THE PHILLIES STRUGGLE INSIDE THE NL EAST
I’m gonna start this off by saying the Phillies are 18-15 this season and only 1 game back from the Atlanta Braves (who are in first place). This is the good news, but there is obviously some bad news. The Phillies are just 7-13 against the rest of the NL East this season. Their struggles continued Sunday as they lost to the Nationals, and lost the series.
There are some clear takeaways from the 7-13 record. First, the Phillies have lost just two games outside of the division. That is good to see, but it creates a problem for the future. MLB likes to structure the schedule in a way where the majority of a team’s games come inside of their own division. If you don’t see what the problem is yet, I’ll make it pretty clear. If the Phillies continue to struggle inside of their own division, then there is almost no way that they will be able to make the playoffs.
There is one simple solution to this problem, win games against the NL East. But if we know anything about baseball, nothing is ever that simple. The Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, and New York Mets are all playing good baseball right now. The expectation is the Nationals will be at the top of the division when the season ends, but the Braves look like one of the best teams in baseball right now. I am not worried about the Mets, not even a little bit. They are the Mets, like come on. In a month or two, injuries will happen and the guys who are exceeding expectations like Adrian Gonzales and Asdrubal Cabrera will regress.
Why don’t we go team by team inside of the division, and I will tell you some of my early season thoughts.
Red Hot Atlanta Braves
Like I said earlier, the Braves look like one of the best teams in baseball right now. This is because of the young talent that is contributing to the Big League club. Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna Jr., and of course Freddy Freeman. Yes, I know that Freeman has been in the league forever, but he is still just 28 years old. Freeman will be a staple alongside Albies and Acuna for years to come.
First place Atlanta Braves. On May 2nd. How good does that sound?
— Jerome Jurenovich (@JeromeOnSports) May 3, 2018
As of today, the Braves are 19-14 on the season and 14-7 inside the division. Six of those wins have come against the Phillies in April. From watching those games, I can tell you that the Phillies did not look comfortable against the Braves’ starters. I believe this is because of how young the Phillies are. Look to see if adjustments are being made the next time the Phillies and Braves play. I expect that the Phillies will take 2 out of 3 in the next series between these two clubs.
Suprisingly Good New York Mets
I said it already, I am not scared of the Mets. The Phillies are 0-2 against this team on the season, but that means nothing to me. The only takeaway that I see from the Mets is the healthiness of the starting pitchers. Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler are all healthy. Syndergaard has emerged as the ace of the staff, and in my opinion, is one of the toughest pitchers that the Phillies will face all year.
Unless you think the #Mets are incapable of making up 1.5 games on the Braves and Phillies in the next 130 games, then no, you may not panic.
— Wayne Randazzo (@WayneRandazzo) May 6, 2018
Again, to me, it is pretty clear on how to gameplan against the Mets. Their lineup is not special. They have guys that are average major leaguers and can be handled. That means that the Phillies’ pitching staff needs to do a good job at attacking the Mets’ hitters. The Phillies should be able to scratch off a few runs against most of the Mets’ starters. In order to do well against this Mets team, the pitching staff needs to show up.
The Laughable Miami Marlins
Alright, I think everyone and their mom knows that the Marlins are BAD. I really don’t have anything to say about Miami this season. They don’t have any players that are must-watch TV, and that is how their front office wanted it. The problem is, the Phillies are just 3-3 against the lackluster Marlins this season. This is what I am talking about. If the Phillies want to actually have a chance at the playoffs, they need to win against teams like the Marlins.
The Triple-A Miami Marlins are crushing Tanaka and the Yankees…. pic.twitter.com/EagEgV5woA
— Boston Strong (@BostonStrong_34) April 18, 2018
This is how the rest of the league sees the Marlins, as a Triple-A team.
The Average Washington Nationals
The Nationals are just 18-17 this season and have not looked like the Nationals of the past. However, I do not think that will continue. They have Bryce Haper who is one of the best, if not the best, players in the league. Harper is doing everything he can, but it has not been enough. Washington has had a ton of injuries in the early part of the season, once they get those guys back, this team will be much better.
This is Max Scherzer's 69th career game with 10+ Ks.
(This is the part where you tell us he's a nice pitcher.) pic.twitter.com/I0auBjDmYV
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 6, 2018
When I look at this match-up between the Phillies and Nationals there is not a lot I see. The Phillies are just 1-2 against the Nats this season. So when looking at just those three games a few things jump out at you. First, the Nationals starting rotation is GOOD, like really good. Max Scherzer struck out 15 Phillies in the last game of the series. Second, with the starting the rotation that the Nationals have, the Phillies need to work hard to get to the struggling bullpen that the Nationals have. Finally, with the roster that the Nationals have right now, the Phillies cannot let Harper bet them. That is exactly what happened in the first game of the series. Harper had 2 home runs in that game.
Obviously, the ultimate goal of the Phillies is to contend. The question is, for a rebuilding team, what is contending. For a team like the Nationals, contending means winning a world series. However, for the Phillies contending means being competitive inside the NL East. If the Phillies are able to have a winning record inside the NL East, contending for a world series will be a lot easier.
Through 30 games:
2008 Phillies: 17-13
2018 Phillies: 17-13 pic.twitter.com/xLWrbSbTvZ
— 2008 Phillies (@2008Philz) May 3, 2018
Watch to see if the Phillies are able to make some of the adjustments that I mentioned inside of this article. The players know that if they want to make a run at the playoffs, then the easiest way is through the NL East.
Featured Image by Harpo42 via Flickr
Statistics in this article are from espn.com