Entering the month of May, the Phillies carried a 16-13 record after April, which was good enough for first place in the NL East. The last time that the Phillies owned first place in the NL East in May was 2012, but this division has been even tougher than projected. The Mets are currently only a game and a half back, along with the Braves at only two and a half back. Second to last is a solid Nationals team who is four games back. With this being said, there is unfortunately still 133 more games to be played. The reason I say this is because everyone from professional analysts to average fans like myself love to overreact on everything from overall records to individual struggles. So, this is why we should see who is on and who is off in the early section of the schedule.
We will start with four hitter Rhys Hoskins, who has pretty much silently lead the team in homeruns and RBIs. As mentioned in earlier articles, Hoskins had to be the happiest Phillies fan when Harper made the decision, because that would infinitely benefit him. Hoskins could hit over 60 longballs this year, and yet pitchers will still fear Harper’s bat more, because big names and big contracts outweigh big stats. With a .409 OBP, .602 SLG, and 1.011 OPS, Hoskins has dominated at the plate.
Another duo to watch out for is Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez. The two have been rounding out the bottom of the order normal, and honestly why would they not? One reason is because Hernandez has the third best average on the team with .283 and OBP with .344. As for Franco, he owns the second best slugging on the team with .514 and is tied for first with RBIs (25) and is in second with seven homeruns. What is the reason for this absurd production from the bottom third of the order? A lack of respect for talented hitters. These two young studs are still in their prime, but with the powerhouse of names before them, many treat the two like a breath of relief after getting through the first six bats, which has proved rather ineffective.
Now we must of course get to some “nots” or else the title would be misleading, and those of course come from the pitchers. The ace Aaron Nola is of course the first name to be discussed not because his numbers are terrible by any standards(5.06 ERA, 1.607 WHIP in 7 starts), he just has not been the Nola of last season. Two ways you can tell are his innings pitched, 37.1, which through 7 games is an average of 5.2 per start, which is really not like him. The other tell-tale sign of his struggles can be noticed just by watching him. He is taking longer in between batters, he is leaving pitches on the heart of the plate, he just lacks confidence in his stuff, which is normal for a young star coming out of Spring Training. Fortunately, his rotation has picked up the slack, and so has his electric offense. Arrieta has a 3.46 ERA in 6 starts, Eflin has been electric with a 3.34 ERA, Velasquez with a 2.73 ERA, and Eickhoff has a 2.05 since taking over for Pivetta after he was sent down.
The starting rotation has been a serious brightspot, which has so far propelled the talks of how dominant this team is. It’s also quieted those who think the Phillies are one more quality starter away from being a contender. Another key to the team’s success is the great usage from the bullpen as well. Seranthony Dominguez has been a crucial “middle inning heart of the order arm” with his 3-0 record in 15 appearances. Pat Neshek has been a quality set up man for Hector Nerris, who has five saves of his own this year. Nerris has especially done a phenomenal job of bailing out David Robertson, who is currently on the IL. Before taking the time off, Robertson was apart of the “nots” with a 5.40 ERA, 0-1 record and zero saves for the man who was penciled to be the steady closer this year. Lastly a quiet 6th or 7th inning guy in Adam Morgan has silently worked through 16 appearances without giving up a run.
So, for the first time in recent memory, the pitching for the Phillies is not an anchor in the team’s productivity. But it certainly still takes a back seat to the offense seen in the short part of the season. Jean Segura is a name coming off the IL which is much needed, as he leads them with a .345 average. While he was on the IL, the Phillies got to see Scott Kingery take his position, and he opened a lot of eyes. He has rose through the Phillies farm system, and he was a question mark for this year to see if he was ready for the bigs. In 32 at bats, Kingery holds a .406 average with 13 hits, 4 doubles, 2 long balls and 6 RBIs. He has only played in 14 games this year, and is currently on the 10 day, but I expect he’s done enough to deserve a white and red jersey for the rest of the year.
Finally I have to talk about Bryce. I didnt put him in either category, but only because he is taking far too much heat. Bryce Harper currently has a .234 average, .380 OBP, .477 slugging and .856 OPS. They’re middle of the pack numbers for any major leagues squad yes, but the fact that Harper cannot have a hitless game without being booed is preposterous. Yes, he is making over 25 million a year, but he is doing so playing the most difficult and failure-ridden sport on the planet. This is not basketball where your superstar is supposed to drop 25 a game, or football where your average quarter back is expected to at least throw for 200 yards. There are 162 games in a year, even the best have 0 for 20 stretches, it’s a part of the game. Chris Davis is getting 161 million through 7 years and just went 0 for 49, THAT is entitled for booing. Appreciate the greatness of Harper, and how much better he makes the entirety of the lineup. His presence and OBP are worth the money right now alone, and he is ultimately the reason the team leads the NL East today.
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