Phillies in decent shape at the All-Star Break

by Marc Narducci | Jul 11, 2023
Phillies in decent shape at the All-Star Break
If the Major League Baseball season would have ended on Sunday, the Phillies wouldn’t be in the playoffs. Of course, the Phillies still have 73 games left to play.

They are 48-41 (.538) at the All-Star Break, just a half game behind the San Francisco Giants for the third and final National League wild card spot. Milwaukee is also a half game out of the third wild card spot.

There are essentially five teams competing for those three spots. Assuming that the Atlanta Braves win the NL East, the other teams that will be battling for the spot besides the Phillies and either Brewers or Cincinnati Reds (whichever team doesn’t win the NL Central) are Miami and two of the three that won’t win the NL West among the Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Dodgers and Giants.

Could some longshots like the NY Mets, San Diego Padres and Chicago Cubs make a closing run and contend? Sure, but time is running out.

Even if there are only five wild card contenders the Phillies have their work cut out.

Yet it could be much worse. That’s because their top offensive players haven’t played up to their potential, beginning with $300 million shortstop Trea Turner, who has a highly disappointing slash line of .247/.299/.389. Turner has struck out 95 times in 395 plate appearances. 

Bryce Harper has made a remarkable comeback from Tommy John surgery, but he has lost his power. He has only hit three homeruns in 246 plate appearances and has a .290/.386/.400 line. The .400 slugging percentage is the lowest of his career. (It was .514 last season).

Harper was hit in the elbow by a pitch on Saturday and eventually left the game during a 5-3 loss at Miami. He was too sore to play on Sunday, according to manager Rob Thomson. The Phillies have to hope his elbow is fine when they return to action on Friday at home against the San Diego Padres.

Kyle Schwarber, while providing power with 22 home runs, is hitting .184/.313/.423. Even with all those home runs, his .423 slugging percentage is the second lowest of his career. He has struck out 117 times.

Maybe the whispers about his knee injury are more bothersome than Schwarber is leading on, but he has not made enough contact and his defensive deficiencies have been well documented. According to The Fielding Bible, Schwarber’s -18 defensive runs saved is the worst in MLB for any position. 

Despite Turner, Harper and Schwarber below their expected production, the Phillies are still right in the race.

Plus JT Realmuto (.249/.307/.460) is capable of more. 

The Phillies have received a strong second season from Bryson Stott (.301/.338/.422) and a really solid campaign by Alec Bohm (.280/.328/.426) with a team-high 57 RBI.

Nick Castellanos (.301/.344/.496) has bounced back to earn an All-Star berth. 

What has really helped is the bullpen has been more than solid even though it has to be worrisome that on Sunday, left-hander José Alvardo was placed on the injured list for the second time this year with inflammation in his left elbow.

Craig Kimbrel has overcome a rough start to be among the top relievers in the National League and was named as an All-Star replacement. He has 14 saves and in 37 innings, has recorded 57 strikeouts. 

The starting pitcher has also done a decent job, although Ranger Suarez has had rough outings in his last two starts. 

Zack Wheeler (7-4, 4.05) hasn’t been as dominant as last season, so there is some expectation that he could have a better second half.

After a really rough start, Taijuan Walker (10-3, 4.02) has been the Phillies most consistent starter lately. Even Christopher Sanchez (2.84 ERA in five starts) seems to have plugged a temporary hole as the No. 5 starter.

The biggest head-scratcher is Aaron Nola who followed up a great performance against Tampa Bay when he had 12 strikeouts and allowed one run in 7 1/3 innings, to Sunday’s 7-3 loss to Miami, when he allowed five runs (four earned) in six innings. 

Nola’s ERA is 4.39. He has also allowed 21 home runs. 

So if former All-Stars such as Harper, Turner, Schwarber and Nola play to their expected norm, the Phillies should make a serious run at a second straight playoff berth, although with so many contenders, it likely won’t be easy.

 

 

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Author: Marc Narducci

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