Four reasons why the Phillies will make a playoff push in 2018
With just two calendar months left in the regular season, the Philadelphia Phillies are gearing up for a playoff push. They are sitting at 61-48 on August 4th, half a game above Atlanta for first place. They have been a surprise to most of the league already in 2018, and believe it or not they do have to tools to be a top contender.
Getting stronger offensively
Okay, nobody tell Rhys that the Home Run Derby ended. pic.twitter.com/NoKxQCjgyX
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) July 26, 2018
The Phillies have struggled offensively all year. They have only hit for .238 as a team, with an OBP of .319. However, they a surprising +23 run differential. Last year, that number was -92.
The Phillies line up had some glaring holes that they would appear to have fixed at the deadline. They were lacking in average in the heart of the order, with Carlos Santana batting .213, Nick Williams at .245 and Jorge Alfaro at .255. Adding Asdrubal Cabrera and Wilson Ramos adds a consistent bat that can drive in base runners.
At 9.61 strikeouts per game, the Phillies are tied with the Texas Rangers for dead last in that category. Some of that is due to rookie manager Gabe Kapler’s analytic approach. The team is taking more pitches and getting deep into counts in order to elevate the pitcher’s pitch count.
At any rate, they have to be better at putting the ball into play. Cabrera and Ramos both excel at this, both with a contact percentage this year of 79%. The Phillies have had success at getting baserunners, and adding two guys in the middle of the lineup that will consistently put the ball into play and move runners is exactly what this team needed.
Lights out pitching
It’s no secret that the Phillies starting rotation is one of the best in the majors. Teams do not make a playoff push without great starting pitching. the combination of Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta, and Vince Velasquez has been good for the fifth best in the MLB, per foxsports.com.
The Phillies just left a two-game series in Boston against the MLB best Boston Red Sox. Nola held the Sox to just one run in eight innings pitched. Although, the general consensus is that run was a result of CF Odubel Herrera’s misjudged line drive.
Arrieta only let up a single run in eight innings pitched as well, and that was good for the second time all season that Boston scored three or fewer runs in consecutive games. Getting into a position to make a playoff push isn’t easy, but behind lights out pitching the Phils stand a good chance. Not only the with starters but the bullpen as well.
At the start of 2018, it seemed that the pen was going to be the teams Achilles heel.
Sending down struggling Hector Neris, figuring out a more defined role for young stud Seranthony Dominguez, and adding proven veterans like Pat Neshek and Aaron Loup have all had a hand in making the bullpen successful. In fact, the unit held an ERA under 2.0 for most of July and finished the month at 2.32.
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) July 13, 2018
The NL is wide open
The Phillies are in first place in the NL East with 53 games left in the regular season. They are in a prime position to make a playoff push and have the depth to go deep into October. So far in 2018, the Phillies are a meager 20-23 against the NL East and 41-25 against everyone else.
If the Phils can figure out a way to defeat their division rivals, they have a legitimate shot to make a run in October. They are 8-8 against the Dodgers, Brewers, and Diamondbacks, which are the three teams in the NL expected to be in the playoff mix at the end of the season.
There is no clear favorite in the NL, although after the deadline it appears the Dodgers have made the biggest improvements to their already dangerous team. Adding Manny Machado and Brian Dozier is going to beef up the reigning NL champs’ lineup.
Rhys Hoskins is a legitimate star
No team makes a playoff push without a star. For a while, it seemed the Phillies didn’t have any bonafide stars; although between Herrera, Santana, and Hernandez, there wasn’t a lack in talent. Since August of 2017, Hoskins has turned out to be one of the hottest players in the MLB.
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) July 17, 2018
In 2018, Hoskins is slashing .263/.372/.574 with 21 home runs and 70 RBIs. However, since the break, his numbers look like .290/.431/.552 already with seven home runs and 20 RBIs. He is posting an OPS of 1.309 and is giving life to an offense that was relying more on walks and pitch counts than situational hitting.
Per ESPN, since the all-star break, the Phillies offense ranks 10th best in baseball. That puts them just ahead of the Cubs, Yankees, and Dodgers. Hoskins is one of the main reasons the Phillies are in contention this year, and he is going to have a huge role to play in the team’s future.
If the Phillies can find a way to pull the pieces together, there’s a shot at playing deep into October. Behind one of the best pitching staffs and one of the hottest players in the MLB, this team can do some damage against the rest of the National League. Having already proven they can compete against the best, consistency is going to be the only thing standing in their way for the next two months.
Featured photo is from Ian D’Andrea via flickr
stats in this article are from espn.com, baseball-reference.com, and foxsports.com
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