The National League East is a mess this season, and the Philadelphia Phillies bolstered their roster’s fatal flaw this week; they have to make the playoffs.
The Phillies announced on Friday night that they acquired relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree from the Boston Red Sox for Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold. Earlier on Friday they acquired David Hale from the New York Yankees for Addison Russ. These trades give the Phillies some much-needed bullpen aid.
Yes, both Workman and Hembree haven’t been superb, so to speak, this season. That said, they’ve been steady forces in recent memory.
Hembree has shown an ability to log strikeouts at a high rate and has been a reliable back-end reliever. The right-hander heavily relies on his four seamer and slider.
Workman was one of the best relievers in Major League Baseball last season. Recording a 1.88 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP, and 104 strikeouts across 71.2 innings, he established himself as a prominent late-inning reliever. Workman likely becomes Philadelphia’s closer.
Meanwhile, Hale owns a 3.09 ERA and a 3.19 FIP across his last 25 big-league appearances.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it: the Phillies bullpen has been a nightmare. Practically, not hyperbole or metaphorically, every reliever in manager Joe Girardi‘s bullpen has struggled mightily. Jose Alvarez has been the lone bright spot, but he’s now on the injured list. Plus, closer Hector Nerris has blown three saves.
Starting pitching has been better but little more. Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler have been stellar. Aside from the two power right-handers, it’s a mess. Jake Arrieta is struggling to get back on track; Zach Eflin is getting roughed up; Vince Velasquez and Spencer Howard are surrendering baserunners with ease.
Collectively, the Phillies pitching staff is 28th in MLB in ERA (5.61).
Andrew McCutchen is hitting .228; Jean Segura is hitting .219; Rhys Hoskins is hitting .211; Scott Kingery is hitting .115. This group has, once again, been a hit-and-miss offense. It’s simply disguised with three players hitting at a high level and the rest of the pack crawling along.
The Phillies are 9-14. That puts them in last place in the NL East. Four teams in the division are dealing with significant blowbacks. Philadelphia is not one of those teams.
Injuries have seen the Atlanta Braves lose their ace (Mike Soroka), a veteran starter (Cole Hamels), and two of their three best position players (Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies) for extensive time. They also optioned former number one and two starting pitchers Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb. The Braves are 16-11.
The New York Mets are down three starting pitchers due to injuries and players opting out of the season. They also sent struggling starter Steven Matz to the bullpen and had Yoenis Cespedes opt out of play three weeks ago. The Mets are 12-14.
The Miami Marlins, the presumed worst team in the NL East in spring training, had roughly half their roster test positive for COVID-19. How are they doing? They’re 11-10.
The World Series-champion Washington Nationals will be without right-hander Stephen Strasburg and potentially infielder Starlin Castro for the remainder of the regular season due to injuries. They were also without Juan Soto for a week due to COVID-19. The Nationals are a half-game ahead of the Phillies.
The Phillies are one of the healthiest teams in baseball from a COVID-19 and performance standpoint, yet they aren’t taking advantage of their rivals absorbing a hit every week.
This was always going to be a stiff division, and it still is, as the first-place Braves have a five-game lead on the last-place Phillies. Health and depth loom large in this historic time in MLB, which are two factors working in the Phillies’ favor. And again: they’re doing nothing with it.
They’ve been inconsistent, and their shortcomings stem from a lack of execution. From a pure talent standpoint, their offense should matchup with any team in baseball. Their rotation should be in the top-third of the sport. Their bullpen shouldn’t be this inept. Now they’re getting enhancers who could maybe bring that aspect of their ballclub to a respectable level.
Two teams make the playoffs from each division plus the two best records in both the American and National League outside of that parameter. There’s no excuse for the Phillies to not be in the playoffs. They have the talent, continuity, coaching staff, and divisional chaos to get one of those spots.
If they fail to crack the playoffs, little will change. Maybe they let Arrieta walk in free agency and shoot for an ace-caliber arm. Perhaps they beef up their bullpen some more. It’s reasonable to think they’ll get a deal done with Realmuto. At the end of the day, their core is in the big leagues. Girardi won’t get canned given the climate of a 60-game season and 2020 being his first season in Philly.
Opportunity is scarce. The Phillies have to seize the prospect in front of them.