Be honest. Did you expect the Philadelphia Phillies to be in first place this late in the season? Actually, did you expect the Phillies to be in first place at all during this season? With the sky high expectations put on the Washington Nationals, many experts believed the NL East crown was going to be won by Bryce Harper and company. The Phillies, however, have a different idea.
The season is beyond its halfway point and the All Star break is just around the corner and right now all the teams in the NL East are looking up at the Philadelphia Phillies. Sure it is only a one game lead and the Atlanta Braves are clipping at the heels of the Phillies the fact remains that this team has sole possession of first place. The huge question is how is this team achieving success when they were chosen to finish third, at best, in their division.
This team is an enigma when it comes to breaking down the first half success. While this team is in first place they had only one All Star selection and that of course is Cy Young candidate, Aaron Nola, who is having the best year of his short career. With the exception of Nola, no other Phillies pitcher is having an amazing year. Right now, Jake Arrieta would be the number two starter and his ERA is 3.47 and he has a record of 6-6. Sure the starting pitching has been solid with the likes of Zach Eflin, who has come around lately and quality starters such as Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta, the starters are not considered the strength of this team.
Logic tells you if it is not the pitching then the hitting must be exceptional for a team to be in first place. Well that is also not the case seeing no everyday starter for this team is currently batting over .300. Actually Odubel Herrera leads the team with a .278 average and that wasn’t even good enough to earn an All Star selection. Odubel also leads the team in home runs with 16 while Rhys Hoskins has 56 RBI’s on the year to lead the Phillies. Staying similar to the starting pitching the hitting is consistent but not excellent.
There is no clear cut answer when explaining why this team has been so successful. Gabe Kapler has turned into a great manager, after his early season struggles, but he is not the sole cause of such a great turn around. Bullpen struggles was the theme of the early part of this season but they have even seemed to figure out the problem. With the likes of Pat Neshek and Seranthony Dominguez it seems that this unit keeps getting stronger as the season progresses. It just seems as though this group of players is playing as a team and they are enjoying success as a crew. While there is no clear cut reason for the success this team has achieved it is evident to all that the Phillies should not change a thing going forward!
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