If winning is fun, the Philadelphia Phillies weren’t having any fun until the second half of the season, especially in the months of May and June. The Phillies closed out the season with 16 wins in the final month, which is more than they won in May and June combined.
Through the majority of the season, the Phillies held the worst record in baseball. The problems didn’t necessarily stem from a severe lack of offense or even incompetence on defense, instead poor pitching was their downfall.
From an offensive standpoint, the Phillies weren’t entirely anemic. They were sixth in the National League in doubles and fourth in triples, but also fourth in strikeouts. Philadelphia’s inability to put the bat on the ball left runners in scoring position and put the Phillies 12th in the NL in runs scored.
The Philadelphia offense got a major boost with the August promotion of outfielder/first baseman Rhys Hoskins, who hit .259 with 18 homers and 48 RBIs in 50 games. There were only three Phillies who hit more home runs over the course of the entire season than Hoskins did in the final month and a half that he played in the show.
Defensively, the Phillies were fourth in the NL in fielding percentage with just 82 errors on the season. However, converting batted balls in play into outs was an issue, as Philadelphia was 10th in the NL with a .683 defensive efficiency.
When a defense plays as clean as the Phillies did this season, but they’re not converting batted balls into outs, pitching is one place to look for why. Phillies pitching was not good this season with a staff ERA of 4.55 while allowing 9.2 hits and 1.4 home runs per nine innings.
Starting pitcher Aaron Nola was a refreshing bright spot (and an outlier) on the Phillies’ staff with a 3.54 ERA and the only winning record in the starting rotation at 12-11 in 27 starts.
First things first this offseason, the Phillies need to overhaul their pitching staff. Free agent starting pitchers Jason Vargas and Tyler Chatwood would be solid targets for the Phillies. Vargas won 18 games and was named an All-Star in 2017 with the Kansas City Royals. He doesn’t walk many batters and gets outs. Chatwood lost 15 games with the Colorado Rockies last season, but he he throws ground balls, which could be helpful for a team that had a hard time creating outs and keeping the ball in the ballpark.
As for the future, the Phillies had top second base prospect Scott Kingery in Triple-A during the 2017 season. If Philadelphia decides to bring him up to the bigs for the 2018 season, second baseman Cesar Hernandez could either move to third base full time or be shipped off in a package deal for another infielder.
The Phillies were bad in 2017, there are no two ways about it. It’s going to take a few years to get this team back on track, but through pitching and minor tweaks to the offensive side, it can happen.
Photo by Brigham Berthold