In This Unpredictable Season, Phillies Look Like a Playoff Contender

by Marc Narducci | Aug 19, 2020
In This Unpredictable Season, Phillies Look Like a Playoff Contender
With a 60-game schedule, this was always going to be a Major League Baseball Season of uncertainty. Throw in the fact that several teams, including the Phillies, have had games postponed due to COVID-19, and it just adds to the unpredictability.
Nobody knows if every team will be able to play 60 games, especially the St. Louis Cardinals, who went from July 30 through Aug. 14 without playing a game due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
Adding to the uncertainty and unpredictability of this season, is the expanded playoff rule. A total of eight teams in each league will make the playoffs. All three division winners and each second place team will automatically qualify. The teams with the next two best records after that will also earn a postseason berth.
That means eight opening round playoff series across both leagues, and each will be a best of three series. 
That means that the majority of MLB teams should be in the playoff hunt until the end of the season.
That certainly includes the Phillies.
When the Phillies dropped three games to the lowly (but energetic) Baltimore Orioles, it looked like it would be a long two-month season. 
That dropped the Phillies record to 5-9, which in most seasons wouldn’t be a cause for alarm, but in this year that is 23.3 percent of the abbreviated 60-game schedule. 
There were already people counting the Phillies out, but then they swept the New York Mets, improved to 8-9 and got right back into the race. 
 With the bullpen having plenty of hiccups, one thing that should make Phillies fans optimistic is the front end of the starting rotation.
Aaron Nola is 2-1 with a 2.05 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings. Zach Wheeler, signed in the offseason as a free agent improved to 3-0 with a 2.81 ERA after beating his former New York Mets teammates, 6-2 on Sunday. 
After a 5-2 loss in the Phillies opener against the Miami Marlins, Nola has reverted to his 2018 all-star form. In his next three starts, he was 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA. Nola had 30 strikeouts compared to thee walks in 21 innings.
Bryce Harper, in the second year of a 13-season contact, has been on fire from the start. He began the week hitting .365 with a 1.165 OPS, four home runs and 12 RBI.
Catcher J.T. Realmuto continues to help his free agent bid by hitting .300 with eight home runs and 20 RBI.
While teams aren’t likely to spend nearly as much in the past for free agents this offseason due to the pandemic, Realmuto, 29, looks to still command a big salary. He’s the best catcher in baseball (offensively and defensively) and is able to play first base and be a DH. 
One has to think that the Phillies won’t allow him to walk, but for now, the fans are enjoying seeing his daily brilliance. 
The bullpen must improve, but the Phillies should certainly be a playoff contender.

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This is a crazy season. One three-game sweep can have a team back in the playoff picture as the Phillies discovered during a crazy week that is all part of this unpredictable season. 

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Author: Marc Narducci


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