The Philadelphia Phillies are done with their rebuilding phase and will now look to move into the next chapter of their plan. Winning. It won’t be easy in 2017, and while anything can happen, this is the season where the team puts itself on display.
The Phillies are young but they have had their share of ups and downs already as the team has started to jell as a unit. The young players no longer must look to Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley or Carlos Ruiz for guidance, they are the leaders now. Last season they were projected to win 62 games but managed to ease out a 71-91 record, good for 4th in the NL East.
As I mentioned this article idea to my fellow writers, you can imagine the laughs at my expense but I will never write anything I don’t believe in. Can the Phillies seriously be Wild Card contenders in 2017? Yes, and here’s why.
The Phillies have the bats in the lineup that can take any pitcher out the park but it was their youth and inexperience that had them finish last in most offensive categories. Despite their lack of consistent run production the team managed to win more games than the Braves, Rays, Twins, Reds and more but, they still fell short.
What the team must focus on now is finishing games. The Phillies were 28-23 in one run games but hurt their chances more with poor showings in the months of June (9-19) in September (10-17). Most can be blamed on the young arms of the pitching staff but the bats were swinging at everything that left the opposing pitcher’s hands. That’s expected of hitters struggling and trying their best to break out of a slump. But, they are now a season wiser at the plate, the pitcher’s have an extra 20-30 starts under their belts and that look of desperation will be gone.
71 wins. Not enough to make the postseason but it’s enough to build on. Five everyday players with 15 home runs or more but the season will still fall into the arms of the staff. If Aaron Nola can rebound from a 6-9 season and Adam Morgan and Zach Eflin can provide backup to a staff that was just downright awful the Phillies can easily make up 10 wins.
They may have scored the least runs in the league but for good reason. Baseball is a game of strategy. Much like the NBA and NFL. If a team takes away your strength then they have won. With the Phillies being 10-34 in blowout games it took away their ability to play small-ball forcing their young players to swing for the fences, causing in strikeouts, thus resulting in low scores. It’s the same with NFL. If a team gets out to a big lead on a team that loves to run the ball then that team is now forced to pass. If an NBA team is getting blown out it forces them to try to make up the difference from the three-point line, you can’t win that way.
This is where the Phillies staff must become better focused. Five pitchers that started 20+ game and each one with an ERA pointing towards 4.00 or higher. With those numbers, the batters know they must press the point of attack more. It’s a losing battle almost every time they get to the batter’s box. Why didn’t the team reach for any of the free agents this offseason still baffles me but it goes to show how much faith the front office has in this team.
Remember, the Phillies have been in this situation before back in 2005 -2006 as they watched their younger guys start to mature and we saw what happened then. It wasn’t about the 100 win season, it was about the team doing what it had to do to scrape out victories, but it started with the mound. I still believe the team should have gone out and tried to sign Derek Holland or another veteran pitcher but no such luck.
Now, if the Phillies can get a few extra innings of solid pitching, those 16 wins needed to make the Wild Card doesn’t seem that far of a stretch. The New York Mets got in with 87 wins. The Mets will continue to decline in 2017 due to age and their tired arms of the staff. The Nationals will take the division again but they are another team that has stayed relatively healthy. One setback for them and the division is wide open.
Don’t forget the close games. 28-23, that’s the key to the Phillies season in 2017. If the pitchers can keep the balls in play and not put the extra pressure on the young hitters, they have a chance. Call me a dreamer, a homer or whatever but I saw what a determined Phillies team is capable of when no one saw them coming.
No one gave the 2008 Phillies a chance either but if the Red Sox and Cubs can break curses why can’t the Phillies make the Wild Card?