The natural reaction to losses like the ones the Phillies had in Arlington this weekend is to freak out about what occurred. It was ugly, of that there is no doubt. The first games of the series, and of the season, saw one of the team’s aces meltdown like Chernobyl.
The second game....well....the less said, the better.
Since those games just so happened to be the first one the team played in the season following the unlikely run at the World Series, there returned the usual consternation and naysaying so commonly found on Phillies social media, it made you wonder where it had been all this times. There were good vibes around this team since October, ones that haven’t been felt in quite a while, only to seemingly vanish in the four days.
First, let’s revisit the bad.
In the cliff notes version:
- Aaron Nola may have reverted back to pre-late September 2022 Nola in the eyes of many
- The bullpen, thought to be a dominant one, looked anything but
- The offense had its moments on Thursday, then went into witness protection the rest of the weekend
- The new guys outside of Trea Turner were not all that great
- Christian Pache with a bat in his hands? <shudder>
Did I get it all?
Watching Nola crumble yet again on the mound was tough to watch, wilting almost all of the goodwill he had accumulated with his last season performances last year. The overreactions were very real online, bordering on the absurd, but that is what happens when one of the aces of your staff falls apart with all of the eyes on him. When it came to the offense, it started off great on Thursday only to see them disappear when the lead they had built up had vanished. For a team built on its offense, it was both encouraging and discouraging at the same time.
The less said about Pache and his offense right now, the better. Good thing he can field.
These kinds of series happen. Every team in the league will go through stretches of two, three, maybe four games where the competence level looks barely higher than your local T-ball team, yet there isn’t anything to actually hit the panic button about. For as much as we focus on the bad, let’s instead look at some of the good things that we can leave Texas with:
- Trea Turner is the real deal, baby. His hitting ability alone was probably the biggest positive of the whole weekend
- Bailey Falter just continues to defy expectations of a guy who doesn’t have premium stuff
- After his debacle on Opening Day, Gregory Soto looked downright nasty on Sunday night
Turner’s speed on both of his triples looked completely effortless. When he decided to run and turned on the jets, it was a thing of beauty.
Trea Turner triple‼️— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) April 1, 2023
Kyle Schwarber drives him in for a Phillies run
: PHI vs TEX on FOX pic.twitter.com/nZhIINhNr0
This is what the team signed up for when they gave him $300 million over the next eleven years.
On the subject of Falter, I find myself completing a mea culpa. I’ve been skeptical of Falter’s ability to stay as a major league starter due to his arsenal of pitches that don’t exactly jump off of the Baseball Savant page. The fawning over the extension he gets while on the mound sounded more like a novelty than something that could be the root cause of his effectiveness as a pitcher. Yet, since last season, he has been an antidote to a rotation that has needed him more than they probably planned to. Since he was dropped into the starting five on August 20 of last season, Falter has started 10 games (not including the postseason) where he has thrown 50 1⁄3 innings of 3.04 ERA baseball. He’s struck out 20% of the batters he’s faced and walked only 3%. Some of the Statcast can get a little hairy for the squeamish at heart, but for someone billed as a fourth or fifth starter, Falter has been more than adequate.
Gregory Soto was acquired as another Jose Alvarado type: hard throwing left-handed reliever with nary an idea where the pitches were actually going once they left his hand. Thursday, the prophesy came true as he came in without an ERA to put up on the scoreboard and when he left, he still couldn’t put an ERA on the scoreboard. That’s what giving up two walks and two hits without recording an out will do to a guy. Sunday night, he looked much better, much nastier as well. He still was almost 50/50 with strikes and balls that night, but it looked like a much more encouraging outing from the left-hander, one that should instill him and the field staff with more confidence in using him in higher leverage situations.
Anger? Sure, have at it.
Disappointment? I can see that.
Smashing the panic button? I just see no real need to do so. Even if this series in New York goes poorly, there doesn’t seem to be the need to get overly worried just now. There will be plenty of time for that later. Undoubtedly this team will look much worse than they did this weekend later on in the season. The most seasoned of Phillies fan knows that it can get worse. For now, take a step back, let the team figure themselves out and let it work itself out. They’ll be just fine.