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This Week in Phillies

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First impressions are everything

MLB: New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies
Ave Imperator, morituri te salutant
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Today is the one-week mark of the season, and an off day to boot, so let’s take a drone’s eye view of the Phillies first week.

The Bad:

  • The offense is off to a bit of a slow start. They’ve been working counts and getting on base, but the power numbers aren’t there yet; coming into last night’s game they had a total of two home runs. That’s worked out to 4.3 runs per game, which is in the lower half of the league, which isn’t where you’d expect to find a lineup with this kind of talent. That said, however, it’s early in the season, they’ve faced the number one through three starters of two different teams projected to be quite good, and those stats will normalize. Cincinnati, for example, is unlikely to keep up their 9.5 run per game pace. The muted offense is unfortunate, but likely short lived.
  • Vince Velasquez. He is what we thought he is, except his stuff didn’t seem to play up in relief. If history is prologue, expect more outings oscillating through the outcomes of “Yikes, that’s bad”, to “Okay, not great but mostly effective”, to “Wow, that’s pretty darn good.”
  • Roman Quinn. Though I’ve not personally played competitive baseball in a number of years, striking out in more than half of your at bats is, I think, not ideal.
  • Brandon Nimmo. I had to watch this damn weasel sprint all-out to first base on numerous walks as if the baseline was lined with a series pressure mines. I hope the chip on his debit card stops working and his cat urinates on his bathmat.
  • Aaron Nola. This is admittedly a bit of a stretch, but yesterday’s start, though limiting the Mets to one run, required 92 pitches to get through only 4 innings. Very unlike Nola, who is typically quite efficient on the mound. It’s only one start, and it’s against what looks to be a very good offense, so I’m not going to get my knickers in too much of a twist over it.
  • Covidball. This is a predictive concern. In a season where schedules and momentum and roster health and player rest may potentially be thrown into complete disarray at a moment’s notice, I fear for the Phillies’ resiliency in this regard. The Yankees have exceeded the 85% threshold for player vaccinations in order to loosen COVID restrictions, as have the Cardinals. This also gives those teams an advantage against teams not in their player health position as more infectious variants of the virus spread across the country. As a tangential example, the Vancouver Canucks just lost 25 members of the organization to an outbreak of a more contagious variant. So, although I don’t know the specifics of how players like Bryce Harper and Sam Coonrod feel about the vaccine, I’ve seen enough Josh Allen, Trevor Bauer-like responses to feel concerned about the Phillies who seem to ideologically align with those types of players. Phillies, get vaccinated so you don’t contract a nasty virus and have to sit out part of the season, please.
  • That damn day between the home opener and the rest of the series. MLB needs to stop with that silly tease of an off-day, especially in the covid era. Yes, I get it, it’s a nice day to make up a rainout or what have you. On the other hand, we’ve waited 6 months for baseball and you decide to give us one little game, to whet the appetite, before making everyone wait another day before the games begin in earnest, while burning a potential off day later in the season when it’s actually needed for player health. Stop that. Jeez.

The Neutral:

  • Huh? We’re a week into the season in Philadelphia. It’s either all doom and gloom or We’re World Series Bound. There is no grey. Beside, do you really want to warm your heart’s cockles for a potential 85-win, wild-card-play-in-game-bubble team? Nah, forget the middle ground.

The Good:

  • Having a good laugh over old times:
  • The pitching staff. They’ve given up 16 runs over 6 games. 2.67 runs per game. That’s including the bullpen, which was historically awful last season. Though early, the Phillies have a team ERA of 2.62 (4th in baseball), a team WHIP of 1.05 (5th), and an opponents average of .191 (4th). While expected to have an above average offense, if they can continue even a modicum of this pitching performance the results of the first 6 games will not be an aberrance.
  • On base percentage. While the power hasn’t yet come through, and the run scoring is below what we might expect, most players are still getting on base; the team as a whole has a .348 OBP, led by Bryce Harper’s .462 OBP. Gregorius, Realmuto, McCutchen, Hoskins, and Harper are all getting on base at a better than .345 clip. Runs follow baserunners.
  • Connor Brogdon. Through six games in relief he’s on pace for an 81-win season, which is a result I think we’re all rooting for.
  • The Bad Section. Of the six bullet points listed above, one is an opposing player, one is a bench bat/defensive replacement/pinch runner, one is a long reliever, and one is my concern over an entirely preventable public health outbreak which is, to be sure, not at all guaranteed. Four of the six total concerns, therefore, are relatively easily dismissed as non-predictive or irrelevant!
  • S.O.S. No, sorry, not creamed chipped beef on toast, which, eww. Get an omelet or pancake or something. I’m referring to strength of schedule. The Phils are now 5-1 and this has come against two of the teams that ~~ experts ~~ have predicted to finish above them in the standings. They swept the Braves and took two out of three against the Mets, including winning a game in which the Phillies 4th starter faced off against maybe the best pitcher on the planet in Jake DeGrom. Emerging from that stretch 5-1 is my Sean Connery watching the Phillies’ Richard Gere run the gauntlet, understanding that they will soon take my heart (Julia Ormond) and run away with it. Anyway, stretched-to-death-and-only-slightly-relevant-analogies-aside, beating good teams tends to be a good sign.
  • Fangraphs projected standings. They’re not good because they’re good, they’re good because they are goddamn hilarious. One of my Mets fan college buddies sends me this from time to time and it never fails to invoke a chuckle...
Good Luck, says Marco from Tropoja
  • Max Scherzer and the Mets Bullpen. Not to get too scooten-froody, but if integral pieces of one’s main opponents start to spring leaks, that tends to bode well for one’s own prospects. I hope they’re not hurt, just bad now.
  • Roman Quinn’s Roadrunner abilities. After last night he’s stolen 22 straight bases without being caught. That’s some Chase Utley/Jimmy Rollins type baserunning skill, which is to say, elite, and quite fun to watch, even if his offensive abilities pale in comparison to theirs.

Week Overview:

On a scale of Phillies sartorial splendor this week earns a solid Uncle Larry: