The Philadelphia Phillies will return from the All-Star Break this evening when they welcome the Washington Nationals to Citizens Bank Park for a crucial three-game series with implications on the National League East and National League Wild Card races.
Given that the Phillies are 47-43 and six-and-a-half games behind in the Atlanta Braves in the division, the Wild Card may be the Phillies most realistic path to the postseason. Before the unofficial second-half begins, we polled our staffers if the Phillies will top 85.5 wins, a mark that would give them a good chance to win one of the two Wild Card spots:
Tim Kelly, Editorial Director
At the outset of the season, I was in the minority of taking the under on 88.5 wins for the Phillies. But when I said that, I was still thinking the Phillies would win between 86 and 88 games and nab one of the two Wild Card spots in the National League. I think I’ll be right on taking the under, and perhaps look silly for even sweating it at the time.
Even if it appears that Aaron Nola has returned to being one of the league’s best starters, the Phillies may not have one other stable starter on their roster. Even if we assume they’ll make a trade for a front-line starter – which probably isn’t a smart thing to assume – there are still three other turns in the rotation. And the day Aaron Nola starts counts just as much as any game Vince Velasquez or Nick Pivetta starts.
It’s reasonable to think the Phillies offense will be better in the second-half – imaging a team with Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins finishing the season in 10th in the National League in home runs is unfathomable. But will the offense be dominant enough to allow the Phillies to overcome one of the league’s worst starting rotations? That’s hard to imagine at this point, which leads me to think the Phillies will finish in the 79-83 wins range.
Matt Veasey, Staff
As much as it pains me to go with the under, it is the only logical choice at this point.
When the Phillies reached the halfway point of the 2019 season on June 23, they had a record of 43-38, which extrapolated out over the full season would leave them at 86 wins – just on the “over” side.
However, the club is just 14-21 since their high-water mark at 11 games over .500 on May 29. If that pace were to continue, we’re talking about a 76-win season. For this year’s Phillies to finish at 76-86 after all of the money spent and trades made over last off-season to improve the everyday lineup would be a disaster.
Unfortunately, I believe there are only two possible scenarios that could turn it around. The offensive lineup could collectively explode and stay hot over the most of the final two and a half months. I think there is more in the tank for most of the hitters than they have shown, so that could still happen. The other would be for Matt Klentak to somehow pull off trades for two solid starting pitchers and a couple of productive bench pieces this month. That seems a longshot at best.
Right now, I’ll go a little above the worst-case scenario and hope for a .500 season. A major disappointment, but better than another loser, and something to continue building on for 2020.
Jason Ferrie, Staff
When betting on the total of 85.5 wins for the Phillies, I believe you need to look at the under.
The Phillies rotation is a major question mark and Jake Arrieta has a bone spur in his pitching elbow, something that doesn’t feel sustainable. Their current run differential is two, which is not encouraging. The number I’d land on is around 84 wins and that will keep them in Wild Card contention, but there are just too many questions marks in the rotation right now to take the over.
If the front office can pull off a massive trade then the over is certainly in play, but it doesn’t feel overly likely at this stage that Matt Klentak’s front office will do that at this stage.
Brandon Apter, Staff
At the beginning of the season, I had the Phillies tabbed for an 88-74 season, but now that doesn’t seem as realistic.
Although their offense looks to be coming around, it rarely stays around consistently. If the Phillies hope to get a spot in the playoffs, they are going to need the middle of their lineup to perform better (Harper/Realmuto have been good recently).
Ultimately, though, their pitching will dictate how they finish. Aaron Nola is starting to look like the 2018 Nola, but beyond him there aren’t any guys you can look at to give you quality starts regularly. If the Phillies find a way to trade for Mike Minor, for example, I think they will be in a good position to make a push for a Wild Card spot.
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