Phillies - Brewers Series Preview: Weekend Series Could Become Early Turning Point
After two series in the House of Horrors and Coors Field, the Phillies return home for the first series of a 7 game homestand. The MLB season is a marathon not a sprint, but getting back on track after a 2-7 stretch would be preferred.
In theory, Philly will have their top 3 pitchers on the mound for this series with Ranger Suarez, Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola set to start in that order. Joe Girardi is hoping all 3 can shake off whatever caused them to pitch uncharacteristically bad the first two times through the rotation. The Brewers lineup isn't groundbreaking, but they've scored 4 or more runs in 7 of their past 9. Former MVP Christian Yelich and old friend Andrew McCutchen occupy the 3 and 4 holes in Milwaukee's lineup more often than not, but the strength of these opponents is in their pitching.
In the pitching department, the Phillies will also catch a little bit of a break by avoiding Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff, two true aces that headline Milwaukee's stellar pitching core. As a team, the Brewers have a 3.47 ERA and and have struck out 119 batters, good for 12th and 7th in the league, respectively. And for their starters this weekend, while Freddy Peralta has been hit hard to the tune of an ERA nearing 12, Adrian Houser and Eric Lauer have put together two more than respectable performances to start the season and have combined to allow 7 earned runs in 19.2 innings.
So far, Joe Girardi has kept his infielders rotating, with Jean Segura, Didi Gregorius, Bryson Stott, Alec Bohm and Johan Carmago all seeing regular playing time at second, third or short. Carmago currently leads all Phillies in WAR after his 4 hit day in Colorado. Tied for second is Alec Bohm. Jean Segura is hitting like he always has, and Didi seems to have quietly climbed back to respectability at the plate, with an .844 OPS in his last 9 games. Top prospect Bryson Stott meanwhile is experiencing growing pains and has been given some days off. If you ask me, I'd accept whatever growing pains await Bohm at 3rd and the guy hit. There's only so much development he can do from the dugout. Girardi seems to be emphasizing matchups with his lineups, but at a certain point if you want the best versions of these guys you need to let them play, against both righties and lefties. Between him and Bohm, Carmago is clearly the more comfortable defender at third , but unless one of the Phillies three corner outfielders is given a day off, the DH spot will remain unavailable for either of the two. I'd be lying if I said I knew what Girardi was going to do, but I'd expect to see Segura and Gregorius in the middle infield with Bohm and Carmago splitting reps at third. Another thing of note is that Girardi also experimented with several lineup configurations in the recent series. He tried JT Realmuto hitting leadoff with Bryce, Castellanos and Rhys behind him but after the offense fell flat with several guys thrown off, he tried a top 4 of Jean/Rhys/Harper/Castellanos, with JT, Schwarber and Alec Bohm following them. I like that one a bit better, and I think Girardi will too after seeing Philadelphia plate 9 to salvage the ending of the Rockies series.
While Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber hold team leads in RBIs and Home Runs, they're both clearly not hitting up to their own standards with OPS's of .730 and .711. Harper was DH'ing in Colorado because of sore elbow, and Schwarber was moved from the leadoff spot while in a deep funk before obliterating a couple of baseballs. In addition to them, the Phillies continue to get no production from their centerfield spot. Matt Vierling had some bad luck which lead directly into a long slump, and Simon Muzziotti is much closer to a prospect than a major leaguer. Both Roman Quinn and Odubel Herrera are playing with the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs currently, and I wouldn't be surprised if one or both of them are given a chance. It is worth noting that Quinn has hit better than Herrera in the minors, and also brings superior defense along with an element of speed that no player with the major league club has.
But getting away from stat watching, the Phillies offense haven't seemed to hit as a collective yet, failing to plate 4 runs in 6 of their 8 losses this year. They look notably more patient this year, taking more strikes and getting into worse situations for themselves. Todd Zolecki noted for MLB.com that the Phillies had the highest batting average in the league on fastballs, but saw them at just the 27th highest rate in baseball. Further to this point:
They're simply not patient or disciplined enough to get into good situations, which means they aren't getting pitches to hit, which means that they aren't getting on base, which means they aren't scoring runs, and I think you get it by this point. Kevin Long might have fixed Mickey Moniak and Alec Bohm, but it feels like a slight overhaul of Philly's approaches are needed. Making necessary changes could mean a series win against a tough opponent, and continuing down the path that they're on just means less fun baseball. And who wants that?