In a similar fashion to 2022, the Philadelphia Phillies have struggled to start the season, posting just a 27-32 record through 59 games.
Last season, the Phillies were 22-29 when they fired manager Joe Girardi. Interim skipper Rob Thomson took over, and the team got hot, going 65-46 the rest of the way and making the World Series. With expectations high, Thomson will once again be tasked with righting the ship and getting this team back to the postseason.
Here are three reasons for the Philadelphia Phillies struggles in 2023:
Why The Phillies Have Struggled Thus Far in 2023
Inconsistency at the plate
Inconsistency has been a common theme for the Philadelphia Phillies. The team is coming off a series victory against the Nationals. However, prior to this, they lost five straight games and were outscored by 15 runs in the process.
On the offensive end, the Phillies are loaded with talent with players such as Kyle Schwarber, J.T. Realmuto, Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, and Nick Castellanos rounding out the lineup. On paper, they have one of the best lineups in all of baseball, and this is evident with their performance last October which carried them to the World Series after winning just 87 games in the regular season.
The problem with this lineup is inconsistency. Take Kyle Schwarber for example. So far this season, he has 15 home runs which puts him in the top 10 in the league. At the same time, he is hitting just .172 with 36 hits and 75 strikeouts in 209 at bats.
Trea Turner, who consistently hits for a great average, is hitting just .232 in his first season in red pinstripes. J.T. Realmuto just came off a great series against the Nationals where he hit two home runs and added a double on four total hits. Prior to this, however, he had just two hits over the course of 20 at bats dating back to May 25th.
When the Phillies lineup is on, they’re one of the toughest assignments for any pitcher in the league. On the flip side, when one player goes cold, the whole team seems to follow suit and it creates a frustrating dynamic. This is not a new issue for the team. In 2021, Bryce Harper won the MVP despite only driving in 84 RBIs. This was partially due to the lack of runners on base when he was up.
Lack of starting pitching depth
Going into 2023, the Phillies were confident that their pitching was in a much better spot than they were a year ago.
They replaced Zach Eflin with 2021 All-Star Taijuan Walker and added Craig Kimbrel, and Gregory Soto to sure up the back of the bullpen. The team was also confident that top prospect Andrew Painter would be ready to go and take the reins as the fifth starter. Painter, however, went down early in spring training with an injury and the team is unsure when he will return.
Left-hander Ranger Suarez started the year on the Injured List as well, missing a month and a half of action. This left the team with Matt Strahm and Bailey Falter as the fourth and fifth starters. Falter pitched poorly, posting seven losses and a 5.13 ERA before being sent down to Lehigh Valley. Strahm looked strong as a starter, but is best used as a long reliever, which is where he has been used since May 7th.
The Phillies added Dylan Covey from the waiver wire, and while he looked good in his first action for the team, his ERA has imploded since and he has been demoted to the bullpen.
Recently, the team has relied on bullpen games every five days due to the lack of depth on the Major League roster. While this is sustainable every once in a while, it is not ideal for an entire season as it will tax the bullpen and could lead to injuries from the overuse of relievers. The Phillies will have to hope that Painter or Mick Abel will be ready to go soon, or they will likely look elsewhere to address the back end of the rotation going forward.
Runners Left on Base
This goes hand in hand with inconsistency at the plate. When the Phillies get runners on, they struggle to take advantage of this and score runs. They are fourth-worst in the league with runners left on base with an average of 3.74. With the level of talent in this lineup, the team should have no problems driving in runs and keeping the momentum going. They have been better as of late with 2.67 runners stranded over the past three games and, hopefully, this is a sign of what’s to come as we enter the midway point of the season.
With all this being said, the Philadelphia Phillies have the potential to turn this thing around once again. It will not be easy, as the Braves are performing very well and the Mets will be there too in contention for the NL East crown. They will have their struggles offensively but expect the lineup to start producing more and putting the ball in play more often.
While I am concerned about the current rotation depth and the performance of Aaron Nola (4-4, 4.70 ERA), it is ultimately the lineup that will carry this team once again. As long as the starters can eat up innings and keep the games close, the lineup will do the rest and will win this team many ball games.
In the face of their struggles, the Philadelphia Phillies have shown resilience before, and with their talented lineup, there is still hope for them to turn the season around and make a strong push for the playoffs.
Main Image: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports