At the beginning of the season, vegas had the Phillies as a true contender to win the NL East at around sub +300 odds. The Phillies odds to make the playoffs this year also sat at +125. Before the year started, this was the first time the franchise went over the luxury tax and the expectation was to finally see red october back in Philadelphia for the first time since 2011. Fans were juiced, the buzz around the city was electric, baseball seemed to be back in the city of brotherly love. After getting swept by the New York Mets this past weekend, the Phillies now 48 games into a long 162 game season sit with a record of 21-27 and a whopping 10.5 game deficit in the NL East. They trail the San Francisico Giants by 5 games for the third wild card spot. Vegas now has these Phillies at +850 to win the NL East.
So what has gone so wrong with these Phillies? The first two issues with this team is the defense and the bullpen. Expectations were that none of these two areas of the game would be a strength for this team coming into the year, but if they could be a bit below league average in both areas they could make a run due to their starting pitching and loaded lineup. Let's just say that has not been the case. The Phillies are last in major league baseball in defensive runs saved at a -24. They are 24th in bullpen era as well with a 4.22 combined era as a unit.
Instead of beating up on an area that was expected to be a weakness, how about an area that was belived to be a strength. The lineup. The two big additions in this past offseason that pushed the Phillies over the tax were Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos. These guys were brought in to give the defending NL MVP Bryce Harper some elite protection in the order and take the lineup to the next level. The MLB average for ops is right around .750, neither one of them are hitting at that mark with Castellanos posting a .740 ops and Schwarber posting a .699 ops thus far. Out of the one and four hole, that simply cannot happen and they need to be better. It's not just them however. Rhys Hoskins has a .686 ops, J.T. Realmuto has a .694 ops, Jean Segura although he's hitting .281 and has been clutch thus far only sits at a .750 ops, and Alec Bohm much like Segura only has a .693 ops thus far. You can actually by these numbers make the case that the Phillies biggest strength going into the year has actually been a weakness.
Now, everyone's favorite manager Joe Girardi. Two moves thus far this season stick out as real indicators of how Girardi has managed this ballclub. The first came on May 24th vs. the Atlanta Braves. Going into a ballgame with not one, not two, but all three of your top late game bullpen arms unavailable due to rest days is an egregious mismanagement of your bullpen. So much so that when the Phillies took the lead in the top of the 9th inning on the back of Bryce Harper, the man Girardi asked to close out a one run lead was Nick Nelson. Nick Nelson has zero saves in his career. That is horrible game/series management of the bullpen and directly costed the Phillies a big win in Atlanta.
The next move came before this past weekend giving Zach Eflin and Zack Wheeler an extra day of rest and pitching Bailey Falter on Friday night. First you have to look at the situation, the Phillies came into the series opener down 7.5 games in the division with a prime opportunity to gain ground. Originally with Eflin, Wheeler, and Kyle Gibson slated pitch on normal rest the opportunity to maintain the deficit or gain a game or two on New York looked promising even with the struggles of this team. But nope, Girardi decides in the most important series of the year that throwing Eflin and Wheeler off their weekly routines would be a good idea now to give Bailey Falter a start. We are in May, none of those guys have innings limits on them, that is an egregiously awful decision. This led to Falter giving the Phillies an average start but an early lead for the Mets that they held onto on Friday, Zach Eflin having the worst start of his season giving up seven runs, and Zack Wheeler having command issues in the series finale. The Mets took full advantage of Girardi's poor management repercussions and swept the Phillies.
So where does this team go from here? That answer at the moment is not clear. But what is clear is that change is necessary and needs to happen immediately. Whatever that is this team cannot afford to sit on their hands and go through the motions on a daily basis just as they have been all year. If that's the case then this team will continue to disappoint all year long. They now face the Giants on Memorial Day back at home with Kyle Gibson on the mound.