Monday, May 15, 2017

The Philadelphia Phillies are simply not ready to contend - yet

Much is being written by local scribes who follow the Philadelphia Phillies on a daily basis regarding the increased competitiveness of the club thus far in the 2017 season.

Those writers are echoing the comments of Phillies team officials. In signing manager Pete Mackanin to a contract extension, GM Matt Klentak had this to say per Ryan Lawrence of Philly Voice:
“I think the effort level of this team – we can see progress in what’s happening right now. Pete can see it, we all can see it’s happening before our very eyes. Obviously, it’s not reflected in our win-loss record yet, but we can see the progress happening.”
25 of the Phillies first 35 games in 2017 have been decided by either one or two runs. That includes both games of Sunday’s split doubleheader with the division rival Washington Nationals. Unfortunately, the Phils are just 9-16 in those tight games.
Much is also being made of the competition in this early part of the schedule. The Phillies have played those Nationals a dozen times already this year. At 24-13, the Nats have the best record in the National League.
The Phillies have also played seven total games against the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs, both leading contenders this season. They went 1-6 in those games.
So in 19 of the club’s first 35 games, they have been up against some of the best teams in the league. Their record in those contests is 6-13.

CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR

There is the rub. While the Phillies may indeed be more competitive, they are still nowhere near a contending ball club. Even in the rest of their games, the Phils have only an 8-8 record.
They cannot beat the good teams, and they only break even against the mediocre clubs. This team is simply not good enough to win, let alone contend – yet.
Offensively, the Phillies are 18th in Runs scored and 9th in OPS in all of Major League Baseball. They finished last, 30th of 30 teams, in each of those categories last season.
Still holding the team back is their overall approach at the plate. The Phillies are fourth in the National League in striking out. They are just 19th in MLB in drawing walks.
On the mound, their Batting Average Against of .264 is tied for 26th in baseball. The pitchers don’t overpower anyone, as the staff’s cumulative total of 248 strikeouts is next-to-last in the National League, 28th in all of baseball.
The writers who cover the Phillies and the management of the team can talk about close results and consistent effort all they want. But the 14-21 record, 5th worst in the NL, has been earned.
The Phillies have now lost 12 of their last 15 games. And now 18 of their next 28 games on the road, where they are just 6-13 so far on the season.

ONLY TALENT INFLUX WILL IMPROVE RESULTS

Meanwhile down on the farm, the AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs are in first place in the International League North Division standings. The Pigs record of 23-13 has them 3.5 games in front, tied for the most victories in the league.
If the current Phillies continue on their current losing path, it is only a matter of time before some of the players find some of those IronPigs AAA prospects pushing for a big league role.
That is the only thing that will push the Phillies forward, an influx of better talent. That talent seems to be nearly ready in the minor leagues at a number of positions.
When the season began, I predicted a 72-90 last place finish for the 2017 Philadelphia Phillies. Serious followers of the team should refer back to that piece, linked in the previous sentence. My realistic review of the team is playing out before our eyes.
The good news is that the turnaround has begun. There are some pieces in Philly who should be able to help the team contend in the next couple of years. More talent is coming soon from the minor leagues. And the team has tons of money to lavish on the strong free agent classes coming over the next couple years.
But for now, and until real changes are made in the talent level on the field, the Phillies will remain what their record says they are – a scrappy team that battles tough, but is simply not talented enough to win on a consistent basis.

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