This fairly well sums up the current straits of the Philadelphia Phillies:
The Marlins have fared better over the last 40 games or so, so they’re not quite the punchline they once were. On balance, though, they’re a bad team, and they just worked over the Phillies at Citizens’ Bank Park. That leaves the Phillies sitting on a seven-game losing streak and one game over .500 for the season with a minus-8 run differential. They’re outside of playoff position right now, and they trail the Braves by 6.5 games in the NL East. Framed another way, they’re much closer in those NL East standings to the Mets than they are the Braves. Bear in mind that as recently as May 31 the Phillies were in first place by three games.
What’s also concerning is how poorly the Phils stack up according to the BaseRuns system available at Fangraphs. BaseRuns attempts to model a team’s run-scoring and run-prevention capabilities at the most basic level — i.e., on a plate-appearance-by-plate-appearance basis and with the effects of hit “sequencing” removed. Basically, it’s a measure of how good a team is at controlling the fundamental outcomes of the batter-pitcher encounter. It yields what a team’s record should be based on core skills. BaseRuns right now gives the Phillies a deserved record of 34-43, which is five games worse than their actual record. That means the Phillies have probably been fortunate to have that 39-38 mark. That also means they probably won’t continue to keep their head above the waterline unless those fundamental indicators improve.
- They’re projected to finish with an 80-82 record.
- They’ve given just a 5.1 percent chance of winning the division.
- They’re given just a 15.4 percent chance of making the postseason.
In light of their BaseRuns record, you could argue that an 80-82 projected finish actually skews a bit optimistic.
The Phillies, of course, are heavily committed to success this season. This past winter, they signed Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen at great cumulative expense. As well, they swung trades for Jean Segura, J.T. Realmuto, and — very recently — Jay Bruce. Harper has disappointed thus far, and McCutchen, after a good start, is out for the season with a torn ACL. Segura and Realmuto have been varying degrees of disappointing.
In related matters, the Phillies right now rank ninth in the NL in runs scored, 10th in OBP, and 11th in slugging. That’s despite playing their home games in a ballpark that modestly benefits hitters. As for corrective measures, manager Gabe Kapler and his flagship batsman can’t even agree on simple steps:
On the pitching front, the Phillies rank 10th in both rotation ERA and bullpen ERA. Also worrisome is how Philly grades out when it comes to FIP (or fielding-independent pitching — i.e., what a pitcher’s ERA would probably look like with league-average defensive support and neutral luck). Right now, the Phillies rank 14th in the NL with a rotation FIP of 4.98 and last in the NL with a bullpen FIP of 5.06. That means, in terms of fundamental indicators, there’s nothing in the numbers that suggests the Phillies’ pitching is going to improve. You’ll also recall that two names who could’ve helped out matters — Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel — recently signed belated deals with fellow NL rivals.
Leading up to the July 31 trade deadline, the Phillies have pronounced needs in the rotation and bullpen and at third base, and that assumes emergency center fielder Scott Kingery keeps producing. The Phillies’ system, however, has been thinned out via trades and promotions, and it’s doubtful that they’ll be able to compete for the most alluring names leading up to the deadline. That’s another way of saying the Phillies need to find improvement from within. The numbers to date, though, suggest that isn’t likely.
What is likely is that the Phillies’ 2019 campaign will be looked upon as a major disappointment — one that perhaps costs Kapler his job. There’s time for that to change, obviously, but encouraging signs are hard to come by.