Last night, the ghosts of 2020 inhabited the body of Connor Brogdon, one of the brightest young bullpen arms on the ‘21 version of the Phillies, and the results were predictably awful.
Brogdon allowed two separate three-run home runs in the 8th inning and turned a 6-4 Phillies lead into a 10-6 deficit, emphatically ending the right-hander’s scoreless streak at 15 1⁄3 innings. It’s hard to get too made at Brogdon specifically, seeing as how it was the first runs he’d allowed since August 20 of last year, but it was horrific loss nonetheless and at 8-9, the Phils fell under the .500 mark for the first time this year.
There are holes on the team the size of winter-time city potholes. I mean, Andrew Knapp played second base last night. That’s not good.
After a 5-1 start, it’s understandable the fanbase is upset. Good teams should not blow 4-0 leads with their co-ace (Zack Wheeler last night) on the mound, and a team that has spent more than $200 million on their roster shouldn’t have this much difficulty fielding a Major League-caliber center fielder, see their lead-off hitting left fielder struggle to hit his weight, and play with such porous defense that any batted ball causes one to cringe in fear.
Most importantly, a $200 million payroll should hit more.
The bats woke up a bit last night but, heading into Wednesday’s game, were still tied for 10th in the National League in OPS (.687), 10th in slugging (.375) and on-base percentage (.312) and had scored just 64 runs in 17 games for an average of 3.76.
But it’s still the first month of the season and, as everyone who has followed baseball for any length of time knows, April is a bit weird. As The Athletic’s Matt Gelb noted...
Good point from a reader: So many odd offensive trends in first three weeks. Phillies have largest YTY increase in GB%. They have five of the 25 biggest dips in average launch angle. Explains 26th in SLG? https://t.co/aXP4N3up6x pic.twitter.com/p9zZvLI0QM— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) April 20, 2021
Maybe some of those numbers will change. They probably will. But throughout MLB, lots of weird stuff is happening.
Of course everyone expected the Atlanta Braves to be 7-10 despite getting MVP-level play from Ronald Acuna and Freddie Freeman. Of course everyone expected that the only team in the division who would have a positive run differential would be the third-place Miami Marlins (+1). Of course everyone expected the New York Yankees to have the worst record in the American League, tied with the Minnesota Twins (another preseason favorite) at 6-10. Of course everyone predicted the Boston Red Sox to be in first place in the AL East and that Gabe Kapler’s San Francisco Giants would be in second place with an 11-6 record.
Everyone expected that Milwaukee’s Omar Narvaez would be tied with Bryce Harper, Trea Turner and Starling Marte for 5th in the NL in fWAR at this point (0.9); that Tyler Naquin and Ryan McMahon would be tied for 2nd in homers (5 each), that the Dodgers’ top-three RBI men would be Justin Turner, Zach McKinstry!!!, and Corey Seager; that...
Corbin Burnes struck out 10 and walked 0 on Tuesday at the Padres. He's the 1st pitcher since the mound was set at its current distance in 1893 to post 4 straight starts with at least 9 K and 0 BB at any point in the season... and he did it in his first 4 starts of the season! pic.twitter.com/hCV7vzHNE5— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 21, 2021
...that the Bronx Bombers, with Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and the rest of their fearsome lineup, would have combined for 17 home runs so far, with only the Twins and Royals having hit fewer (14 each); that Oakland would start the season 1-7 then go on a 10-game winning streak to share first place with the Seattle Mariners at 11-7.
This is not to say you should ignore the Phillies’ plight. Injuries and COVID-19 absences have begun to wreak havoc on a roster that was not the deepest in the league to begin with, despite it’s $200+ million payroll. Their star players need to play like stars and, to their credit, Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura and Rhys Hoskins, have largely hit as expected thus far. McCutchen and Alec Bohm need to hit, the center field situation needs to be straightened out, the bench needs to come through more often (Brad Miller’s dinger last night notwithstanding), the rotation must gain more depth, and the Phils’ bullpen needs to weather the absences of Archie Bradley and Jose Alvarado better than they did last night.
But it’s important to remember that April is weird, and if you think things are bad in Philadelphia right now, imagine how Braves and Yankees fans are feeling this morning.