Just a month ago, the Phillies had the second best record in the National League. Not the second best record in the East but the second best record in the entire National League and the entire city of Philadelphia was bracing for some much needed October baseball. My oh my how times have changed! The Phillies now sit seven games back of the Atlanta Braves for the NL East title and are seven games back of the second wild card spot and with about 17 games left on the schedule. Time has now just about ended on the Phillies 2018 post season chances.
Sure this team was not supposed to compete this early in their respective rebuilding process but it was albeit certain they were going to be in a pennant race until the last week of the season. At one point, this team had a 70% chance of making the playoffs according to Fangraphs. The question wasn’t if the Phillies were going to make the playoffs the question was if they were going to be a Wild Card or the division champs as this team seemed to be steamrolling opponents in June and July. Barring a huge change of events and a huge collapse by the Atlanta Braves this team certainly will be sitting on their couches come playoff time.
So what exactly changed in the past month for this team to completely fall apart down the stretch? There is not a simple answer to such a loaded question but there is enough blame to go around. It is obvious that the Phillies need bullpen help and a steady closer. The second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader is a prime example of the late inning struggles this team has encountered. Up 6-3 in the top of the 9th at home, the Phillies lacked the shut down reliever that playoff teams desperately need. The Phillies won the World Series ten years ago with Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, and J.C. Romero being able to come in late in the game and get the clutch outs. Without a fordable bullpen this team will struggle once again in 2019.
Another obvious weakness in the Phillies armor is they lack a solid starter behind Aaron Nola. Besides for Nola no other Phillies starting pitcher has been consistent for more then a month at a time. Jake Arrieta had an amazing month of July with a 4-0 record and a 2.80 ERA. He then followed it up with a 0-3 record and a 4.50 ERA in the month of August. Vince Velasquez mirrors Arrieta’s track record, as Vince’s July was stunning and then he followed it up with a hugely disappointing month of August. It is unreasonable to expect all of the Phillies starting pitchers to perform like Aaron Nola did this year but it is reasonable to expect a solid veteran who can salvage some series wins for the Phillies.
While the pitching was a huge weakness down the stretch for the Phillies, their offense was not much better. Besides for the mid season acquisitions, the Phillies still do not have a .300 hitter. Their young prospects, including Scott Kingery, and J.P. Crawford had bad years and maybe the Phillies future is not as bright as we though entering 2018. On second thought, maybe the question shouldn’t be why the Phillies failed down the stretch but rather how the Phillies were so successful for the first few months of the 2018 season while having such obvious weaknesses.
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