As the Phillies fell from 11 games over .500 in mid-May and tumbled out of first place into third, pitching was, of course, a major issue. But a big problem that ate at Phils fans just as much for most of the first two-thirds of the season was the flailing offense.
Sure, they lost Andrew McCutchen at the start of the slide with an ACL tear, but the rest of the offense was still in place. Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto struggled to find their power strokes for most of the summer, Jean Segura, Rhys Hoskins and Cesar Hernandez went ice cold for a time, and Jay Bruce, despite a hot start, got hurt and stopped producing. Scott Kingery has really been the only regular not to hit a massive slump, although he too has had his down spots.
But as the Phillies took two of three games from the Mets in New York this weekend, the offense stepped up, continuing a recent trend.
From the start of the season through July 31, the Phillies offense had scored the 8th-most runs in the National League, were 10th in OPS (.741) and 12th in home runs. Since August 1, however, they are 3rd in runs scored (only the Nationals and Dodgers have scored more), are 5th in OPS (.788) and 9th in homers. Their .260 batting average is tied for 5th, compared to their .245 batting average through July, which ranked 11th.
The improvement has been led by the Phillies’ two biggest off-season acquisitions, Harper and Realmuto.
The Phils’ catcher had an OPS of .765 through July 31, but since the calendar flipped to August it is 1.025. His wRC+ has also jumped, from 95 to 152. Harper’s OPS before August was .840, but since then has an OPS of .970. His wRC+ through July 31 was 116 compared to 144 over the last five weeks. When you add in Dickerson’s contributions since being acquired at the trade deadline (.842 OPS, 111 wRC+), you suddenly have three hitters performing at a very high level.
It seems hard to believe, but the Phillies have more everyday players with an OPS over .800 in their lineups than the Braves or Nationals do.
Phillies OPS Leaders
The Braves and Nationals each have four: Freddie Freeman (.961), Josh Donaldson (.926), Ronald Acuna Jr. (.873) and Ozzie Albies (.838) for Atlanta and Anthony Rendon (1.047), Juan Soto (.986), Trea Turner (.838) and Adam Eaton (.814) for Washington.
However, three of the Braves’ hitters — Freeman, Donaldson and Acuna — have an OPS higher than Harper’s team-high .870, and the Nats have two, Rendon and Soto. Four of those five players are legitimate MVP candidates.
Nevertheless, as the Phillies try to do what most deem impossible and go on a late-season run, with 17 of their last 20 games against teams with winning records, they do so hoping that offense is no longer a big problem. Just this week they came back from deficits of 5-1 and 3-1 late against the Reds (only to lose those two games late), scored two in the 9th to tie Friday’s game against the Mets at 4 (another loss) and came back from 3-0 against Noah Syndergaard on Sunday.
The offense isn’t going to be awesome every night, but since the start of August, it’s been far more consistent and among the most productive in the NL. If the pitching can be just a little bit better over the last three weeks of the season, the Phillies may just have a chance.
On Episode 317 of Hittin’ Season, Justin Klugh, Liz Roscher and I discussed the improvement of the offense over the last five weeks, the series against the Mets, and the future of Gabe Kapler after another series of controversial moves this week.