One month of the Major League Baseball season is on the books, and the Phillies find themselves at 14-15, a game under .500, yet are still second in the division and only a half-game behind first place. What was supposed to be the best division of baseball has come up short as there isn’t a single team with a winning record as of May 4.
The Phillies have shown plenty of talent and potential on the diamond, but haven’t been able to put it all together and get on a hot streak. After one month, let’s look at some of the positives and negatives for the Phillies as they gear up for May.
Positive: Zach Eflin has arrived
Zach Eflin has always shown potential; it was the consistency that raised questions on if he could be a vital member of the starting rotation. Well, the questions seem to be answered as Eflin has been as good as anyone could have hoped for. No one expects him to be an ace or even the number two starter, but he has become the solid number three the Phillies needed. Through six starts, he has a 3.49 earned run average and has pitched at least six innings every start. That means he’s working deep into ball games, which saves the bullpen, giving the Phillies a chance to win by preventing runs at a reasonable rate. The backend of the rotation still needs work, but with Eflin solidifying the third spot, the Phillies are going to be competitive in a lot of ball games.
Positive: Bryce Harper has been super productive
Bryce Harper has started off 2021 scorching hot and shown why the Phillies made him a franchise player in 2019. So far, Harper is batting .317 with six home runs and leads the National League in on-base percentage. Harper has always shown tremendous hustle throughout his career, but this year his hustle seems to be impacting the Phillies in a positive way more than in years past — he’s been stretching singles into doubles since Opening Day. What has taken him to another level this past month is his more straightforward approach that has allowed him to take the ball the other way more often without overswinging. Unfortunately, he missed time after getting hit in the face and now has a wrist injury, but if he can stay on the field and play like he has so far, he could possibly make a run for the MVP.
Negative: The defense
The defense has been a huge letdown for the Phillies this year. Just look at the game they lost to the Mets on May 2. Andrew McCutchen misplayed a flyball, Harper bobbled a ball, Alec Bohm and Eflin made errors and Rhys Hoskins lost focus getting a ball back into the infield which led to a run. All this allowed the Mets to score eight runs and get the win. If the Phillies are going to get anywhere they will need to tighten up their defense or else it will be a problem itself and be the cause of other problems.
Negative: A lot of cold bats
This has been a trend throughout the Majors as hitters try to get their timing down and the weather warms up. However, the Phillies have a lot of hitters struggling right now. Here are some of the Phillies everyday players and their averages: Bohm with .221, McCutchen with .176 and Roman Quinn with .116. The Phillies offense has struggled, as they rank 22nd in the league in runs, which could be an effect of having more pressure on the middle of the lineup. Look for the Phillies to try waking their bats, which may happen as they try to sort out their center field situation.
April has shown a lot of promise as well as raised questions, but it is important to remember it is only April. Baseball is a marathon and not a sprint. The Phillies find themselves in a great situation, as, even with much to improve, they are only a half game behind first place. May is going to be a critical month as a team tries to separate themselves from the rest of the pack in the National League East.