Don’t look now but the Philadelphia Phillies sit just under 2 games out of first place. As we finish up a quarter of the season, this team continues to defy all pre-season expectations that were levied on them before the season began. The Phillies are currently seven games over .500 and if they continue on this pace they would finish the season with 92 wins. With a new manager and a young core of talent this team was expected to hover right around .500 all year. The question remains how has this team remained successful through the first quarter of the season and how can they remain successful for the rest of 2018?
Most of this team’s credit can be associated with new manager Gabe Kapler and his ability to change his course of thinking during his first month on the job. He was heavily criticized for his belief in analytics and his first week or two on the job. Gabe did make a few critical mistakes that cost this team a few victories. However, since then he has remained calm in the face of adversity. Though Gabe still focuses his mental approach on what the numbers dictate he has learned the ability to listen to his players and sometimes go with his gut instinct during a game. A prime example of this was sticking with Carlos Santana during his early season struggles. Gabe’s mentality to keep Carlos in the middle of the lineup might have hurt in the short term it seems as though Carlos has finally found his footing and the Phillies offense has been scorching hot recently.
While much of the credit goes to Kapler and his staff the players obviously have learned and developed much earlier then expected. The prime example of this has been the play of Odubel Herrera. Odubel is batting .360 which is about 60 points higher then his best year which came in 2015. If he stays on course he will also crush his best OBP because right now he sits at .430 which is 70 points higher then his best year. Not to mention, Odubel currently has a 41 game on base streak which might lead him to a much deserved All Star nomination.
Now while Odubel leads the Phillies offense the starting pitching has also been extremely impressive out the gate for the Phillies. Newly acquired Jake Arrieta has a 2.59 ERA and a 3-1 record. His clubhouse presence has also helped the young pitching staff which has shown signs of maturity. Aaron Nola who entered this season as the proverbial ace of the club has exceeded all expectations while pitching himself to Cy Young consideration. Aaron has a 6-1 record with an outstanding 1.99 ERA and seems to be one of the best pitchers in baseball. It seems right now, besides for Hector Neris who once again blew a save for this team Saturday night, the pitching staff for this team is among the Major League’s elite.
While there are still plenty of games to be played this team seems to be on the right path for success in 2018. This team was not supposed to compete for the playoffs this season and many predicted 2019 would be the year the Phillies organization finally saw some returns on their young prospects. So far this team has proven all the prognosticators wrong with their early success and if they continue on this path with strong starting pitching and timely hitting there is no telling how far this team can go in 2018.
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