Winning baseball teams come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
The 102-win 2011 Phillies scored just 5 more runs than the 65-win 2000 Phillies. It helps to have the greatest pitching staff in modern franchise history.
On the other end of the spectrum, the 97-win 1993 Phillies allowed more runs than the 65-win 1988 team. It helps to have Lenny Dykstra batting leadoff with a .902 OPS.
The 2022 Phillies were a little more complicated than either of those clubs. They didn’t hit as well as you probably think they did, and their pitching was better than they get credit for. If we look at the 50 Phillies teams since 1973, our 2022 NL Champs rank 15th in runs scored/game (4.6) and 20th in ERA (3.98).
Those numbers were good for 87 wins and a wild card ticket to the postseason. But the goal this year is to win the division, and the Phils will need to improve on both sides of the ball to keep pace with talented Mets and Braves teams.
They probably will.
First, let’s talk pitching. That 3.98 ERA was inflated by a defense that struggled despite not committing many official errors. While the team’s ERA was 20th in modern franchise history, their WHIP was 6th (1.255, about the same as 2010). And their FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching, a stat that assesses pitchers on home runs, walks, and strikeouts, based on the theory that these categories pitchers directly control) was 10th (3.60, better than 1977).
Those numbers suggest that the team’s ERA would likely improve in 2023 even if the Phils made no changes. But the team added Taijuan Walker (3.49 ERA in 2022), Matt Strahm (career 1.208 WHIP), Craig Kimbrel (career 14.4 strikeouts/9 innings), and Gregory Soto (30 saves and an all-star appearance in 2022). They also did a little addition by subtraction, and the defense should be solid up the middle with JT Realmuto, Trea Turner, Bryson Stott, and a full season of Brandon Marsh.
People smarter than me say that all these tweaks will add up to 653 runs allowed in 2023, which would be a top-7 Phillies performance over the last 50 years.
The offense should also put up better numbers than last season. The 2022 team wasted 685 plate appearances on Didi Gregorious, Odúbel Herrera, Johan Camargo, Mickey Moniak, and Roman Quinn. Those players hit .210, .238, .237, .130, and .162, respectively.
Looking at the full team’s slash line of .253/.317/.422, one starts to wonder how the 2022 offense even cracked the Phils’ top-15, let alone made it to the World Series. They ranked 32nd out of the last 50 Phillies teams in batting average and 39th in on-base percentage.
There’s one thing they did extremely well, however.
They hit DINGERS.
205 of them to be exact, good for 7th most all-time in Phillies history.
So no mystery here. The 2022 Phils hit home runs but not much else. They’ll have to get on base more in 2023, making Trea Turner’s career .302/.355/.487 slash line the perfect offseason acquisition. Turner’s speed should also help the Phils manufacture runs on nights when the ball isn’t jumping out of the park. MLB rule changes intended to boost offense won’t hurt, either.
Of course, the 2023 Phillies’ success will still mostly hinge on the longball. The pitching staff might be talented, and the Phils will get on base more often, but the identity of this team will still be good old fashion blunt force trauma. Luckily, they’re built to make a run at the 2009 franchise record of 224 home runs:
Turner, who averages 24 HR per 162 games, should more than make up for the loss of Jean Segura’s 10 HR;
Nick Castellanos, who hit 34 HR in 2021, is almost guaranteed to hit more than the 13 HR he hit last season;
Alec Bohm (13 HR in 2022) bulked up over the offseason and is flashing some new power in spring training; and
There’s no reason to expect significantly lower HR totals from the team’s biggest bats (Schwarber, Realmuto, Hoskins).
Factor in the loss of the dead weight listed above, a little bit of luck, and an early-ish return for Bryce Harper (who only played 99 games last year), and it’s easy to see the team increase its 2022 home run total by 19+ to make a run at the 2009 record.
Here are the regulars from ‘09:
That’s just a disgusting collection of baseball-mashing individuals. It’s a tough group to beat. But the 2023 Phillies are competing with nine batters vs. eight due to the DH, so I like their odds.
The smart people project that the team will score 735 runs in 2023, exactly one more run than they scored in 2022. Maybe they are not as smart as we thought?? The lineup looks better to me, and should get off to a hotter start than last year’s Joe Girardi-led squad.
Nobody knows for sure, of course, but it will definitely be fun to find out.
Tweets of the week.
Here are this week’s top tweets, selected by the Baseball Writers of America (but only the ones who voted to put Jimmy Rollins in the Hall of Fame):
The Andrew Painter elbow news was miserable enough. But the Phillies organization somehow made the experience worse by refusing to discuss it. Painter was MIA for a while, so heath helped track him down:
I don’t know about you, but I’m all-in on the World Baseball Classic. It’s just fun baseball with electric crowds. This Shawn Spradling tweet explains it all:
Team USA is stacked with Phillies, what’s not to love? Absolutely Hammered provides the appropriate reaction:
Maybe I’m just a sucker for over-the-top patriotism jokes. They get me every time. Here’s Phillies Muse making sure Great Britain doesn’t forget that they blew a 13-colony lead:
We need to keep our friend UK Phillies in our thoughts and prayers at this time:
This week in 2008.
If you’re worried about the performance of certain Phils in camp this spring, please don’t. In spring 2008, Jimmy Rollins hit .188 in 64 at-bats, Jayson Werth posted a .430 OPS, and Cole Hamels put up a 6.33 ERA. It means nothing.*
*Please note that when Phillies players perform well, it definitely predicts regular season success. 2008 Ryan Howard hit .313 with 5 spring home runs.
Phillie you forgot about.
David Buchanan, 2 seasons with the Phils (2014-2015). 8-17, 5.01 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 5.4 K/9 in 35 starts.
He’s actually found some success with the Samsung Lions in South Korea.
Congrats to twitter handle shanamarie_d on winning the Darren Daulton autographed 8x10, and to twitter handle Schneckvillemom on winning two tickets to the Phillies game on April 25. Huge thank you to The Phandemic Krew for donating the tix!!!!
DM me if you won. More prizes on the way.
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A great read! I do believe that the Phillies have the power to do so.
Yet another fantastic read, thanks John!