Let’s be honest, we knew it was coming…
The Philadelphia Phillies entered the season with expectations of winning less than 80 games. Yet, we’re almost two months into the season, and the Phillies only sit three games behind the first-place New York Mets in the NL East. While that shows how competitive the division has been, it also shows just how well the Phillies have performed. To put their start into perspective, the Phillies only had 19 wins on this very date, one year ago.
A lot of this season’s success can be attributed to the entire starting rotation, a rotation that possesses a team ERA currently ranked sixth in the National League, and ninth overall in all of baseball. The biggest success story from the rotation to this point, has been Vincent Velasquez. After being acquired from Houston in the Ken Giles trade this past December, many figured that Velasquez would spend 2016 with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and have a possible late-season call-up. Yet, he managed to secure the final rotation spot in Spring Training, beating out Adam Morgan. Since then, the kid hasn’t looked back. His greatest outing came back on April 14 against San Diego, where he pitched a complete game, three-hit shutout, while fanning 16. Building off of that, Velasquez has cruised to a 5-1 record with a 2.75 ERA.
Another bright spot for the Phils has been Odubel Herrera. “Bubble” as he is known, has enjoyed a major improvement at the plate in his second year in Philadelphia. In 2015, Herrera owned a .297/.344/.418 triple-slash, to go along with eight home runs and 41 RBIs. We’re only 47 games into the season, and Herrera’s numbers are drastically different. Thus far, he owns a .329/.439/.465 triple-slash, with five home runs and 17 RBIs. The biggest difference right now, comes in the form of walks. In 2015, Herrera drew 28 walks…all year. This season, he’s already drawn 33 walks in nearly half of the at-bats he had last year. Much of his improvement has come in plate discipline, as he’s not swinging at as many pitches, and is working pitch counts. Odubel has established himself as a vital piece to the Phillies lineup, in the leadoff position.
While the Phillies have been able to exceed expectations thus far, the question has always been when will it come to an end? With the way they are pitching, some wondered if they could be a pitching led baseball team. They can be led by their pitching, to a point. However, as the weather begins to heat up, we’ll find out what the Phillies are really made of. Now entering the month of June, I think we can safely say that we’re starting to see what the Phillies are made of. Philly owns a minus-35 run differential, yet they’ve managed to win as many games as they have. It says something about their heart, but it also speaks to how good their pitching has been. Unfortunately, they’re pitching can’t carry them all year, and it’s starting to show.
In their last 12 games, the Phillies are 4-8. They’ve been outscored by their opponents 49-32 over that span, which is simply unacceptable if you wish to win games. The Phillies’ bats just simply haven’t warmed up with the weather, as the team has only twice scored more than three runs over this 12 game stretch. Pitching-wise, the team has started slacking off, compiling a 4.08 team ERA in their last 12 games. The Phillies are starting to show, that they’re not ready to compete with the big boys, quite yet.
Recently, the main topic of discussion on Philadelphia sports radio has been regarding the Phillies stance come July 31. Should they buy or sell? Honestly, I don’t even know why this is a topic for consideration. Philadelphia fans are beginning to take this for granted. The Phillies got off to a hot start, began exceeding expectations, and all the fans did was raise those expectations even further. Fans don’t realize that a rebuild takes time, and you can’t always get caught up in the right here, right now. If you ask me, I say you enjoy the ride while it lasts, because the Phillies are coming back to Earth.