On April 1st I made a Fan Post - Ten Reasons to optimistic about the Phillies. We need reasons to be optimistic more now that the Phillies have lost some games - so I'm going back to it.
1) Harper. last year Harper had 100 walks. This year more than 10% into the season he has 7. And that's a good thing. Last year teams just walked Harper. This year they have to pitch to him. Last year Harper getting hurt would have been a potentially season-dooming nightmare. This year, because we have the DH, Harper is playing through it and if he needed time, it could be done. Harper is still Harper - maybe not OPS over 1 (yet) but hurt or not he remains the heart of this offense.
2) Castellanos. Schwarber has more homers, Harper more doubles, Hoskins more walks, but Nick is the most consistent, best hitter on this team so far. He has owned the clean up spot. He leads in hits, OBP, SLG and is #2 in almost every other category. And he has shown he can be a passable fielder. He has been a club house leader for the young players. The best offseason acquisition (and Knebel was pretty good).
3) Bohm. His OBP is not quite to it's 2020 stratospheric levels, but his SLG is getting there. The timely hits have been sooo good. And the defense is better: from the worst on the Phillies and the worst 3rd baseman in the league (those dishonors go to Didi and Alcides Escovar) to mercifully mediocre. At this point Bohm is... the Phillies 3rd baseman (and that's something we never had last year).
4) Bullpen. Corey Knebel (.96 ERA, .96 WHIP), Seranthony Dominguez (3.24 ERA, .96 WHIP), Brad Hand (2.08, 1.38), Jeruys Familia (3.52, 1.57), Anthony Bellatti (1.8, 1.0), James Norwood (2.84, .79) and Nick Nelson (3.6, 1.7). Inherited runners are no longer automatic opponent runs. Girardi pulls them and they often get through the inning with little or no damage. Are they among the best bullpens in the MLB? no. Are They much better than we had at any time last year, at least average or somewhat better and good enough to get us to the playoffs? Absolutely.
5) Nola, Wheeler, & Suarez. None were ready for the season to begin. But they've battled to get wins and stretch out. They aren't yet pitching like they can, but they've kept us in games and the offense hasn't always supported them. Things seem like they'll get better for these three and if they do, the Phillies will move back to having one of the best rotations in the league.
6) Gibson and Eflin. Whodathunk Gibson and Eflin would lead the way this year? They have. I'm not sure both are good for the whole season, but I'm glad we have them as our 4th and 5th and not somebody else, because they've been pitching like our 1 & 2 and like the best 4th and 5th guys around.
7) CF options. Quinn came back to steal at will and can be a plus defensive centerfielder. Herrera has hit well since coming off of injury. Moniak was on fire in Spring Training and everyone fell in love with that bat. And Vierling is as fast as Quinn and can hit well too. Are any of them all-stars? No - but we have more options than we've had. For now it's Herrera - but there are three hungry wolves snapping at his heels.
8) Realmuto & Stubbs. We've learned Realmuto does not like to lead off so much. Fine. He's still the best hitting catcher in the game. He's a pretty steady hitter. He is a smart, quick base runner. He's good behind the plate. And.. does anyone on this team work harder than Garrett Stubbs? He works the bullpen, he studies, and when he comes in.. it's like he's possessed by Realmuto. Triples, speed, working the pitchers. He may be the BbCiB.
9) Schwarber & Hoskins, Call them the streak brothers. They dazzle and fizz, dazzle and fizz. But the dazzling part is pretty good. Segura is less streaky but I don't want to leave him out because he has hit well.
10) Girardi - I think Girardi has been great. He extended spring training for a few weeks, but he seems to be settling the lineup down. He has rested starters and responded well to injuries. My worry has been how well he handles the bullpen, but I think he has handled them well so far this year. He has stretched out the starters and he pulls pitchers who get in trouble and seemingly taps the right guy to put the fire out. He has handled the challenges of Stott & Bohm well enough. Stott is now hitting well for the Ironpigs. I know we all complain about the manager, I've been impressed so far.
So it's a reasonable response - if the Phillies are so much better - why are they still at .500? I don't know why the shortened spring training seemed to hit the Phillies harder than other teams. But it did. Individuals (Wheeler, Suarez, Eflin) were late. Some other individuals (Schwarber, Bohm?) are just slow starters or coming off of injury (Herrera). We've had several (not-IL) injuries already to starters (Segura, Gregorius, Harper). The HBP has not been kind to us.
There is no more time for the Phillies to get ready and for me to whine about extended spring training and injuries because the May schedule is so tough.
That's a lot of games against very tough teams. The Rangers have reloaded and just took a series from the Braves. The Mets are consistently winning. The Mariners and Padres are surprising people. The Dodgers are always nasty. The Braves had a cold start like the Phillies, but may be coming around and the Giants - seem like last year's Giants and not the mediocre Giants everyone thinks they should be. We will have games against the Pirates, Reds, & Dbacks If the Phillies finish May at .500 but with more cylinders firing - that will still be okay. - finishing at .500 against this field is not bad.
Why should we be optimistic about the Phillies? The record barely shows it but this team is already shown to be significantly better than last year's team (we have a bullpen that works, a 3B, hitters around Harper) . Last year's team finished out of the playoffs by only a few games. We have have two more ways to make the playoffs this year. I think the division is tougher- I think the Braves will come back and the Mets and Marlins will yet stumble (but not as badly as last year). It will be close - but I like the Phillies chances this year - I think they can still win the division and are pretty good bet for the playoffs.