Balboa;
“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much can you take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”