The halfway point in a baseball season is when the team has played 81 games. That’s half of 162, the number of games a team plays. Forever, people used the All-Star game as the way to mark the halves of seasons, so that’s what we’ll use here.
As the Phillies pause and head their separate ways to enjoy a few days of R&R, we can take stock of the team in front of us. How have they done? Breaking them down into separate sections of a team, how have they performed as a whole? Let’s do a brief overview into different sections and assign them a grade for each one.
It’s really hard to judge this offense this year since they’ve rarely been together all that long. Now that Odubel Herrera has been installed as the starting centerfielder, it has only been this week that they’ve really been all together at the same time for an extended period. We’ve seen in Chicago and Boston how well they can perform when they are together - they become quite dangerous. But with as much as the injury bug has bitten this team, it’s hard to think they’ll remain healthy the rest of the way.
Then we have to consider how those who have played and how they have performed on the field. The biggest issue that we have seen with the team is scoring with a lead. It seems that whenever they have a lead in a game, they have gone into a shell and stopped hitting. , Through Saturday’s game, when they’re ahead on a game, as a team, they’re slashing .233/.317/.388, which looks alright until you see that is good for a 90 sOPS+ (how that particular split compares to the rest of the league). This in turn has made it difficult for the team to stay in close games, especially with a bullpen as volatile as the one the Phillies have. This past two series has seen the team add on insurance runs and/or take an early lead, so it could just be that getting the regulars back is the right tonic, but for now, they’ve been slightly disappointing as a whole.
Of those regulars, Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto have been quite good, Jean Segura might be the best hitter on the team right now, Andrew McCutchen and Rhys Hoskins have been streaky (but that’s to be expected), and even Odubel Herrera has been better than expected with the bat. It’s Didi Gregorius and Alec Bohm that have been letdowns, Bohm in particular. He’s picked it up in June and July, but much more was expected of him.
With all of those aforementioned injuries, the bench has had to step up and perform and the Phillies have gotten some nice contributions from role players. Ronald Torreyes doesn’t have an eye popping slash line, but his glove and timely hitting have been the perfect fill-in for Joe Girardi. Nick Maton has performed when called upon, thrusting himself squarely into the plans for the team next year. Luke Williams has given the team maybe its best highlight of the year and even Travis Jankowski (forgetting his one big oopsie) has been hot of late. Collectively, you can make the argument that they have been the MVP of the team this year, keeping them afloat so far this year.
It’s kind of impressive how bad this defense can be. There have been multiple games this year where the defense has been the direct culprit of a loss. The sad thing about it is there is no easy fix outside of removing a key player. Alec Bohm has struggled the most, but the team seems really committed to him (rightfully so) getting his reps in at the major league level this year. He’s not going anywhere any time soon. Other than that, it’s almost as if we have to wait and hope that improvement just comes with health.
Starting pitching: B-
Zack Wheeler has been great. Cy Young worthy in the non-deGrom division. He alone bumps this group up.
The rest of them have been inconsistent at best, bad at worst. Aaron Nola has been so disappointingly inconsistent this year, it’s hard to argue he can be labeled an “ace”. I might be the last man standing on that mountain, but I’m putting my boots on to leave.
Zach Eflin has been average, not taking that step forward we might have been expecting, but he has been consistently average. You can almost set your clock to his going 5-6 innings each start and keeping the team in games.
It’s the 4 and 5 spots that have done damage. The team yanked Spencer Howard around so much that they haven’t gotten anything from him and basically had to wave the white flag on his contributing at the major league level this year and letting him get his innings in the minor leagues.
Relief pitching: D
A D is generous. I’d rather not spend too much time on them. They stink. Get better.
Two things can be true about Joe Girardi. First, he has not been given many good pieces to work with by the front office. David Hale was allowed to make the team. Chase Anderson and Matt Moore were placed in his rotation as players expected to help the team. These are not the kinds of players that can help a team win, so criticizing Girardi for using them doesn’t assign the blame completely correctly.
Yet how often have we seen Girardi this year use his relievers in strange situations? Any time Hale was brought into anything resembling a high leverage situation was a mistake. Neftali Feliz, a pitcher who hadn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2017, was allowed two high leverage situations in his first (and only) two appearances, predictably failing miserably in both. Decisions like that cannot be put on anyone else but Girardi. His love of the double switch can infuriate at times and his failure to utilize the bullpen the correct way have been incredibly frustrating to watch and could have cost this team wins already this year.
The team being at .500 by the All-Star game feels something short of a miracle. Based on what we’ve seen, they have been lucky to be here, yet here they are. Upgrading the bullpen and back end of the rotation could help them make a run, but that would cost prospects, something they may not want to give up. It’ll be interesting to see which direction they head in as July rolls on, but these next few weeks will determine the direction they do end up taking.