The Phillies are a strange team this year. They are 6 games over .500 and only .5 games back of the second wild card however, even with this success no one can really figure out if they are a good team or not. The Phillies were only expected to be a 75 to 80 win team this season but they are currently on pace to win 87 games. The inconsistency of the team is what really makes people wonder if they are actually good or not, they started off June losing 3 straight series since then they have won 4 straight series against very talented teams. The Phillies have been mainly carried by their starting pitching but some games their offense does explode and show some potential to be a powerhouse. The Phillies are still young so the inconsistency is expected just as it was with the Sixers last year but just like the Sixers did the Phillies need to have a strong second half to make a push for playoffs. Here are 5 reasons that they will:
1. Healthy Bullpen
It is no question that the Phillies bullpen struggled in the Month of June, their bullpen ERA was 5.91. This has led to people being skeptical considering the Phillies bullpen was terrible last year. Most of our bullpen pitchers were bouncing back and forth from the DL in June and with the tough schedule the Phillies faced it did not help the pitchers that were arriving back form the DL. In the next week or two the Phillies will be expecting Ramos, Garcia, and Neshek back in the pen. With these guys out and other pitchers like Morgan and Neris struggling a lot of the workload has been put on Seranthony Dominguez which has lead to some fatigue which has been seen in his last couple outings. Before going on the DL Ramos has been having one of the most underrated seasons in baseball posting an ERA of just 1.24 which is lowest in our bullpen. The Phillies signed Neshek to a 2 year deal over the off season which was a smart move considering that Neshek was an All Star for the Phillies last season before being traded away. With the bullpen being at full strength it will most likely be setup as Seranthony as closer, Neshek as the setup man, and the 7th inning being a mix of Hunter, Ramos, and Arano with a mixture of Morgan or Davis for left handers. People bashed on Kapler for saying our bullpen is one of our strengths but it’s the truth, with those names healthy our bullpen is just as good as any other bullpen in the league and in the post season dominant pitching is key.
2. Easy Schedule
The Phillies had the toughest schedule in June, every team they faced was above .500 and all but one team was a playoff team last year. They started off June very weak including a complete beating from the Brewers but you could see the improvement because they have won 4 straight series including one against the first place Brewers and division rival Nationals. However, after July 1st the Phillies enter a stretch where 20 of the 23 games they play are against sub .500 teams including the Marlins, Mets, and the Reds, the 3 worst teams in the NL. Against teams that are sub .500 this season the Phillies are 18-7 so they have taken advantage to the weaker teams they have faced so if they can do the same in July they could possibly even be sitting atop the division by the end of July. If there was a time for the Phillies to take that leap forward and make ground in the standings July will be the easiest opportunity for them
3. Everyday Starters
Although the Phillies don’t have the exact same lineup every night like they did in 2008 they have relatively the same lineup every night. In the beginning of the season the outfield situation was a complete mess, besides Hoskins you didn’t know who the other two outfielders next to him would be each game. You also would not know who would be catching or who would be at third and it felt like Kingery was at a different position every game. This made it impossible for hitters to really put together a hot streak and get comfortable at the plate. However, in the month of June we basically saw Nick Williams take over the right field spot, Kingery take over at shortstop, Franco playing 3rd in about 80-90 percent of games and people still not learning that you don’t run on Jorge Alfaro. Even though none of those players are posting All Star numbers they have been key to the Phillies recent hot streak in their own ways. Whether it is Alfaro’s defense or Kingery and Williams clutch hitting they are all helping in important ways. We expect Hoskins, Santana, and Herrera to hit and carry the team but it’s the other players that the Phillies need to step up. The 2008 Phillies didn’t just win with Rollins, Utley, and Howard they needed the help from Victorino, Werth, etc. We saw Kingery crush the first month of the season and Nick Williams have a strong season last year so with an easy schedule and regular playing time these two players mainly could really help the Phillies make that second half push to play in October.
4. Trade Deadline
It is very rare that a team makes a move at the trade deadline and it makes their team worse. Right now the Phillies don’t have one specific need but they could use little fixes at everything. They could go in the direction and get a 3rd baseman to add defense and a powerful bat in the middle of our lineup, some names being thrown around is Beltre or Moustakas. Manny Machado has also been a name mentioned for shortstop but it seems like the asking price for him is too much to the Phillies when he could be a one year rental. Another need for the Phillies is another starting pitcher. The Phillies starting pitchers have performed very well this season but to take that step forward to a legit contender they need to add a 3rd pitcher that when he goes out you expect a win every time like Nola or Arrieta. Some names been mentioned in this talk are Cole Hamels or JA Happ. The last position they could be looking for is bullpen help, mainly a left hander. If our bullpen is healthy they are pretty lights out but the problem is they’re mainly all right handers, if the Phillies could get a left handed reliever to use mzinly against only lefties then you could be looking at the best bullpen in the MLB for the second half. The Phillies right now are on pace for a high 80s win season but they will probably need at least 90 to make playoffs so adding another piece whether it is an offensive threat, a starting pitcher, a relief pitcher, or even all 3 positions will help the Phillies move up in the standings.
5. Gabe Kapler
It’s funny how Gabe Kapler went from being the worst manager in Phillies history to honestly the key behind the Phillies success. He guaranteed playoffs in the beginning of the year and while most people thought he lost his mind he has owned up to the challenge and has over achieved this season so far. Although some players had problems with him in the beginning of the year you can see that they have adapted to his ways and respect them. Part of this is because no matter how bad of a streak the Phillies got in or their mistakes Gabe Kapler always defended them in interviews and took the blame. Now Kapler’s crazy ways don’t always work and he still questioned but traditional ways don’t always work and considering the Phillies record I would say Kapler’s ways are doing just fine. With success and the big market that the Phillies reside in the players will be critisized over the smallest things and teams will hit struggles and it will be up to Kapler to keep the team rolling and make sure one loss doesn’t turn into a losing streak.
Sophomore at Rowan University. Go Birds and Trust The Process. Twitter: kevin_beal87