The Philadelphia Phillies reached Game 81, the exact halfway point, of their 2019 regular season schedule with Thursday afternoon’s dramatic contest against the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park.
Walking off the visiting division-rival Mets by a 6-3 score gave the Phillies a record of 43-38. Extrapolating that out over the full season would give them a final 86-76 record on the season.
Winning 86 games would be a major improvement after six straight losing and seven consecutive non-winning seasons. However, it would almost certainly feel like a bit of a disappointment after the excitement generated by the lineup improvement of the off-season.
It would also likely mean that the Phillies would fall short of their first postseason berth in nine years. Since a second Wildcard team was introduced to the playoff mix by Major League Baseball for the 2012 season, no team has reached the postseason with as few as 86 victories.
The Phillies entered play on Thursday in a three-way tie with the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks of the NL West Division for the two NL Wildcard spots available. The Phillies trailed the Atlanta Braves by five games in the loss column for the NL East lead.
Let’s expand the statistics supplied by each of the Phillies starting players over a full season to see what their numbers would be like, assuming their second-half equates to their first-half production.
Jean Segura: .274, 20 HR, 76 RBIs, 94 runs, 62 XBH, 10 steals
Scott Kingery: .323, 20 HR, 48 RBIs, 52 runs, 50 XBH, 8 steals
Bryce Harper: .246, 28 HR, 110 RBIs, 92 runs, 74 XBH, 8 steals
Rhys Hoskins: .264, 36 HR, 104 RBIs, 84 runs, 72 XBH, 2 steals
J.T. Realmuto: .262, 20 HR, 72 RBIs, 96 runs, 52 XBH, 6 steals
Jay Bruce: .232, 42 HR, 96 RBIs, 76 runs, 72 XBH, 2 steals
Maikel Franco: .221, 24 HR, 78 RBIs, 62 runs, 44 XBH, 0 steals
Cesar Hernandez: .284, 14 HR, 72 RBIs, 76 runs, 56 XBH, 10 steals
The most important thing that could happen for this group would be for the middle-of-the-order hitters, Harper, Hoskins, and Realmuto, to pick it up just a little in the second half. With the warmer summer months now here and considering their histories, and given healthy, you have to believe that the above numbers will end up as conservative estimates for those three.
Another big factor would be more consistent playing time for Franco, which could result in a half-dozen more homers and a dozen more RBIs resulting in a 30-HR, 90-RBI season. He is entirely capable of putting up those types of numbers if playing regularly.
Finally, Kingery missed a month due to injury. If he holds up over the second half, the ‘counting’ numbers will absolutely finish higher. Even if his batting average slips a bit, he is going to produce extra-base hits and score runs.
PITCHING STAFF REGULARS
Now let’s expand the statistics supplied by each of the Phillies key pitchers over a full season to see what their numbers would be like, assuming their second-half equates to their first-half production.
Aaron Nola: 12-4, 4.22 ERA, 192 IP, 220/76 K:BB
Jake Arrieta: 14-12, 4.33 ERA, 195.1 IP, 150/78 K:BB
Zach Eflin: 14-14, 3.26 ERA, 182 IP, 154/46 K:BB
Nick Pivetta: 8-4, 5.63 ERA, 112 IP, 96/36 K:BB
Vince Velasquez: 4-8, 4.40 ERA, 94 IP, 108/42 K:BB
Hector Neris: 32 saves, 3.18 ERA, 67.1 IP, 92/22 K:BB
Juan Nicasio: 3.74 ERA, 65.1 IP, 62/28 K:BB
Adam Morgan: 3.10 ERA, 40.2 IP, 38/14 K:BB
Jose Alvarez: 3.64 ERA, 59.1 IP, 46/20 K:BB
This is where the biggest question marks on this team can be found. Get the right answers and/or make the right additions, and it could make all the difference in reaching the playoffs, possibly even pushing the Braves for the NL East crown.
The first three pitchers are a good enough start to building the rotation for the second half. Arrieta needs to regain the consistency of his first half-dozen starts, limiting walks and finding a way to be less hittable as his pure stuff regresses. He has the competitiveness to figure it out.
The two biggest questions in that rotation are easily found in the 4-5 spots. Can either or both of Pivetta and Velasquez fully seize a spot, proving themselves to be a reliable option? Will Matt Klentak swing a deal to bring in a more stable, veteran option or two?
In the bullpen, the effective return from injuries of Tommy Hunter and David Robertson would be massive. So would adding a better second lefty option than Alvarez. Someone stepping up from the minors, or a youngster such as Edgar Garcia or Edurbray Ramos, would be invaluable as an in-house option.
Neris has been the one truly shutdown arm, his ERA blowing up by a half-run in today’s game. Bottom line, the Phillies need a few more relievers to become shutdown pitchers if they are going to have success over the summer and then down the stretch of a pennant race in September.
And then finally, the manager and the general manager. Gabe Kapler has generally done a good job here in his second season. It’s hard to find much fault to this point. He had a team in first place last year that really had no business being there. This year he has worked hard to guide a team that has been hurt by key injuries in the lineup and bullpen.
Matt Klentak has to come through in-season as well as he did in the off-season. The Phillies need at least one more reliable veteran starting pitcher. They could use a better lefty relief arm in addition to Morgan. They could still use a more reliable, experienced bat with some pop to come off the bench. Finding a legitimate starting center fielder might be too much to hope for, but that could make a massive move for the lineup.
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