There are certainly reasons for optimism about the Phillies this year. Returning a top offense, with what should hopefully be a revamped bullpen (the former version was historically bad last year, having a combined ERA that was not only dead last in the MLB, but second to last in MLB history only to the 1930 Phillies). But how do the national outlets view the Phillies this season, and how does that stack up with the rest of the NL East?
Rank: 16th overall
Division Rank: 4th (Behind Braves, Mets, Nationals)
Extra Predictions/Thoughts: ESPN predicts Bryce Harper hits 44 dingers with a .430 OBP, but Joe Girardi can’t find a closer, and the Phil’s miss the playoffs
The Ringer :
Rank: 11th Overall
Division Rank: 3rd (Behind Braves, Mets)
Extra Predictions/Thoughts: Since 2019, the Phillies have been a playoff quality team, and rank high because of their talent. Their success will hinge on their consistency and whether any Ouija boards are activated by the bullpen.
CBS Sports :
Rank: 19th Overall
Division Rank: 4th (Behind Braves, Mets, Nationals
Extra Predictions/Thoughts: The Phillies were 3-10 against the Orioles and Marlins, but played like an 86-win team against everyone else
Yahoo Sports :
Rank: 17th Overall
Division Rank: 4th (Behind Braves, Mets Nationals)
My Thoughts on Where the Phillies Are
The Phillies are, on average, viewed as the 15th or 16th best team in the MLB, and the reasons are clear: they have the same top-level talent that led to a great offense last year, but the bullpen can’t be trusted until they’re seen in action. The media is also skeptical of relievers like Hector Neris, Connor Brogdon, and Jojo Romero. The Phillies will likely face a tough road to the playoff through the NL East in a tough division, with the Braves (Who Lost in the NLCS) and Mets (Who Under a new owner swung a big trade for Francisco Lindor) never leaving the top 6 in the power rankings.
Overall, the questions hanging over the Phil's are largely the same; can the team be more than the sum of its parts? Their stacked lineup and dynamic duo of pitchers should keep their floor around .500, but their ceiling depends almost entirely on if the supporting pieces can fill the holes that have plagued this team over the past two years, and return them to the postseason for the first time since 2011. The upside for this team, with a potential MVP in Bryce Harper:
and a supporting cast ranging from good to elite in the form of Aaron Nola, JT Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins, fan-favorite Didi Gregorius, as well as the youngster Alec Bohm and veterans Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura, is immense.
(Side Note: The Phanatic is the best mascot in baseball)
The downside, and maybe worst-case scenario, is that 2021 is just a shinier version of 2020, which is a great offense held back by their shaky bullpen, and the playoff drought continues. Most outlets are projecting exactly that, with the Phillies near the middle of the pack, and sometimes only ahead of the Marlins in the division.
But as always is in Philadelphia, there’s optimism and a sense of hope that this team finally breaks through. And isn’t that why we watch? For the hope that every Bohm swing puts a ball in the seats, and every Nola fastball hits Realmuto’s glove. To get to watch our Phillies, whether it’s at Citizens Bank Park or on our couches. As Philly, we embrace the doubters, and crumple up preseason power rankings and throw them away (even if they turn out to be right in the end). And to use the wise words of Jason Kelce:
“ You know what I got to say to all those people who doubted us, all those people that counted us out, and everybody who said we couldn't get it done?
What my man Jay Ajayi just said: F– you! “
So, looking forward to the Phillies season, there should be some optimism. This core has shown flashes before, and new additions (and possibly more midseason with Dave Dombrowski at the helm) the Phillies have the pieces in place for a playoff run if things go their way.
And I’m looking forward to every second of it, win or lose.