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Bi-Weekly Report Card: The Bench is Rounding into Form

The Phillies are a season-high, 14 games over .500 after a dominate series over the St. Louis Cardinals.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies are starting to get hot at the right time in August, which has offered a completely different idea of what this team was going to be.

Through the first four months of the season, the Phillies ranked 21 in home runs with 113, only just one better than the Milwaukee Brewers. They ranked 17 in runs with 474, five less than the San Francisco Giants.

This included a Bryce Harper with very little power, Trea Turner having a disastrous start to his Phillies tenure, and a disappointing Kyle Schwarber.

All three went on hot streaks this month and helped the Phillies set a franchise record for home runs for a month with 49 (so far) along with 150 runs, only second to the Atlanta Braves.

They have a 14-9 record this month despite multiple tough one-run losses to teams like the Nationals (twice), Marlins, and Blue Jays, the type of games this team needed to win to stay afloat the prior months.

September is close, meaning we are only about a month away from postseason baseball.

As always, I’ll be back in two weeks.

The Bench is Becoming a Real Weapon

The Phillies went into this season relying on their stars to carry the weight. It’s why they traded key bench contributors like Matt Vierling and Nick Maton in the off-season.

While it was true at the time that those guys weren’t going to be as important, it is also true that this team struggled to find players to replace them.

They didn’t sure up the lineup with a bat like Teoscar Hernández at the trade deadline, who has a 1.050 OPS for a red-hot Seattle Mariners team. But that also would’ve sacrificed Bryce Harper a little who had been the DH seven times out of his last eight games.

They also found some bench options that have given the offense a spark Hernández could’ve provided. These guys just happened to be in the organization right now.

Edmundo Sosa found himself in an everyday role when Rhys Hoskins and Darick Hall hit the injured list to begin the season. Alec Bohm was forced to play a ton of first base and Sosa could not handle the larger task of being an everyday player.

From May 1 to the end of June, Sosa put up a .523 OPS in 114 plate appearances, 73 of which came from right-handed pitching.

He hit right-handed pitching better during this stretch but it still didn’t make sense for him. He worked just one walk in that span and wasn’t slugging enough to make up for it.

So in July, the Phillies began cutting down how much he would face right-handed pitching, giving him a role that was similar to last year when he was acquired at the trade deadline.

Since July 1, he has an OPS of .968 in 63 plate appearances. Against left-handed pitching specifically, he hit .379 with a 1.127 OPS.

His platoon partner in crime is Jake Cave, who has handled first base fairly well for someone with no experience until July. He’s also offered the team a real offensive boost with a strong August.

In 54 plate appearances, 46 of which have come against right-handed pitching, Cave is slugging over .550 with a .866 OPS. He has crushed the four-seam fastball in this span with a .722 slugging percentage.

They have found a real platoon option on the infield but they also need someone to pair with Brandon Marsh, who mashed righties along with playing a very good center field.

Johan Rojas has shown some promise as a player since being called up from AA with some of the best defense in the sport plus game-changing speed whenever he gets on base.

With Marsh back, Rojas won’t get too many chances against right-handed pitching, which he hit .300 off of with four walks in 57 plate appearances but he will face lefties. His OPS is nearly identical against both but he’s hitting for a higher batting average against southpaws at .324.

There are still some questions about how sustainable his numbers actually are with a .426 BABIP but he should still earn a roster spot in October with the speed and defense.

If they want more of a left-handed masher, Cristian Pache should hopefully be back at some point.

His rehab has been paused because of knee swelling but there should still be plenty of time for him to return to the field (theoretically). In 38 plate appearances, Pache has a 1.135 OPS against left-handed pitching.

He also brings the same game-changing defense with two outs above average in very limited action. His seven in 2022 in 646.1 innings offers a much better description of how good his defense is.

The Phillies now have some bench answers as September rolls around. They will need some of these guys to play and not be complete black holes in the lineup going forward.