The hot stove was burning. Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos each stepped into the office of Sam Fuld to sign the paper that would change the future of the Phillies franchise. They assumed their role in the lineup as they pummeled the Athletics on Opening Day. The sun shone brightly on Kyle Schwarber after he hit a home run in the Phillies’ first at-bat of the season. Now, we are 1/4 of the way through the regular season, the sunshine from Opening Day is gone, and a gloomy, gray cloud has opened up in South Philadelphia. What happened? Right now, it is hard to tell. There have been inconsistencies, injuries, blown saves, poor defense, and horrible baserunning. But, this happens to every team, right? Yes, of course. So, why is it affecting the Phillies to this extent?
I wanted to take a deeper dive into this question, so I asked all four of our Phillies writers at Philly Sports Reports to assess some positive and negative takeaways as we pass the season’s first quarter.
A true reflection on Brad Hand
When you look at the stat sheet, Brad Hand boasts a 1.74 ERA. But when you read between the lines, he has not been overly impressive. He is allowing nearly two baserunners per inning, and he has allowed a ton of inherited runners to score. An easy solution would be to use the three-time all-star in roles with nobody on base, but that is easier said than done. And if that is done, who will fill his current role? Only time will tell!
Kyle Schwarber won’t boost his numbers
When the Phillies signed Kyle Schwarber following the end of the lockout, many fans anticipated that he’d hit as well as he did in 2021. Unfortunately, that has not been the case, as he is hitting just three points above the Mendoza line. Although his average is low, he is atop the league in home runs. Many people are wondering why he hasn’t mixed occasional singles and doubles in with his home runs, and the answer is simple. Pitchers have realized that Schwarber cannot hit off-speed pitches. He is seeing double the amount of curveballs that he did in 2021, and he continues to swing right through them. He has been pitched this way the entire season, and he has not been able to adjust. He has already had 143 at-bats, so will anything change? At this point, it doesn’t look like it.
Comeback season for Alec Bohm
Alec Bohm dominated the league after finishing second in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2020. In 2021, he was a different player. He was jittery, unfocused, uncomfortable, and some might even have said that he looked lost. Finally, he has begun to figure it out. Matter of fact, he has been one of the most consistent hitters on the Phillies. He is hitting .286 in 2022, and he has an OPS of .726. These numbers won’t blow you away, but Alec Bohm has been consistent on a team that reeks of inconsistency, and you cannot ask for much more.
Nick Castellanos was the biggest signing for the Phillies this offseason. He signed a five-year, $100 million contract late this last offseason, hoping for a huge boost in the starting nine. But, he has not exactly lived up to that. Castellanos has a slash line of .248/.313/.400 with a .713 OPS. He owns ten doubles, five home runs, 22 RBIs, fourteen walks, and 44 strikeouts. Five home runs are very low for a guy who hit 34 last season. And 44 strikeouts in 186 plate appearances also is not a good look. He’s been very slow to start the season. Will he turn it around, most likely, but he’s been a disappointment throughout the first quarter of his inaugural season in the City of Brotherly Love.
Is Suarez better in the ‘pen?
Ranger Suarez has had an interesting start to the season. So far, he is 4-3 with a 4.74 ERA in 43.2 innings pitched. He also has 37 strikeouts in those nine starts with a 1.53 WHIP. At this point last season, Suarez was dominant and he was coming out of the bullpen. After his mid-to-late season move to the rotation, he hasn’t felt the same. He remained very good last year, but he very different here in 2022. Could last year have just been a pop-up season for Suarez? Possibly. But he may very well have a better home in the bullpen. If the Phillies were to do that, they would need a left-hander in the rotation because Suarez is the only lefty in the starting rotation. There are not many unsigned free agent lefties still available. I would like to see the Phillies make a trade at the deadline for a lefty starter to force Suarez back to the pen.
The left fielder’s name? Why. Because! Oh, he’s centerfield.
I hope you understood this “Who’s on First” reference. Anyways, it seems the Phillies have had 70 centerfielders. Okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration. They have had Matt Vierling, Odubel Herrera, Roman Quinn, and I have to be missing others. And guess what, they’ve all stunk. For heck’s sake, they even mowed a huge Liberty Bell in center at Citizens Bank Park hoping it would give these center fielders some luck. It took Vierling around four series to record his first base hit. Herrera has quite a few errors out in center, and all are brutal. And Quinn can not hit the baseball unless he’s bunting nor can he play center at an above-average level. But, Quinn has a cannon of an arm and he’s as fast as the Flash going for him. Let us just hope that when Mickey Moniak returns from his broken bone in his right hand, he’ll be much better.
Wheeler and Nola seeking consistency
The Phillies starting pitching has gotten off to a rough start so far this season. Aaron Nola, the Phillies ace, is having a rollercoaster of a season. In the games he pitches well, he won’t get any run support. When he doesn’t pitch well and lets up five or six runs, the Phillies score four or five and fall short. Aaron Nola has pitched 52.1 innings and has a 3.96 ERA. He has a one and four records, but Aaron Nola’s typical kryptonite is the long ball. In his nine starts, he has let up nine home runs. If Nola could finish batters when he gets ahead in the count, he would be much more effective.
Zack Wheeler had a rough start to the season, but he has been excellent as of late. Wheeler had some health issues at the beginning of the season and was unable to pitch in a major league Spring Training game. His numbers weren’t the same in his first three starts, but he looks much better now; his velocity has finally come back and he looks much more natural. He has now had four good starts in a row. Over those three starts he has let up only four runs, and he is racking up strikeouts. Most importantly, he has been able to go deeper into games.
If these two faces of the Phillies’ rotation can find consistency between these two personas, bright things could be ahead for the Phightins.
Bryce Harper finding MVP form
After a slow start to the season, Bryce Harper is starting to return to his MVP ways. He is hitting .295 with nine home runs and 27 RBIs. In his first nine games, he was hitting just .156 with one home run and seven RBIs. He finished April hitting .253 with three home runs. Harper now is on a hot streak, but he was forced to miss five games due to an elbow injury. He is expected to not throw until after the All-Star break. This means that he’ll continue to be in the DH role. Nick Castellanos will play right field until Harper can return to the field. It may benefit Harper to be in right field, as he is more engaged and focused. I’m not saying he isn’t into games now, but he looks more active when he’s in the outfield. Hopefully, Harper can continue to hit and won’t get put on the IL. Even when Harper isn’t doing well, it’s just his presence that helps this Phillies team.
Jeurys Familia is still without a role
Jeurys Familia has struggled to find his role early into the season. He isn’t able to come in the closing role because he is inconsistent and can’t get a save. He struggles to get in the game during the seventh and eighth inning because that is typically Seranthony Dominguez, Brad Hand, or Jose Alvarado’s spot. He also can’t come in a long relief position because he only can go an inning and sometimes less. In 17 games in 2022, he has thrown 15.2 innings and has a 4.60 ERA. If Familia can get some consistent relief appearances, then he will be a huge piece to this Phillies bullpen. To add another arm who can get the job done would be huge and help the Phillies become more successful as we begin the second quarter of the season.
Jean Segura shining all over South Philadelphia
The Phillies are lucky to have Jean Segura. The reason why I say that is because he’s been electric these past couple of games this month. He’s batting .290 and has been big for the offense, as he has been finding the pitches to hit and making the most of those. He’s doing exactly what this team needs, and it is even more important for him to keep swinging a hot bat with Bryce Harper back in the lineup. Now, those two can lead what has been an inconsistent offense in Philadelphia.
Corey Knebel has not been effective
Corey Knebel has had an interesting run in May for the Phillies. Knebel has been effective for this ball club but hasn’t been very consistent with his mechanics, as his ERA rose more game by game this month. At the beginning of the month, his ERA was 3.27. As we approach the end of May, his ERA has risen to 3.60. I’m not sure what to expect from Knebel as we move forward, but it sure looks like he hasn’t been that one guy that has been “effective” and reliable as a closer.
J.T. Realmuto’s slow start
J.T. Realmuto had a slow start at the plate at the beginning of the season. Realmuto’s batting average is .224 for the year as of now. He hasn’t been effective during that time frame. He hasn’t been making solid contact, and his swing and miss rate has gone up. As we head towards the halfway point in the season, we should watch to see if he finds his swing. He seemed much more confident in 2021 when he was the only Phillies’ hitter to make the all-star team In 2021, his batting average was .263, and he was much more consistent.