Certain pitching performances stand out more than others. Whether that’s because of expectations or dominance, certain moments catch our attention for longer periods.
The 2023 season was fun for many reasons, and the pitching staff was one of them. Here are some of my personal favorite Phillies pitching performances.
It’s easy to go with ten different starting pitching performances and to pick the same handful of names who just pitched the best. This list will feature nine different pitchers.
These “rankings” will be classified by overall dominance like with strikeouts and just the overall vibes each performance gave.
Zack Wheeler will make an appearance later in this read but it’s important to bring up one of his other dominant starts.
Against Cleveland, Wheeler gave them seven strong with eight strikeouts in a 1-0 loss. The only run he allowed was because Bryson Stott, Brandon Marsh, or Nick Castellanos let a pop-up drop.
Devin Williams’s changeup is known as the “Airbender” from the Nickelodeon TV Show “Avatar: The Last Airbender”. If I had to compare Andrew Vasquez’s slider to any iconic kids’ television moment, it would be Squidward’s dance from the Spongebob episode “Culture Shock”.
He’s just as wiggly and weird and it feels like a pitch that was developed around the same time.
This Oakland series was frustrating with the Phillies’ inability to score runs but Andrew Vasquez did his job when called upon.
Michael Lorenzen’s no-hitter would be on anyone else’s list but not for a sicko like me. He was good, he didn’t allow a hit of course. However, it took 124 pitches, only five strikeouts, and four walks.
I have nothing against his outing, just not one of my favorites.
10. Gregory Soto vs NYM on June 23
When Gregory Soto was on, nobody was touching him. The Phillies didn’t always get the consistency out of him but there was electrifying stuff that came off his arm.
Soto strikes out the side in this casual 5-1 victory over the struggling Mets. He got Daniel Vogelbach on a sword and painted two fastballs Tommy Pham and Jeff McNeil.
Gregory Soto, K'ing the Side. pic.twitter.com/J6iboVzWif— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 24, 2023
9. Craig Kimbrel’s Save vs Detroit on June 6
This was probably the height of Kimbrel’s tenure as a Phillie (not the 400th save, come on). We certainly know his lowest points but it’s easy to forget just how good Kimbrel was when he got going.
From May 9 to the end of July, Kimbrel’s ERA was 1.32 with 48 strikeouts in 34 innings.
This Detroit outing was right in the middle of that, he got former Phillie Nick Maton and Akil Baddoo swinging at high four-seams before dotting one to Zack Short for the 12-pitch save.
Craig Kimbrel, Annihilating the Side. pic.twitter.com/fHSEY8PUHH— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 7, 2023
His four-seam fastball just had so much carry when he was ready to go.
8. Ranger Suárez’s Seven Innings vs Chicago on June 27
The month of June was very kind to random great pitching performances.
This outing made people like me feel like Ranger Suárez had taken a real leap. His sinker ran back on right-handers, continued his domination against Dansby Swanson, and had promising cutter results.
Suárez punched out eight with just one walk over seven and a third.
One extra element of this game is that Brandon Marsh had two homers.
Ranger Suarez, 6th, 7th and 8th Ks. pic.twitter.com/BH1EKCMUa7— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 28, 2023
7. Jeff Hoffman’s Two Innings vs San Diego on July 16
Where would the Phillies have been without Jeff Hoffman? This game might be the best example of the value he brought to them that season.
After a six-six tie through ten innings, including a clutch Bryce Harper single off Josh Hader, Hoffman had to give the Phillies two innings with an inherited runner in both.
He didn’t allow a single run, earned or unearned.
The only great hitter he had to deal with was Fernando Tatis Jr, who grounded out to shortstop. However, he still was able to complete two scoreless innings with the ghost runner rule.
The only reason he had to do that was because the Phillies offense went cold.
6. Orion Kerkering’s Major League Debut vs the New York Mets on September 24
Orion Kerkering had an exciting 2023 season (and probably an expensive one with how many apartments he had to rent out).
He started in A ball for nine games, then A+ for 18, settled in AA for 21, and even a game in AAA before making the Majors.
His devastating sweeper was on display against Brett Baty and Rafael Ortega. With strikeouts both swinging and a sword.
The pitch is something left-handed hitters won’t see well for a long time.
Orion Kerkering's Ridiculous Stuff.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 25, 2023
"Orion is not just a star, he's a whole constellation." ⭐️ pic.twitter.com/uUpKSXmCMa
5. That same September 24 game but Cristopher Sánchez’s 10 Strikeouts
It wasn’t a great day to be a Mets hitter with the promising arms the Phillies displayed.
Cristopher Sánchez was one of the great stories of the Phillies 2023 season after the Phillies needed some stability from the fifth starter spot.
He did more than that and even started a playoff game for them in the NLCS. This was probably the outing that made the team consider him for that chance.
His changeup was unhittable for the Mets, especially for Pete Alonso, who struck out three times that Sunday.
Cristopher Sanchez's 10 Strikeouts by Changeups. pic.twitter.com/j7zz0tPiRW— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 25, 2023
4. Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola’s August weekend vs St. Louis
Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola had difficult regular seasons in their ways. For Wheeler, he didn’t always get the proper defense behind him which led to an inflated ERA.
So against St. Louis on a Saturday night, he simply did it himself with ten strikeouts across seven innings and only 80 pitches.
The Cardinals could barely touch his fastball with 12 swings and misses. Followed by Wheeler’s uptick in curveball usage for this game, generating eight whiffs on ten swings.
He only threw 80 pitches because the Phillies took a 12-1 lead. If the game was close at all, we are probably talking about a complete game.
Zack Wheeler's 6Ks thru 3. pic.twitter.com/u8einqlXVL— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 27, 2023
Aaron Nola’s struggles are much easier to describe with a 4.49 ERA heading into this start. He just wasn’t able to find consistency this year.
This start was different, however. After a double and a walk to begin the first, Nola settled down and didn’t give up a single hit or walk from there through seven innings.
He struck out nine but mostly through tendency breakers. He caught multiple Cardinal hitters with fastballs after they were clearly sitting his curveball with two strikes.
Aaron Nola, K'ing the Side. pic.twitter.com/72gDI4Il3j— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 27, 2023
3. Aaron Nola’s July 4 duel against Zach Eflin and Tampa Bay
Against the second-best offense in baseball this past season, Aaron Nola showed off his best stuff.
In a unique situation against his best friend, Nola shoved for 12 strikeouts across 7.1 innings and carried the Phillies to a 3-1 win.
This time it was the classic curveball and perfect fastball command that gave the Rays problems. Of his 104 pitches, 91 of them were either his curveball, four-seam fastball, or his two-seamer.
It wasn’t Nola’s best season but he mostly brought out his best when they needed it and got a very deserving extension in November.
2. José Alvarado’s Sixth Inning vs the Yankees on April 4
This was the most dominant inning by a Philadelphia Phillie this year.
In just twelve pitches, José Alvarado struck out Anthony Volpe, DJ LeMahieu, and Aaron Judge, and all from down and in cutters.
He generated six whiffs on seven swings and topped out at 100.5 mph. He had some problems staying healthy this year but was as good as any pitcher in the sport when healthy.
In-case you don’t remember a sixth inning from April, here is a cutup of this twelve pitch outing:
1: Zack Wheeler’s Eight Shutout Inning Against Atlanta on May 27
Zack Wheeler took on one of the greatest offenses in baseball history and shut them down for eight innings.
With just three hits allowed, none coming from the bottom five hitters of the Braves lineup, Wheeler carried a sub .500 Phillies club to win in Atlanta.
Those eight innings were dominated by mostly four-seam fastballs and sinkers, with 13 swings and misses coming from said four-seamer.
He balanced some of that with his curveball, sweeper, and cutter but of his 106 pitches, 72 of them were either four-seams or sinkers.
Zack Wheeler's 11th and 12th Ks pic.twitter.com/NAn9OMgHEk— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 27, 2023
Based on the opponent, innings, strikeouts, this was probably the best Phillies outing of 2023 and certainly my personal favorite.