The 2022 Philadelphia Phillies had quite an impressive run. They squeaked into the playoffs as the sixth seed in the National League and ended their postseason just two wins short of the World Series. This group of Phillies rallied into possibly one of the best stories of the 2022 season, returning to the World Series for the first time in 13 years. On the backs of stellar performances from All-Stars Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto, the lineup was dominant from top to bottom.
Heading into this season Phillies fans expected their team to be serious contenders. However, 44 games into the season, the Phils are four games below .500, sitting fourth in the National League East. Friday, the Phillies suffered a 13-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs at home, putting them at 20-24. Not to mention sitting tenth in the National League and two and a half games behind Miami for the last wild card spot. Although schedule changes will see the Phillies have fewer games against the rebuilding Washington Nationals, making a playoff berth harder than last season. This season was supposed to be a step forward, but has been a step back, and here is why.
2022 Phillies vs. 2023 Phillies
A Miracle Run
At the end of last season, the Phillies were in a tight race with the Milwaukee Brewers for the final wild-card spot. With four days left in the schedule, Milwaukee and Philly stood just one game apart. It was not until October 3rd that Philadelphia clinched their first playoff spot in eleven seasons.
Another benefit is the inclusion of the DH in the National League. Which allowed an injured player like Harper to play. What made their run so unlikely was the threat of marginally squeaking in.
The Former Washington Nationals
Harper spent most of the off-season recovering from Tommy John surgery. A procedure that takes a pitcher a calendar year to recover saw the former MVP playing just six months after the surgery. Since returning to the Phillies lineup, he has been nothing short of excellent. in 14 games he has hit .309/.377/.491 with two home runs and five RBI. Unfortunately for the Phillies, they did not have much of a pan to replace him for the month he was out.
Trea Turner coming to the Phillies in the offseason seemed like a perfect fit. He addressed an offensive need at shortstop while giving them a good player who is not going anywhere. However, Turner has struggled offensively since his move to Philadelphia. After 44 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2022, he was hitting .289, but in 2023 after 44 games he is hitting .257. That is the worst offensive stretch of his career. In the World Baseball Classic for Team USA, Turner hit five home runs in six games. However, in 44 games for Philadelphia, he only has hit four home runs. While he may not be off to a great start, the all-star can turn things around.
Rhys Hoskins Injury
Possibly the biggest difference between the 2022 and 2023 seasons for the Phillies has been the absence of Rhys Hoskins. After a stellar 2022 season, Rhys suffered an ACL tear in Spring Training this March. He has not played for the Phillies, which has seen the team’s offensive production decline. As various players have played 1st base in Philadelphia, there have been plans to transition Bryce Harper there in the interim. As Hoskins is a free agent in the offseason, he may have played his last game with the Phillies.
Another significant change for the 2023 Phillies has been their starting pitching. In 2022, the Phils had six different starting pitchers, Aaron Nola, Kyle Gibson, Ranger Suarez, Zack Wheeler, Bailey Falter, and Zach Eflin. Of those six pitchers, four had an ERA below 4.00. However, this season, only one Phillies starting pitcher is below that 4.00 threshold (Matt Strahm). Nola pitched 205 innings with a 3.25 ERA. In 55 and 2/3 innings, his ERA has ballooned to 4.53. Zack Wheeler had an ERA of 2.82 last year, but in 51 innings this season, it is at 4.06. Starting pitching has been something that needs to improve if the Phillies go back to the postseason.
During the offseason, the bullpen was seen as an area of improvement for Philadelphia. After years of lacking an effective closer, they signed Craig Kimbrel to close out games. This season in 16 innings pitched, Kimbrel has a 6.19 ERA. In 10 save opportunities, Kimbrel has just four saves to show for it. As that has not worked out, the new closer of the Phillies has been Jose Alvarado. In 14 games, he has five saves with a 0.63 ERA, but he’s now on the IL. Connor Brogdon is the only healthy member in the Phillies bullpen with an ERA under 3.00. The pitching staff has a collective ERA of 4.68, the 12th best in the National League.
Positive Things to Look For
Ultimately this season is not all bad. The Phillies have the same record through 44 games as last year (20-24). At the plate, Nick Castellanos, Bryson Stott and Realmuto have shown improvements. However, Harper is back in the lineup and hitting over .300. Turner has gotten at least one hit in thirteen of his last fifteen games. There is still plenty of time for the Phillies to rally and return to the postseason. They just need to string off series wins. Baseball is a game of momentum, and right now the Phillies need a moment that will turn the season around.
Photo Credit: © John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports
Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Trea Turner, Rhys Hoskins, Aaron Nola, Kyle Gibson, Ranger Suarez, Zack Wheeler, Bailey Falter, Zach Eflin, Matt Strahm, Zack Wheeler, Craig Kimbrel, Jose Alvarado, Connor Brogdon, Nick Castellanos, Bryson Stott