Last offseason, Phillies ownership said they were willing to spend “stupid money.” Turns out their massive spending in the offseason may have not been that stupid at all.
The Phillies committed over $450 million dollars to new acquisitions last offseason, bringing in veterans like Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto and superstar Bruce Harper. We are about two months into the baseball season and the new Phillies have impressed so far.
The acquisitions have made the Phillies one of the most talented in the National League, capable of scoring a massive amount of runs on any night. McCutchen has been strong in the leadoff slot. The former National League MVP has elite plate selection and it has put him in the top 10 in baseball in walks.
The Phillies traded for Realmuto from the Marlins and he has been truly fantastic. He is just a great all-around player. He is an A plus defender, a great base runner and is consistent at the plate. His clutch solo home run at the top of the 10th inning against the Cubs lead to a 5-4 Phillies win May 20. It is not a surprise that many view Realmuto as the best catcher in baseball.
Harper has disappointed some so far, but his presence has certainly made the team better. He has come up with some timely hits and continues to draw a large amount of walks. Harper does lead the league in strikeouts, but seems to be heating up as of late, hitting two monster home runs last weekend at Citizens Bank Park. He has also impressed defensively so far, showing off his glove multiple times in right field on highlight reel plays.
However, arguably the best acquisition has been Segura. Segura is hitting over .300 and has consistently gotten on base from the two-hole. Segura has the ability to hit all over the diamond, having 16 multi-hit games so far this season, and coming into Wednesday, Segura is riding a 10-game hitting streak. It seems the Phillies offense turns to Jean Segura.
These acquisitions have also made the Phillies returning starters better. Rhys Hoskins is not only getting more opportunities with runners on base, but is also getting better pitches to hit because of the protection from Realmuto. Another impressive Phillie has been Cesar Hernandez, who has been hot so far in May, hitting over .350 this month. The lineup also got some reinforcements this week with Scott Kingrey returning from a hamstring injury.
One area where the Phillies have been not as strong is the bullpen. They do have quality arms such as lefty Adam Morgan, who has posted a sub-two ERA so far, and other key veterans like Hector Neris and Pat Neshek, but not much besides them.
Their lack of bullpen depth showed against the Cubs May 21. The team’s top four relievers were unavailable and called for Juan Nicasio to close out a one-run lead. Nicasio was unable to keep up with a high-powered Cub’s lineup and lost the game on a walk-off single from star Javy Baez. It was Nicasio’s second blown save of the season, and was a crushing one for the Phillies.
Their offseason acquisition of veteran reliever David Robertson hasn’t helped either. Robertson only appeared in seven games for the Phillies before moving to the injured list with an elbow issue. He is expected to be out until at least July. The Phillies signed the 34-year-old to a two-year $23 million contract in the offseason.
Luckily the starting rotation has been able to cover some of the bullpen’s disappointments. After a rough start, Aaron Nola is beginning to look more like the pitcher from last year, but still has yet to assemble a truly dominating performance. Jake Arrieta has been consistent so far, posting a 4-4 record and 3.77 ERA.
Zach Eflin has been the team’s best pitcher so far, winning five games while posting a 2.76 ERA with a WHIP of 1.15. He also has posted two complete games, the most in the majors, including one complete game shutout against the Kansas City Royals.
All of this has added up to give the lead to the Phillies in the NL East. As of May 22, they are 2.5 games ahead of the reigning division champion Atlanta Braves, and farther ahead of the struggling New York Mets and Washington Nationals.
The Phillies are currently in what may be their toughest stretch of the season. After finishing up with the Cubs at Wrigley May 23, the Phillies have series with the Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, all teams that look to be contenders in the National League. This stretch is a good way for the Phillies to show they aren’t the same team from last year.
This weekend, the Phillies will look to get revenge against the Brewers. The Brew Crew came into Citizens Bank Park last week and soundly beat the Phillies in a four-game series, taking three of four.
Milwaukee is led by reigning National League MVP Christian Yelich. The superstar right fielder leads the entire MLB in home runs with 19. Last week, the Phillies couldn’t figure out Yelich at home as he went 6-16 with five walks and two home runs for an OPS of 1.399 in the series.
Yelich is even more of a threat than usual at Miller Park. So far in 19 games, Yelich has 15 home runs, 32 RBIs and is slashing a ridiculous .406/.524/.1.141 at home.
Tonight, Jared Eickhoff takes the mound for the Phillies against Jhoulys Chacin. Eickhoff, who had been hot since being called up in April, has cooled as of late, allowing five home runs in his past two starts. Eickhoff struggled against this Brewers’ lineup last week, surrendering eight hits and five earned runs, while striking out just two in four innings of work.
For the Brewers, the veteran righty Chacin gets the nod. Chacin is 3-5 so far on the season with an ERA of 4.65. In his last start against the Braves, he allowed eight hits and two runs in what would ultimately be a 12-8 loss for the Brewers.