Here it is April 24th and the Philadelphia Phillies sit at 14-7 and a half game out of the NL East lead, behind the Mets. They are winners of 5 of their last 6, just completed a 4 game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates, have a 9-1 record and are home for the next 6 at Citizens Bank Park.
With that being said, where exactly is this team, who are they, and what should we expect? I will state that at this point in the season, although still early, this team is playing above my expectations, even with some shaky managerial moves early in the season, by the Rookie Skipper. After that opening day game against the Braves, myself and fans included, were ready to run, his “i think he is presenting beautifully” ass out of town. But things change, and the moves have gotten much better, not to mention the team is playing much better. I expected this team to win around 83-87 games prior to the season starting, and being in contention for a wild card spot late in the season, but in no way did I expect them to be playing ball at an over 60 percent winning percentage.
More importantly early in the year for me, and being caught up in this Sixers postseason run, I have not been giving the team as much attention as usual. That being said, I caught about 90 percent of this series agains the Pirates, and I saw some good things.
In the off season I did not really have an opinion good or bad, on the signing of Carlos Santana. I knew he was a veteran who had winning experience with an Indian team over the last several seasons, and I thought his switch hitting ability, would be good for this lineup of young hitters, who lack plate discipline. The three year, sixty million dollar a deal, was fair market value, for a player with his experience and caliber. He is definitely not a 35 HR, 120RBI guy, who will hit .320, but he will play 81 a year at CBP, so if he can slap 25HRs, knock in about 85 a year, and add protection for Rhys from the two hole, the move will pay dividends, sooner rather then later.
The Scott Kingery deal signed on March 25th, was a low risk, high-reward deal. It made sense to lock up a guy, who was absolutely destroying in A ball, to a long term deal. The full potential of the deal is 9 years, 65 million but the first 6 are at a cost effective 24, basically a prove it to us deal. If the contract lives up to its full term, you will have basically locked up a building block to your future, for well-below market value until hes 32 years old. Its a win, win, on all sides.
The biggest question of the entire off season for me, once we know Kingery, and Hoskins were going to be active players on the roster, was the pitching staff. How would Aaron Nola, do this year as a staff ace, and could the bullpen hold up. Last year Nola only pitched 168 innings, had some consistency issues, and was on the DL for an extended stay. More importantly is that, there was nothing behind Nola, unless you believe in the “potential” of Vince Valazquez.
At this point in the off season the only pitcher available on the open market with a somewhat successful track record, is Jake Arrieta, but it seems his asking price is to high, or over to long a period. Eventually the two sides were able to come to an agreement, on a 3 year, 75 million dollar deal in which he can opt out after year 2 if he so chooses. Arrieta, was one of if not the best pitchers on the open market, but there were some question marks, his age, his velocity loss, and could he be ready by the start of the season. If you look at Arrieta’s numbers over the past 3 seasons you can see some fall off:
He had tremendous years in both 2015, and 2016, but seemed to fall off a bit last year. All that being said hes durable, hes made at least 30 starts each of the last 3 years, and despite the drop off, and has a 54-24 record in his last 3 full seasons. This is far better, then any current SP on the Phillies roster, and with him having the opting out after next year, and this being an up and coming team, he can either decide to stay and make a deep run, or opt out, and take more money after 2019. He literally has all the control in this deal.
Then there is the main piece and future of this entire franchise: Rhys Hoskins. As if his Rookie season wasn’t enough to have ear to ear grins on fans faces. His sophomore campaign seems to be on an even better trajectory.
2017 Important Number Splits:
50 Games Played
212 Plate Appearances
170 Official At Bats
.259 Batting Average
.618 Slugging Percentage
These are extremely impressive numbers for any power hitting, middle of the order player, but made more impressive was that Rhys was a rookie, and all that aside if I compare the numbers to this year, and I foreshadow Rhys playing 130 games this year and he stays fully healthy, then the numbers are even more impressive, based on current numbers this year. Lets take a look
2018 Important Number Projections:
130 Games Played
538 Plate Appearances
401 Official At Bats
.319 Batting Average
.698 Slugging Percentage
Even over a 130 game season his strikeout total is 1 a game, and if I am getting nearly 35 HRs, and a 100RBIs, I will take that from any power hitter in the league. More importantly as it stands right now, he leads the league in OBP at .438 and if these numbers held true as they do currently he would have on on base percentage of .487 or on base nearly 50 percent of the time. He shows signs of being a patient hitter, he see nearly 5.5 pitches per AB, and he does not change his approach even with two strikes. He is proving himself to be a legit big league power hitter.
With all this being said, the question becomes, what are the Phillies? Well as of right now, it is hard to say, its only 21 games into the season. If you win 2 out of 3 games, over the course of a whole 162 game schedule, you would be 108-54. This team is not 108 win team. There is to much youth, there are always injuries, and there are going to be things that happen beyond your control. I think the bigger question is when will we know more. While a 14-7 start is a tremendous start, lets look at the competition played. Of the 21 games so far, the opponents have been the following:
Braves: 6 games
Pirates: 4 games
Rays: 3 games
Reds: 3 games
Marlins: 3 games
Mets: 2 games
To be fair, the Marlins, Rays, and Reds, will probably be the 3 worst teams in baseball this year, but this team as any “good” team should do took care of business against them. However, the sample size is small, eventually pitchers will find ways to get Kingerey, and Rhys out, it always happens. It is baseball. Can the pitching staff, especially the bullpen get people out on a consistent basis. All yet to be proven. More importantly, in May the more difficult part of the schedule is coming, so we will have to wait and see, but I still believe this team can compete for one of the two wildcards in the NL, and be a year ahead of schedule, as the season plays out.