Every Phillies Season Ever - Part 8
From one golden era to (hopefully) another.
Every year we forget how baseball works.
As I write this, the Phillies are 11-12 on the season. Not terrible, not great.
Most of us think the team is better than its current record. Which makes sense, because a team’s start rarely predicts its finish.
The 2008 World Champions of Baseball were 12-11 though the same number of games. The 1980 Phillies started 11-12.
The 2009 and 2010 Phils each started 13-10. The 2022 National League Champion Phils started 11-12. But so did the 2021 team that finished with just 80 wins. The 1964 Phillies were 14-9 after 23 games. The 1990 and 2016 Phillies were each 13-10.
This all seems odd until you look at it statistically. A team destined to win 95 games will win 58.6% of the time over the course of the season. That 95-win squad is a good team, but it takes a ton of games to identify its slight advantage.
They play 162 games because it’s impossible to identify good baseball teams without a huge sample size.
It’s just how baseball works. Slight edges adding up over time. Like a professional poker player getting just a tiny advantage playing each hand, but making millions of dollars over millions of hands.
And look, I’m not here to scold anybody who was freaking out when this year’s team was 0-4. I was pissed too. But we need to remind ourselves that the record doesn’t give us many clues yet. The eye test matters so much more.
And through 23 games, I think these Phillies pass the eye test. The young guys like Bryson Stott, Brandon Marsh, Edmundo Sosa, and Alec Bohm are hitting the cover off the ball. Nick Castellanos looks great. Kyle Schwarber and Trea Turner are doing about what you’d expect. JT Realmuto could step it up some, but there really isn’t much to be concerned about with the bats.
Especially with Bryce Harper looking like he will return earlier than originally expected.
There is some cause for concern with the pitching. Nobody in the rotation looks dominant. But they’ve only made 4-5 starts each. The bullpen struggled early on, but has pitched well lately.
And it’s easy to see how the pitching staff should improve when Ranger Suarez rejoins the rotation. His return will allow Matt Strahm to go back to the relief role Strahm was originally expected to fill. Which, in turn, will allow Rob Thompson to preserve guys like Jose Alvarado, Connor Brogdon, Gregory Soto, Craig Kimbrel, and Seranthony Dominguez for late, high-leverage situations.
The Phillies even look solid on defense, a big change from 2022. And because they’ve already gone all-in, it’s likely that they will do what’s necessary to patch up holes at the trade deadline.
So we should feel pretty good about this team, in my humble opinion. I even think they’re set up to be successful for at least a few more years. If you’re more pessimistic, that’s fine too. It’s very possible that 2022 was a fluke. Just recognize that after 23 games we don’t actually know anything yet. Because that’s how baseball works.
For each of the seasons we’ll look at in this final installment of Every Phillies Season Ever (2009-2022), note the team’s record after 23 games:
2009: 93-69, 1st place. 13-10 after 23 games.
Ruben Amaro, Jr. succeeds Pat Gillick as General Manager, and he keeps the Phillies’ core from 2008 largely in place. Raul Ibanez replaces Pat Burrell in left field, hitting 34 home runs in 134 games and posting an .899 OPS. Ryan Howard hits 45 home runs. Chase Utley hits 31 home runs and steals 23 bases without getting caught. Jimmy Rollins hits 21 home runs and steals 31 bases. Jayson Werth has a tremendous year, slashing .268/.373/.506 with 36 home runs and 20 stolen bases. Carlos Ruiz puts up a .780 OPS, a new career high. And Pedro Feliz continues to provide stellar defense while contributing here and there at the plate.
On the mound, Cole Hamels has a down year, going 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA. Jamie Moyer’s ERA is 4.94, and Joe Blanton’s is 4.05. But J.A. Happ joins the rotation in late May, going 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA. And summer reinforcements arrive in the form of Cliff Lee, who goes 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA after he’s acquired from Cleveland, and Pedro Martinez, who goes 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA down the stretch. The Phillies win the first seven games that Martinez starts.
Brad Lidge struggles both before and after a June stint on the Disabled List, blowing 11 saves and posting a 7.21 season ERA. But Charlie Manuel sticks with him as closer through most of the season, and he collects 31 of the team’s 44 saves.
On April 13, beloved broadcaster Harry Kalas collapses in the broadcast booth at Nationals Park just before a game between Washington and the Phillies. He dies at the age of 73. Phillies President David Montgomery breaks the news to reporters while fighting back tears: “We lost our voice today. Harry loved our game and made a tremendous contribution to our sport, and certainly to our organization.”
The loss of Kalas is devastating, but the season goes on. Werth steals four bases, including home plate, against the Dodgers on May 12. The Phillies score 22 runs in a win against the Reds on July 6. And Eric Bruntlett records an unassisted triple play on August 23.
In the playoffs, the Phils beat the Rockies in the National League Division Series and the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. In Game 4 of the NLCS, Rollins hits a walk-off double and it leads to the best thing the internet ever created.
The Phils fall to the Yankees in the World Series, four games to two. The good guys win Game 1 but it’s all downhill from there. Utley hits five home runs and records a 1.448 OPS over the course of the six games. Lee is the winning pitcher in the Phillies’ two victories, and for the entire postseason he posts a 5-0 record and a 1.56 ERA.
2010: 97-65, 1st place. 13-10 after 23 games.
The 2009-2010 offseason is… eventful. In related transactions, the Phillies acquire perennial Cy Young candidate and 2003 award winner Roy Halladay, and trade away 2008 Cy Young award winner Cliff Lee. Amaro indicates that he would have loved to keep both aces, but that he was worried about Lee leaving as a free agent after 2010. Amaro also states that his decision was motivated by a need to restock the Phillies’ farm system: the Phils send Travis d'Arnaud, Kyle Drabek, and Michael Taylor to Toronto in the Halladay deal, and acquire Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies, and Juan Ramirez from Seattle in the Lee deal.
Halladay certainly does his part to get the Phillies back to the postseason, winning the 2010 NL Cy Young award and leading the majors in wins (21), complete games (9), shutouts (4), and innings pitched (250.2). He also leads the NL in walks per nine innings (1.1) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.30). Halladay strikes out 219 batters, posts a 2.44 ERA, logs a 1.04 WHIP, and finishes sixth in NL MVP voting. On May 29 against the Marlins, Halladay pitches the 20th perfect game in MLB history.
On October 6, Halladay takes the mound against the Reds for Game 1 of the NLDS. It’s the first ever postseason appearance for the 13-year MLB veteran, and he uses the opportunity to throw the second postseason no-hitter in major league history.
After sweeping the Reds, the Phillies lose an excruciating series four games to two to the Giants in the NLCS, featuring losses by the scores of 4-3, 3-0, 6-5, and 3-2.
2011: 102-60, 1st place. 15-8 after 23 games.
One way to avoid some of the inherent baseball uncertainties discussed above is to go out and build a gottdamn superteam. One that’s destined to win 65% of its games before clinching the division (105-win pace), and 63% of its games overall.
That’s exactly what the Phillies do in 2011. They assemble one of the greatest starting rotations in history. Roy Oswalt (150-83 in his career through 2010 with a 3.18 ERA) had already been acquired in a 2010 trade deadline deal with the Astros. Hamels (60-45, 3.53 ERA through 2010) is still in his prime. Halladay (169-86, 3.32 ERA through 2010) was coming off a historically incredible Cy Young season. And on December 15, 2010, a date now known in Philadelphia as “Cliffmas,” the Phillies bring back free agent Lee (102-61, 3.85 ERA through 2010). Lee turned down bigger offers from the Yankees and the Rangers to be a part of this rotation.
Expectations are high for the 2011 squad, and in the regular season they don’t disappoint. The rotation’s numbers sparkle:
Halladay: 19-6, 2.35 ERA, 2.20 FIP, 1.04 WHIP, 8.5 strikeouts per 9
Lee: 17-8, 2.40 ERA, 2.60 FIP, 1.03 WHIP, 9.2 strikeouts per 9
Hamels: 14-9, 2.79 ERA, 3.05 FIP, 0.99 WHIP, 8.1 strikeouts per 9
Oswalt: 9-10, 3.69 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 1.34 WHIP, 6.0 strikeouts per 9
Halladay, Lee, and Hamels finish 2nd, 3rd, and 5th in NL Cy Young voting, respectively. Oswalt is far from a disappointment, but he misses time with a back injury and plays in just 23 games.
Fans sometimes remember Joe Blanton as the “forgotten fifth ace” in this rotation because of preseason plans, but Blanton only makes eight starts. Kyle Kendrick makes 15 starts, and Vance Worley makes 21.
Worley: 11-3, 3.01 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 1.23 WHIP, 8.1 strikeouts per 9
Kendrick: 8-6, 3.22 ERA, 4.55 FIP, 1.22 WHIP, 4.6 strikeouts per 9
Blanton: 1-2, 5.01 ERA, 3.63 FIP, 1.48 WHIP, 7.6 strikeouts per 9
The bullpen is stellar as well. Ryan Madson excels in the closer role (32 saves, 2.37 ERA), and Michael Stutes (3.63 ERA in 62 innings), Antonio Bastardo (2.64 ERA in 58 innings), and David Herndon (3.32 ERA in 57 innings) are the other primary relievers.
At the plate, the Phillies’ longtime stars are starting to show their age, but still put up some solid numbers. Shane Victorino is the position player with the highest bWAR (5.5), hitting .279/.355/.491 with 17 home runs and 19 stolen bases. Howard hits 33 home runs with an .835 OPS. Rollins puts up something close to his typical power/speed numbers (16 home runs, 30 stolen bases). From there the numbers get underwhelming: Utley plays in only 103 games and puts up a .769 OPS, Ruiz’s OPS is .754, 39-year-old Ibanez’s OPS is .707, and third baseman Placido Polanco (who returned to the Phillies in 2010) registers a .674 OPS.
Hunter Pence arrives via trade in late July and jolts the offense, slashing .324/.394/.560 with 11 home runs in 54 games.
The Phillies clinch the division on September 17, and they record their franchise-record 102nd win on September 28.
I’m sad to report that the second golden era of Phillies baseball ends there.
The Phils face a 90-win Cardinals team in the NLDS. The Phils are a better team. And the Phils do not win the best-of-five series, because that’s just how baseball works.
In Game 1, the Phils came back from a 3-0 deficit for an 11-6 win. In Game 2, they jump out to a 4-0 lead with Lee on the mound, but lose 5-4.
Then their bats disappear: they lose Game 2, 5-4; win Game 3, 3-2; and lose Game 4, 5-3 after leading 2-0 in the first inning.
Finally, and most painfully, they lose Game 5. 1-0 is the final score. In the fourth inning, Ibanez almost hits a 3-run home run to right field, but the ball is caught on the warning track. Howard grounds out to end the game and tears his Achilles’ tendon in the process. It’s one of the most cursed games in the long history of a cursed franchise. The Phillies will not return to the postseason again until 2022.
Each year from 2008 through 2011 the Phils improved as a team, progressing from 92 regular season wins in ‘08 to 93 in ‘09 to 97 in ‘10 to 102 in ‘11. And each year, they regressed in the playoffs, from a World Series win in ‘08 to a World Series loss in ‘09 to an NLCS loss in ‘10 to an NLDS loss in ‘11.
It’s painful, but it’s baseball. 162 games will show you what your team is. But over just five or seven games it’s tough for a team to have a significant advantage. The Phillies probably weren’t the most talented team in baseball in 2008, but they won at the right time. And they probably were the most talented team in baseball in 2011, but they couldn’t score a single run in Game 5 of the NLDS.
And they probably were not the most talented National League team in 2022 but… well, we’ll get to that shortly.
2012: 81-81, 3rd place. 11-12 after 23 games.
Fun’s over, gang.
Utley’s OPS is a respectable .793, although he plays in just 83 games due to knee issues. Rollins has a solid year, slashing .250/.316/.427 with 23 home runs and 30 stolen bases. New leftfielder Juan Pierre hits .307 with 37 stolen bases. Hamels (3.05 ERA) and Lee (3.16 ERA) put up good numbers on the mound. And Carlos Ruiz has his best season in the majors, slashing .325/.394/.540 with 16 home runs in 114 games.
But elsewhere, things are falling apart. Howard misses the first few months of the season and his OPS is just .718 when he returns. He puts up the lowest batting average of his career up to that point (.219 vs a career average of .275 through 2011). Each of Victorino and Pence is limited to 101 games and posts an OPS in the .700s. 36-year-old Polanco’s OPS is .629. The Phils rely on John Mayberry and Ty Wiggington to play in a combined 274 games, and the results are underwhelming. Long-hyped prospect Domonic Brown, now in his third major league season, fails to do much at the plate (.712 OPS in 56 games).
Roy Halladay is limited to 25 starts and registers his highest ERA (4.49) since he was a 23-year-old pitcher in the year 2000. After throwing 42 complete games from 2007 through 2011, he throws none in 2012.
Blanton’s ERA is 4.59. Worley’s ERA is 4.20. Newly acquired closer Jonathan Papelbon is dominant (2.44 ERA, 1.06 WHIP), but the rest of the bullpen is mediocre, and there just aren’t enough wins for him to close out.
To top it all off, in November 2012, Ruiz—the biggest bright spot of the season—is busted for amphetamine use.
2013: 73-89, 4th place. 9-14 after 23 games.
Lee (2.87 ERA in 31 starts) and Hamels (3.60 ERA in 33 starts) pitch well, but the wheels are coming off for Halladay (6.82 ERA in 13 starts). Halladay had stayed remarkably healthy throughout his career while logging an incredible number of innings, but is now battling a variety of shoulder issues. He retires after the season.
Utley hits 18 home runs in 131 games and posts an .823 OPS. Domonic Brown has an All-Star season, slashing .272/.324/.494 with 27 home runs. But heading into their mid-30s, Rollins hits 6 home runs with a .667 OPS and Ruiz hits 5 home runs with a .688 OPS. Howard, now 33, plays in just 80 games and hits only 11 home runs.
On August 16, the Phillies fire Charlie Manuel and Ryne Sandberg takes over as manager. Manuel ends his managerial career with exactly 1000 victories.
2014: 73-89, 5th place. 11-12 after 23 games.
Many familiar faces are still in this team’s lineup, but they’re not the same:
Ruiz: .252./.347/.370, 6 HR
Howard: .223/.310/.380, 23 HR
Utley: .270/.339/.407, 11 HR
Rollins: .243/.323/.394, 17 HR
Brown: .235/.285/.349, 10 HR
Newer faces don’t help much either: Cody Asche (.699 OPS), Ben Revere (.686 OPS), and Grady Sizemore (.654 OPS between Boston and Philly). Marlon Byrd (.757 OPS, team-high 25 HR) is a notable bright spot, but at 36 years old he doesn’t provide much hope for the future.
Hamels is still just 30 years old, and pitches very well (2.46 ERA). Papelbon saves 39 games with a 2.04 ERA. But Cliff Lee makes only 13 starts.
Ruben Amaro, Jr. is widely criticized for failing to sell what’s left of his stars at the trade deadline. By the end of the season, it’s abundantly clear that the Phillies have waited too long to start a rebuild.
Although he doesn’t yet officially retire, Cliff Lee would not pitch again after the 2014 season.
2015: 63-99, 5th place. 8-15 after 23 games. (Sometimes, the first 23 games actually do tell you everything you need to know.)
We’ve already given the 2015 Phillies season more attention than it deserves here. But to summarize:
Rollins and Byrd were traded before the season.
Utley, Hamels, Papelbon, and Revere are traded during the season.
Amaro isn’t able to move Howard (who hit .229) or Ruiz (who hit .211).
Odubel Herrera leads the team in bWAR. He also almost drops a fly ball for the final out of Hamels’ farewell no-hitter on July 25.
Sandberg resigns in June and Pete Mackanin takes over.
Attendance at Citizens Bank Park is down by 1.8 million from 2011.
There are some likable young guys on this team. 22-year-old Maikel Franco shows promise at third base, posting an .840 OPS and hitting 14 HR in 80 games. Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis play great defense in the middle infield (especially Galvis), though neither of them hits much. Most importantly, Aaron Nola reaches the majors and pitches well in 13 starts.
Nola is the only player on this team who will ever reach the playoffs with the post-2011 Phillies.
2016: 71-91, 4th place. 13-10 after 23 games.
Matt Klentak takes over as GM during the offseason. Who knows what his plan was. Odubel Herrera, Jerad Eickhoff, and Jeremy Hellickson lead this team in bWAR. Here’s the Opening Day lineup:
C. Hernandez 2B
O. Herrera CF
M. Franco 3B
R. Howard 1B
C. Ruiz C
C. Hunter LF
P. Bourjos RF
F. Galvis SS
J. Hellickson P
Howard somehow hits 25 HR in 112 games with a .196 batting average. He plays his final major league game on October 2.
Scanning the roster for guys who play for the 2022 Phillies, you won’t find many. It’s maybe the most depressing aspect of the 2016 team. These are the guys before the guys.
There are a few, however: Nola makes 20 starts (4.78 ERA), Zach Eflin makes 11 starts (5.54 ERA), and Roman Quinn plays in 15 games (.706 OPS, 5 SB). But Quinn won’t be on the roster by the end of the 2022 regular season, so he maybe doesn’t count.
24-year-old Vince Velasquez strikes out 16 batters in a shutout on April 14.
2017: 66-96, 5th place. 11-12 after 23 games.
This is actually an interesting team, despite the record.
There are several position players who put up solid numbers. We learn later that it’s fool’s gold, but in 2017 26-year-old Aaron Altherr (.856 OPS), 25-year old Herrera (.778 OPS), and 23-year-old Nick Williams (.811 OPS) look like they might form a respectable outfield. Galvis continues to be a defensive wizard at SS, and Hernandez puts up a pretty good OPS for a second baseman (.793). Maikel Franco regresses (.690 OPS), but he’s still 24 years old and flashing a lot of power (24 HR).
Aaron Nola shows that he can be a front-end starter, going 12-11 with a 3.54 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP, and 9.9 strikeouts per 9 innings. And young starters Nick Pivetta, Eickhoff, Ben Lively, and Velasquez all have promising moments (while putting up terrible numbers overall). Eflin posts a 6.16 ERA in 11 more starts.
Rhys Hoskins makes his major league debut in August, and after starting 0 for 12, goes on a tear that’s more exciting than anything the Phillies have done in years. He hits 18 home runs in 30 games between August 14 and September 14, slashing .343/.466/.895. That’s a 1.361 OPS.
Top prospect J.P. Crawford debuts with this team in September.
Overall, still a terrible team. But for the first time in a while, it feels like the Phillies have a few nice pieces.
2018: 80-82, 3rd place. 15-8 after 23 games.
With Phillies fans growing more impatient by the day, the front office decides to make some changes. Gabe Kapler is hired as manager, and the team adds a handful of veteran free agents: relief pitchers Tommy Hunter and Pat Neshek, first baseman Carlos Santana, and, most notably, 32-year-old former Cy Young winner Jake Arrietta.
Nola (17-6, 2.37 ERA) and Arrieta (10-11, 3.96 ERA) prove to be a solid 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. Pivetta, Velasquez, and Eflin round out the rotation, posting 4.77, 4.85, and 4.36 ERAs, respectively.
In the lineup, Hoskins shows that his 2017 power surge was no fluke, hitting 34 home runs with an .850 OPS. He’s a defensive nightmare out in left field though, making Santana (.766 OPS, 24 HR) a bad fit for the team.
23-year-old Seranthony Dominguez debuts with this squad, contributing immediately with a 2.95 ERA, a 0.93 WHIP, and 16 saves. Scott Kingery is a rookie on this team as well, but doesn’t put up very good numbers.
The goal for the 2018 Phillies is to play meaningful September baseball games for the first time in years, and they accomplish that. At the end of August, they are 72-62, just 2 games behind the NL East-leading Braves.
Unfortunately, the Phillies lose 20(!) of those meaningful September baseball games, winning just 8.
On September 28, after the Phils lose their ninth straight ballgame, Santana destroys a television with a baseball bat because some of his teammates are playing Fortnite during games.
“We come and lose too many games, and I feel like they weren’t worried about it,” explained Santana. “Weren’t respecting their teammates or coaches or the staff or the [front] office. It’s not my personality. But I’m angry because I want to make it good.”
A justified outburst, and probably something that the team needed earlier. But Hoskins would have to move to first base to stay in the lineup, and on December 3, Santana and Crawford were traded to Seattle for Jean Segura, Juan Nicasio, and James Pazos.
2019: 81-81, 12-11 after 23 games.
The Phils finally go for it during the offseason. After the trade for Jean Segura on December 3, the team signs free agent outfielder and former MVP Andrew McCutchen to a 3-year deal on December 12. In February, the Phillies send highly regarded pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, Jorge Alfaro, Will Stewart, and international bonus slot money to the Marlins in exchange for J.T. Realmuto, the premiere catcher in baseball.
And on March 2, 2019, the Phillies sign Bryce Aron Max Harper to a 13-year, $330 million contract.
Hospitals report that the franchise-altering signing drives cases of Phillies Phever to levels not seen in nearly a decade. And Harper largely lives up to the hype, slashing .260/.372/.510 with 35 home runs. The other new additions do their part as well: Realmuto hits .275/.328/.493 with 25 home runs (and a cannon behind the plate); McCutchen puts up an .834 OPS before tearing an ACL; and Segura leads qualifying players on the team with a .280 batting average.
As for the 2018 holdovers: Hoskins hits 29 home runs; Kingery seemingly breaks out with a .788 OPS, 19 HR, and 15 SB; and Cesar Hernandez is steady at second base. Some of the other young guys struggle (notably, Franco, Herrera, Quinn, Williams, and Altherr). But mid-season acquisitions Jay Bruce (12 HR in 51 games), Corey Dickerson (.886 OPS in 34 games), and Brad Miller (.941 OPS in 66 games) keep the offense humming, and the Phillies score 774 runs, their most since 2009.
But the pitching allows 794 runs. Nola performs reasonably well at the top of the rotation with a 3.87 ERA. But he doesn’t get much help from starters Eflin (4.13 ERA), Arrieta (4.64 ERA), Velasquez (4.91 ERA), Pivetta (5.38 ERA), Eickhoff (5.71 ERA), Drew Smyly (4.45 ERA), or Jason Vargas (5.37 ERA), each of whom made at least 10 starts. The bullpen is similarly messy, with the exception of good seasons from Hector Neris, Jose Alvarez, and Ranger Suarez.
The great offense and terrible pitching add up to the Phillies’ first .500 season since 2011. But expectations were high after the Harper signing, and another brutal September (12-16, including a 6-game losing streak near the very end) spell the end for Gabe Kapler’s time with the team.
2020: 28-32, 3rd place. 9-14 after 23 games.
Joe Girardi is the new manager for this pandemic-shortened season. The Phillies needed pitching in the offseason, so they opened up the wallet again to sign free agent Zack Wheeler. He excels with a 2.92 ERA.
Nola has a good year as well, posting a 3.28 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP with 12.1 strikeouts per 9. And Eflin is a serviceable number 3 starter with a 3.97 ERA.
Behind those three, however, the pitching is still awful. Arrieta’s ERA is 5.08 in the final year of his contract. Velasquez is even worse at 5.56. Fans desperate for a pitching savior pin their hopes on highly-touted rookie Spencer Howard, but with a 5.92 ERA he turns out to be the worst of a bad group.
Numbers in the bullpen are comical. Look at these ERAs (but don’t stare directly at them, it will hurt):
Adam Morgan: 5.54 in 17 games
Brandon Workman: 6.92 in 14 games
Jojo Romero: 7.59 in 12 games
Ramon Rosso: 6.52 ERA in 7 games
Heath Hembree: 12.54 in 11 games
David Phelps: 12.91 in 10 games
Deolis Guerra: 8.59 in 9 games
Pivetta: 15.88 in 3 games
Suarez: 20.25 in 3 games
Cole Irvin: 17.18 in 3 games
Trevor Kelley: 10.80 in 4 games
Austin Davis: 21.00 in 4 games
The Phillies hit well again. Harper slashes .268/.420/.542, and he’s one of five Phillies to reach double-digit home runs in the short season (joining Realmuto, Hoskins, McCutchen, and newcomer Didi Gregorious). Rookie Alec Bohm slashes .338/.400/.481.
But there’s no way for an offense to make up for a pitching staff like this one. And the Phillies stumble down the stretch again, losing seven of their last eight games. The playoff drought continues.
2021: 82-80, 2nd place. 11-12 after 23 games.
Dave Dombrowski replaces Andy MacPhail as President of Baseball Operations, and Sam Fuld replaces Matt Klentak as GM. The team successfully re-signs J.T. Realmuto, but fails to address its pitching concerns in any meaningful way. The resulting season looks much like the prior few seasons, complete with a September fold.
After a win on September 18, the Phillies find themselves just half a game behind the Braves in the NL East. But they lose six of their last seven games (does this sound familiar?), including getting swept in a three-game series in Atlanta.
The season isn’t a total disaster. 82 wins is just enough for the Phillies to claim their first winning season in a decade. Harper goes nuclear and wins NL MVP, hitting .309 with 35 home runs and leading the majors in OPS at 1.044. Hoskins and McCutchen hit 27 home runs apiece.
Wheeler has a great year, going 14-10 with a 2.78 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP. Nola has a down year, 9-9 with a 4.63 ERA. The remainder of the rotation is predictably bad: Eflin (4.17 ERA in 18 starts), Velasquez (5.95 ERA in 17 starts), Matt Moore (6.29 ERA in 13 starts and 11 relief appearances), and Kyle Gibson (5.09 ERA in 11 starts).
The bullpen is better than it was in 2020, if only because it couldn’t mathematically get worse. Ranger Suarez is a bright spot on the staff, posting a 1.36 ERA in 27 relief appearances and 12 starts (106 innings). Overall, the team ERA is 4.39 one year after it was 5.14.
But it’s not enough. For the tenth consecutive year, the Phillies miss the playoffs.
2022: 87-75, 3rd place (but a Wild Card playoff berth). 11-12 after 23 games.
I don’t need to name the stars and the stats for this one. They’re fresh in all of our minds.
I don’t have to tell you about the slow start, Rob Thompson replacing Joe Girardi, the team overcoming Harper’s extended absence, or the wild postseason ride. We all remember all of that as well.
But you might not remember how things looked on the morning of September 30, 2022.
The Phillies’ record was 83-72. Once a lock for an NL Wild Card spot, they’d lost 10 of 13 between September 15 and September 29. They’d just been swept by a bad Cubs team with nothing to play for, scoring just 3 runs in the entire 3-game series.
They now trailed San Diego by 2.5 games for the second Wild Card spot, and led Milwaukee by only half a game for the third and final Wild Card spot.
Seven games remained in the season. Four in Washington vs the lowly Nationals, but then three in Houston against a juggernaut Astros squad.
Our postseason hopes were slipping away, and it felt all too familiar. We’d seen this movie in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021.
But this year, someone changed the script.
The Phillies beat the Nationals in the first game of the series behind Bailey Falter. On a dreary Saturday on the first day of October, in a nearly-empty Nationals Park, they split a doubleheader. The following day, they win again.
And on October 2 in Houston, Aaron Nola, Jose Alvarado, and Zach Eflin combined to shutout the mighty Astros and clinch a playoff spot.
So if anyone tells you they know what the 2023 Phillies are after 23 games, call bullshit. This team has the same 11-12 record as the 1980 champs and the 2021 chumps.
We revisited September 2022 to make an even stronger point: we might not even know what this team is after 155 games. The ‘22 squad looked like just another Phillies team that couldn’t get the job done in September, and Aaron Nola was poised to solidify his reputation as a late-season choke artist.
Then the Phillies take 3 out of 4 high-stakes games in Washington, Nola takes a perfect game into the 7th inning in a win against the eventual World Series champs, and the Phillies finally clinch a playoff spot.
Weeks later a sea of red is singing together at Citizens Bank Park and celebrating a National League pennant.
That’s how baseball works. And if you just reviewed every Phillies season ever with me, you know baseball is often terrible.
But every once in a while, it’s beautiful. Maybe even this year.
Tweets of the week.
Gotta love seeing our friend Jean Segura break up Spencer Strider’s no-hitter:
Can I interest you in Trea Turner’s first home run as a Phillie in Citizens Bank Park?
Philadelphia desperately wants to be a baseball town. Just give us a team worth watching:
I have always been skeptical about hitting coaches’ ability to do much for hitters at the major league level. Not anymore:
Not sure what terrible things are happening in the world to cause the Nick Castellanos resurgence. But I am sure that it’s all worth it:
This week in 2008.
The 2008 Phils were 11-11 at the end of April 23.
On April 17, powered by home runs from Utley, Howard, Burrell, and Coste, they crushed the Astros 10-2.
The Mets came to town next, and the Phillies lost two of three. Johan Santana outpitched Cole Hamels in game one, and the Phillies couldn’t get anything going against Mets starter Oliver Perez in game two. Chase Utley hit two more home runs in the series finale and the Phils salvaged a win.
Utley homered again the next night, April 21, as the Phillies got back to .500 at 10-10. It was Utley’s fifth straight game with a home run. Through 20 games, he was hitting .354/.430/.823 (1.253 OPS) with 9 home runs and 18 RBI.
On April 22, the Phils beat the Rockies again, 8-6. Jayson Werth hit his third home run of the season, and Pat Burrell drove in three runs. Burrell was hitting .357/.471/.729 (1.200 OPS) with 7 home runs and 22 RBI after this game.
The Phillies lost to the Brewers on April 23 as Cole Hamels gave up 5 runs in 7 innings. But Utley and Burrell stayed hot, hitting a home run each. That’s 18 home runs for the duo in the first 22 games of the season.
Phillie you forgot about.
Andy Carter, 2 seasons with the Phils (1994-1995). 0-2, 4.75 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9, 5.2 K/9 over 41.2 career innings pitched.
Congrats to twitter handle healedbyhockey on winning the autographed Matt Stairs baseball card. DM me a mailing address and I’ll ship it out.
Should have some more fun stuff coming up next week.
Upgrade to a paid subscription! You’ll get more Phillies newsletters (including guest features!), a follow from your friend 2008philz on twitter, a 2008 t-shirt (see pic below), and more. And just for today, I’m opening up a 50% friends and family discount to everyone who reads this:
This is the section of the newsletter where I make you look at dogs.
Thank you to everyone who submitted photos of your pets this week. They were all so amazing that I couldn’t pick any to highlight. So instead I made this collage:
Thanks for reading and go Phils!