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Bi-Weekly Report Card: Walker + Big Five

The Phillies sit in second place in the NL East and have a three-game lead in the wild-card.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies sit at 65-54 after two tough losses to a decent but not great Minnesota Twins team. According to Baseball Reference, there is no reason to panic since they still have a two and a half lead in the wild-card standings and a 90.4% chance at the postseason.

As always, I’ll be back in two weeks.

Trea Turner Homestand

If you had told me two weeks ago that Trea Turner would begin to show signs of a resurgence, I would’ve made some joke about Nick Castellanos’s August last year (look it up for yourself).

If you had told me two weeks ago that a standing ovation would lead to the resurgence, I would have a thousand other questions. The fans gave him an ovation? Was it half the stadium cheering and the other booing? No?

I talked a lot more about the standing ovation here so I won’t go deeper but all I can say is that it probably worked.

Since the start of the Kansas City Royals series, Turner is hitting .436 with a 1.207 OPS. He hit two key home runs against the Royals and Nationals along with at least one hit in every game.

Eye-test wise he just looks more comfortable, he’s seeing the ball much better out of the hand and catching up to fastballs.

We can also prove this with some numbers, his whiff percentage in the month of August is just 14.5% compared to over 29% for the season.

What stood out the most was this at-bat against Andrés Machado, Machado gave him 97+ with good extension and Turner turned on it to left center.

He’s struggled against fastballs all season but has begun turning it around this month with a .636 slugging percentage against them.

Who knows if this can keep up, it absolutely can but this has just been a tough season for Turner. If he can, he drastically improves the teams’ chances in the postseason.

Taijuan Walker and Starting Rotation

It’s been a weird season for Taijuan Walker. First, there was a disastrous start which included five earned runs against the Mariners and eight against the Dodgers.

Then came the month of June where he was brilliant with a 1.50 ERA and a pair of shutouts against the Tigers and Dodgers.

Now we have the stretch of velocity concerns. His velocity for the season is down about half a mile per hour but it seems a lot bigger from start to start. For the third consecutive start, he came out hovering around the high 80s to low 90s. He got knocked around through five and walked six batters.

This led to Rob Thomson saying they plan to skip Walker’s next start. The benefit of trading for Lorenzen was the ability to make a decision like this, he’s taking Walker’s place instead of calling up Nick Nelson.

The bigger discussion is the rotation itself, which has been an overall strength for this team because of how many trustworthy arms they have. At least in the regular season, you can trust competitive outings from Walker, Ranger Suárez, Cristopher Sánchez, and now Lorenzen.

What gets a little tougher is which of those two will get the chance to start games in the post-season. Zack Wheeler is obviously in the rotation and their best pitcher.

Aaron Nola is having the worst season of his career but leads the team in innings and has an extensive track record that you simply have to trust. Who gets the last two spots?

Suárez and Lorenzen have bullpen experience but also might be the two best starters up there and Walker has the best pitch with his splitter.

Sánchez probably won’t get the nod since he has some home-run issues (although he’s been one of the team’s unsung heroes this season).

Big 5 Coming Around

The rest of the big five started to come around in the month of August. Turner deserved his own section not just for the story but for how he’s performing. However, there is more to the Phillies’ offense recently than the Turner hot streak.

First is Nick Castellanos who nearly changed his entire season outlook because of July. He batted .162 with a .497 OPS. He struck out 35 times in 99 at-bats.

It’s been a weird season for Castellanos, he showed little to no power to begin the season before he saw Kyle Freeland on April 22. May came with just one homer and a .695 OPS.

June is what got him into the All-Star game where he went on a disgusting hot streak, batting over .350 with a .954 OPS.

Now in August, it’s the power surge this team has been looking for. He’s homered six times already to give himself 20 on the season.

Next is Bryce Harper, who’s starting to hit for more power this month. It’s certainly not perfect but he has six doubles this month and a .896 OPS. Those aren’t Bryce Harper caliber numbers but it’s clear progress for this season.

If you thought Castellanos’s season was weird, wait until you hear about JT Realmuto. For whatever reason, he has struggled in CBP this year with a .595 OPS at home. The Bank is typically known as a hitters ballpark compared to the field but Realmuto just couldn’t catch fire.

That changed when the Royals and Nationals came to town, Realmuto missed most of the Marlins series due to a gash in his hand but came back and looked fresh.

Three home runs this month and a 1.030 OPS in eight games is at least a step in the right direction.

Even for someone like me, someone who has always pointed out the good things Schwarber has provided on and off the field for this team.

Whether it’s being one of their only sources of power for most of the season or near single-handedly being the guy that turned the Phillies’ culture around, he deserves more praise than what the Schwarbabies will give him.

However, it’s hard not to look at his .751 OPS and feel great about him but he put together a good homestand.

He walked eight times, hit three homers, and is still carrying an insanely low BABIP.

To win in the postseason they will need at least three of these guys to hit so it’s good to see some of them start to catch fire.

The next series is against the Blue Jays with Wheeler and Nola expected to start both games.