At 87-69, the Philadelphia Phillies are getting closer and closer to clinching a second consecutive postseason berth. Their magic number for a postseason berth is down to one and can clinch with a win or a Marlins/Cubs loss on Tuesday.
The questions change for a team like the Phillies. How do they stack up in the postseason?
The first task we will have to do is to figure out how many players this team is going to need. In the wildcard round against the St. Louis Cardinals last year, they used 10 different hitters and six different pitchers for the two-game sweep.
Against the Braves they used ten pitchers and eleven position players
Just like last year, Rob Thomson is running a platoon with Brandon Marsh, using Cristian Pache in the outfield against left-handed pitching.
Their top 10 probably is this (no order):
- Kyle Schwarber
- Trea Turner
- Bryce Harper
- Alec Bohm
- Bryson Stott
- Alec Bohm
- Nick Castellanos
- Brandon Marsh
- Cristian Pache
- Johan Rojas
Their bench is weaker than last year but there is a chance they also use Edmundo Sosa or Jake Cave (I wouldn’t use Jake Cave).
Putting together a pitching staff is always going to be a more challenging question. Two of those are starting pitchers; we know one is Zack Wheeler but should start game two?
My vote is going to be Aaron Nola. While he has struggled all season, he is the most tested of their options and some of his best performances this year have come against top competition.
He took down a great Tampa Bay Rays team for 7.1 innings with 12 strikeouts, likely one of the five best starts a Phillie has had this year. He’s also had two different great outings against the Atlanta Braves.
He has a 3.44 ERA at home this year, likely where the wild card will be, and this would line him up for a potential game 3 in the NLDS (if they get there).
If the series goes to a potential game three, the choice becomes slightly different. Cristopher Sánchez has been one of the most important storylines this season but putting him in a potential win-or-go-home game is tricky. You probably want to wait until the divisional series (if you make it).
He has 141 innings this year between AAA and the majors, over 40 more innings than he’s ever pitched in a single season. The chance of a potential dead arm or fatigue is going to be in play if he gets a start at all but you would at least like to avoid this exact scenario.
There’s a good argument for Taijuan Walker not having a starting spot at all. Since the start of August, Walker has a 5.48 ERA with just 33 strikeouts to 19 walks.
So the probable answer is Ranger Suárez, who hasn’t looked great since coming back but at least manageable. His start against the Pirates on Wednesday might be very important in how much trust you can have (unless it’s another hangover start).
The bullpen has some questions but the top should be trusted. José Alvarado, Craig Kimbrel, and Jeff Hoffman have taken the ball in their biggest spots this month and have looked strong.
Kimbrel has produced the most questions but only has one earned run allowed this month when JT Realmuto called five straight fastballs to a major league hitter.
The fourth guy is a different story, however. The most realistic option is Matt Strahm, who has a 2.14 ERA since the start of August and gives them the option for potential wraparound innings (they might need someone to do this because starters don’t pitch as deep into games).
After that is a wild card of options but all have a high ceiling.
Orion Kerkering looked awesome against the Mets on Sunday which should open the conversation for a potential role. He took down three different left-handed hitters without a problem.
Seranthony Domínguez at least deserves a mention even if he’s had issues all season. While walking a tightrope on Friday night, his slider generated two huge strikeouts to Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso. It was the best the pitch has looked all season.
The issue is that he had no trust in it and threw 25 four-seam fastballs or sinkers in 29 pitches. He needs to throw it more or figure something out down the stretch before the Phillies can trust him.
Gregory Soto has had a disappointing first season with the Phillies but could at least be a potential weapon against left-handed pitching. Lefties are hitting like .130 off him with a .443 OPS.
This is just a general preview of the options this team is going to have in the postseason. If we count every player mentioned, we get 24 players.
In the NLCS last year, a best-of-seven series, they used 24 but used Noah Syndergaard, Kyle Gibson, and Bailey Falter, which shouldn’t be the case this time around.