When evaluating a business, it is always beneficial to take a step back and conduct a SWOT analysis of the organization. While in this current funk I think a good exercise for come to a rational conclusion of the club is to conduct a SWOT of the current team
a. Hitting – Despite the struggles (scored 2 or fewer in 12 games) this is still a potent offense. Even with the slumps of Hoskins, Schwarber, and Castellanos, the team is still in the top half of MLB in every offensive category. They should be better than that. The xSLG is consistently under the results for most of the sluggers like
i. JT (.403 xSLG vs .367),
ii. Schwarber (.506 xSLG vs .410)
iii. Casellanos (.502 xSLG vs .440),
iv. Harper (.646 xSLG vs .584),
v. Hoskins (.452 xSLG vs .405),
vi. Bohm (.501 xSLG vs .368), and
vii. Segura (.438 xSLG vs .407).
They should be a top 5 offensive team and they need to be. At the end of the season, they still could be.
b. Starting Pitching – even with the kids glove in April, they phillies have 20 quality starts, good for 4th in MLB. They have gotten 267 innings from their starters and their starters have struck out 270 batters all top 5 in MLB. And as with the previous 3 years the pitching staff as a whole is minimizing hard contact as they allow for on 7.3% of barreled balls, 36.8% hard hit rate and an avg exit velo of only 88mph. Best in baseball in all measures. In addition, their xBA and xSlug is also among the best in baseball at .242 and .410
a. Defense – We knew going into the season that the defense was going to be an issue. The phillies FIP is a 3.69. Minus Ranger every starter has a sub 3.50 FIP and to date the phillies have given up 25 unearned runs. That is something that was designed into the team. I think it will marginally get better as the season goes along. Harper is a better defender than Castellanos. Getting him back into RF will improve the defense and using the DH to rotate Schwarber, Castellanos, Harper, Hoskins, and Bohm should improve areas on a day of need (ex Efflin is pitching and need better IF D vs OF).
b. Bullpen – the bullpen was revamped for high velocity and swing and miss stuff. Brogdon, Alverado, Norwood, Bellatti and Dominguez all have k/9 over 10 (Jones and Hand just miss with 9.6). However, with high velocity often comes poor command. Pitchers with high k/9 and low bb/9 are often highly paid relievers. So this is the tradeoff. Couple this with a poor defense and it is a recipe for disaster. When a poor defense doesn’t make a play the pitcher needs to make more pitches. When a pitcher with poor command makes more pitches, there is an increased risk for a mistake. So the question then is do you look to acquire guys with better command and less swing and miss stuff (thus relying on the D) or do you go with what you have and hope they K more guys and walk a bit less?
a. Schedule – The phillies have one of the easier schedules moving forward. Yes, to be successful you need to beat the likes of the Mets, Brewers, Padres, and Giants (5-15 vs those opponents) but it is also true that winning cures what ails a team. Win a few games 11-5 even its vs the Nationals would make the hitters feel much more confident than an 0-4 day even it is vs Max or Darvish.
b. 112 Games – There is a lot of baseball left. Memorial Day is a benchmark to evaluate where the team is at and where they are going. The next date will be the All Star break, then the trade deadline. The team you start a season with is never the team you end the year with. This is a time to take inventory and evaluate what areas may need to be addressed.
c. Competition – Mets, Brewers, and Dodgers are leading the division. Padres, Cards and Giants lead the wild card. The D-Backs, Braves, Rockies, and Pirates are in front of the phillies. IF the West is truly that good than the Dodgers, Padres, Giants, D-Backs and Rockies will all beat up on each other seeing that teams play 17 games in their own divisions. Meanwhile the phillies SHOULD feast on playing lesser teams like the Nats and hopefully the Marlins. This could enable the phillies to surpass the pretenders in the pirates, Rockies and d-backs, hopefully eliminate the Giants or the Padres and leave 3 spots for potentially 4 teams in the Cards, Brewers, Braves and Phillies.
a. The Phillies – the biggest threat to the phillies is simply the phillies. The lose games more often than the other team wins a game. If the Phillies did what they need to do, make the routine plays, move runners along, make the proper play, tack on runs, provide a quality at bat, and close out games they would easily flip their record. They just need to get out of their own way and play to their capabilities.
b. Competition – Mets, Brewers, and Dodgers are leading the division. Padres, Cards and Giants lead the wild card. The D-Backs, Braves, Rockies, and Pirates are in front of the phillies. Those teams are going to look to improve their teams just as the phillies are. Those teams also have deeper farm systems. In particular, if the d-backs stay in the WC hunt they could make some big moves, the pirates have an equally deep farm system. If they don’t start falling back to the bottom of the NL they could make things very difficult in the WC race.
Overall the strengths and weakness of the team are exactly what we anticipated it would be at the start of spring training. The numbers also show that they should be much better than they currently are. The Phillies are also in a spot in their schedule where they can feast on some poor pitching and get back to a top 5 offense. That does not fix any of the weaknesses though. They still have a poor defense and a volatile bullpen which is hopefully addressed in some way. They have a number of teams they need to leapfrog in order to be in the postseason race and they need to get out of their own way.