1. The schedule
Aug: 2@Atl, 4vWas, 3vFlM, 3@NYM, 3@Cin, 3vNYM, 4vCin, 3vPit,3@AzD
Sep: 3@SFG, 3vFlM, 3vWas, 3@FlM, 3@Atl, 2vTBJ, 4vAtl, 3@Cub,
Oct: 3@Was, 3@Hou
a) Aug has six games vs. the Mets and Sep has six games vs. the Braves, we shouldn't want that to be any different. If you want to catch someone, you need to play them because when you win, it counts for two. I still think the Braves will catch the Mets. I'm not dismissing the Phillies chances at surpassing both.
b) In the NL Wild Card hunt: Atl, SD, StL, SFG, AzDB(maybe) and the Phils, we have opportunity to take some advantage from SFG, AZD & Atl. The Giants may be raising the white flag and becoming sellers.
c) The other games (Nats, Fish, Reds, Pirates, BJs here, Cubs) are all very winnable for us. We may get four games vs. the Nats just after they've given up Sosa. Maybe by sweeping the Pirates in their house we've beaten that bugaboo about losing to the weak teams and we can prove that this weekend and next week vs. the Nats & Fish.
d) in that final Astros series - if they have locked the division championship - we may not see their best guys
2 Segura went out with a broken finger on May 31st from a HBP . As of yesterday - Segura is eligible to return and may join the team tomorrow in Atlanta.
from April 1st to May 31st - Segura at 2nd base produced:
PA: 179, OBP: .324, SLG: .407, wRc+104
from June 1st until July 28th - the Phils played Stott mostly at 2nd:
PA: 170, OBP: .306, SLG: .405, wRC+99
Now this looks like Segura returning is no big deal - Stott has been doing as well (in fact Stott has been improving and may be hitting better now than Segura did earlier this season or will returning) but.. Stott can also play shortstop and our shortstop production while Stott has been playing mostly 2nd is mostly Gregorius and that is:
PA: 150, OBP: .247, SLG: 304, wRc+52
basically half of Segura's run creation rate.. Segura has been a good consistent bat in the lineup.. It'll be great to have him back and it will have impact.
3 Stott, Hall & Vierling - the "daycare" has grown up. As mentioned above, Stott in July - played like Segura at second. Hall isn't Harper, and he has slumped recently but what a contribution for that rookie. Vierling has played every position on the field except short, catcher, & pitcher and hit well. Great teams find help from unexpected places and these three young players have been big contributors. In September & October, Stott may be the only starter among these three, perhaps not even Stott, but playoff games are won from the bench too, and even if the daycare becomes the bench, it's a good bench to have.
4 The engine room - Schwarber, Hoskins, Bohm, Realmuto and maybe..
In recent series we've seen what can happen when all of these pistons are firing and it's awesome. June was the month of Schwarber, July the month of Bohm (& Hoskins). Realmuto is warming up and there have been multiple hit games recently from the slumbering, smoldering Castellanos. Schwarber in a slump means he hits like a mortal. We've had engine breakdowns before, but right now, things are humming... Here's to August being the month of Realmuto and September the month of Castellanos & Harper.
5 The Bullpen. Knebel is not 100% reliable, but he is very good, Hand is still Hand - which is also usually great. Dominguez has been terrific. Bellatti, Brogdon, Alvarado, Nelson. I don't have to show their stats. Readers here know they have all exceeded expectations and every bullpen name (save one), has made this pen what it is - one of the best in the game (5th best on the season by Baseball Reference's Position Performance by Wins Above Average). And there are more pitchers to try in the IL return queue and minors in Coonrod, Emmanuel, Jones, & Sherriff. It's nice not to need them, it's great to know they are there.
6 The Rotation It isn't five deep, but Wheeler, Nola, Suarez, & Gibson have been pitching well. If we can keep from exhausting them, Wheeler & Nola are a great one-two playoff punch. BR's Team POsition Performance has the Phillies starters second in the majors behind the Giants (better than LA, Stl, NYM, HOU). And Dombrowski still has about 30 hours to put together the best rotation in baseball (the Giants are selling).
7 Thomson What a difference he has made. I'm not sure that many of his calls are different from what Girardi would have done. He is still cautious to make big changes, but the way he makes them means they are more likely to work. Girardi seemed to have a limited view of his role, but Thomson is the glue that holds this team together (esp. with Harper out). In all of the chaos of slumps and booms and injuries and roster moves and front office moves, Thomson seems to be the calm center that puts a winner on the field so often. He does the little things and suddenly we see the little things (small ball, better defense) happening on the field.
8 Dombrowski... he does it again. The trade that everybody (especially the fans) go "What!?" And then slowly, looking at it, it starts to seem like maybe this has something to it, maybe he picked somebody's pocket here. Sosa could be a difference maker. Romero was not going to be. We thought the Phillies management didn't care about defense, he picks up the guy who is now the best defensive player on the team. We thought the Phillies had among the pitching in the league (surprisingly) but at the trade deadline he's looking for starting pitching. The pitching has been great, but it's the offense that is coming together - and the pitching and defense that needs some help. Is this guy crazy? like a fox maybe.
9 Harper Harper is a difference making baseball player. Do I need to show any stats? Me thinks not. Harper won't be back in August - it'll be some time in September.. But whenever Harper comes back in the lineup it'll be like Gandalf at Helm's Deep. This team can hold us in the race, but for the final push and playoff run, we'll need Harper. When Harper comes back, if Castellanos continues his recovery, by late September the Phillies won't be playing for no wild card.
10 Stealth - nobody in the national sports press is really expecting anything from the Phillies. They aren't writing about our best June and July since forever. They aren't writing about Bohm and our surprising bullpen. The Phillies have lousy defense is a story (it's better now). The Phillies are buried in the more talented NL East. We were the team that stank so much we fired the manager. They have this idea the Phillies were a one player team of Harper and now we are a one player team of Schwarber. Let 'em think that. It seems impossible to continue to win at the pace we did in June and July (34-18 65% !). But we did that against a tougher schedule without Harper and Segura and whoever Dombrowski is going to leave under our tree tomorrow. It's possible. Just take two out of three for every series and if you let one drop - sweep somebody. And if we continue to play at that pace there is time - we'll catch both Atlanta and the Mets.