Just over 20% into the 2021 MLB season, and the Philadelphia Phillies are sat at second place in the NL East with a record of 18-17. The team has has their highs (sweeping the Brewers in a four-game set), and they’ve undoubtedly had their lows (blowing multiple 3-run leads against Atlanta this past weekend), but one overarching theme has remained with this ball club throughout it all.
An extremely top-heavy roster build around the idea that Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto can drag the organization to an above .500 finish for the first time since 2011, the Phillies have been an emotional rollercoaster at every turn this season. Just 35 games into the year, it feels like we’ve already experienced a full season’s worth of thrills.
The team’s pitching staff, for example, hasn’t been able to find an ounce of rhythm since the regular season kicked off. Aaron Nola has had nights where he’s looked like a top ten pitcher in all of baseball (complete game shutout against the Cardinals on 4/18), and he’s had moments like this past Sunday against Atlanta where he couldn’t even record a quality start.
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The back-end of the rotation has been a constant game of guessing as well. Chase Anderson hasn’t looked like the savvy veteran the Phillies were hoping to acquire when they forked over $4 million this past offseason, Matt Moore has already lost his spot as a starter, and Vince Velasquez is still laboring to get through six innings every time he takes the mound.
Save me with the “well 5.0 innings is a good start for Vinny!” stuff, the Phillies need far more length out of their #4 and #5 starters moving forward if they want to be competitive.
Despite both Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin being fairly rock solid in their respective roles this season, the Philadelphia Phillies starting rotation ERA sits 12th in Major League Baseball. A facet of the team that was supposed to be a strength has been middle of the pack just over a month into the season.
The 2021 Philadelphia Phillies have been the definition of inconsistent.
The bullpen (which was supposed to be greatly improved) has continued to falter at almost every turn. Outside of the development of Sam Coonrod and Jose Alvarado into high-leverage arms, the Phillies ‘pen continues to perform as one of the worst in baseball. Hector Neris has already blown two saves, and the group’s collective ERA sits 25th compared to the rest of the league.
Similar to the starting rotation, the Phillies offense has shown glimpses of being elite, but always seems to fall back into a state of mediocrity when the lights shine brightest. Harper, Realmuto, and a returning Jean Segura have all been fantastic this season, but the rest of the lineup has been unable to string together more than a few good at-bats at a time.
Alec Bohm is hitting just .217, Didi Gregorius’ OPS is down into the .600s, Rhys Hoskins is coming off a rather atrocious stretch of baseball following his burst of home runs a few weeks back, and the center field position remains void of real MLB-caliber talent. Outside of Brad Miller and Nick Maton, the team’s bench unit has been equally as anemic when it comes to driving in runs and producing quality at-bats on a consistent basis.
While this outpour of criticism may seem a tad dramatic for a team that’s just one game out of first place in the NL East, it’s the manner in which they’ve gotten here that is most concerning. They’re 13-16 since their hot 5-1 start to the season, they’ve lost 9 of 12 to NL East opponents since that same date, they’ve lost 6 of their past 9 series, and quite frankly speaking they’ve just played some really ugly baseball over the past month or so.
Their series losses to the Rockies and Giants in particular stand out as instances of this team just not taking care of business against a (seemingly) lesser opponent.
There’s still 127 games left to be played this season, plenty of time for the Philadelphia Phillies to turn things around. However, thus far, this year’s squad has looked like a reflection of the team that John Middleton fielded in 2018, 2019, and even 2020 – an inconsistent group of ballplayers that is currently on track to be on the outside looking in by the time October rolls around.