Well, folks, it was bound to happen. The Philadelphia Phillies endured their first round of adversity in the 2021 season, an abbreviated three-game sweep at the hands of the New York Mets (game four being rained out). Perhaps to be expected, social media exploded with a barrage of memes, rants, and ravings as can only be expected from the sporting world’s most bipolar fanbase (I love our fandom, but let’s face it, our moods tend to move in a pendulous manner).
me on april 1: finally the phillies are back. this is all i have ever wanted. i am going to watch every game. i love them
me 13 days later: pic.twitter.com/uQWMB4xoPT
— baseballin’ (@inthephanattic) April 15, 2021
Still, while it was a disappointing end to the Phillies two series road trip, there is one thing that we need to keep in mind moving forwards: it is far too early to be panicking about the Philadelphia Phillies at this point in time.
Let’s Be Realistic, We Aren’t Going 135-27
As I’ve said before, the NL East is going to be an absolute nightmare to traverse in the 2021 season. After starting the season on a 5-1 tear against the Atlanta Braves and the aforementioned Mets, it stands to reason that the law of averages was going to catch up with the Phillies at some point. Sorry ya’ll, we’re not going to maintain .883 winner percentage. This is what we should expect from the NL East this year. Maybe we take two games here, two games there, but, by season’s end, the division winner is going to be somewhere between 90-93 wins. Would it be nice to dominate the NL East series after series after series like we did to start the season? Of course, it would. Baseball doesn’t work like that, though, and there are going to be times when the ball just doesn’t go Philadelphia’s way.
Face It: the Mets Are Actually a Pretty Damn Good Team
Insert barfing emoji here, but it’s true. Look, I’ve long considered the Mets to be a bit of a joke in the NL East. Every year, they load up on some pretty elite talent, and, without fail, they underperform. Year after year after year. However, I do think that 2021 might buck that trend and it comes down to pitching. The Mets have arguably the division’s best one-two punch in Jacob deGrom and Marcus Stroman. It’s a rotation that’s only going to get better as the season progresses and Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard return from injury. Allow me a moment to illustrate my point by comparing two pitchers across the division.
Pitcher A: 148 games (142 starts), 53-47 career record, 3.72 career ERA, 701 to 246 K-to-BB ratio
Pitcher B: 142 games (142 starts), 58-41 career record, 3.47 career ERA, 940 to 261 K-to-BB ratio
While pitcher B has some better strikeout stuff, the numbers are pretty similar. Here’s the thing, though: Pitcher A is the #2 pitcher on his staff (and, honestly, would be the #3 or #4 if one of his rotation mates didn’t get hurt during spring training and the other continues to rehab from surgery). Pitcher B on the other hand is the ace of the Phillies staff (Aaron Nola). Marcus Stroman (Pitcher A) has pitched at an elite level throughout his career when he’s been healthy. Losing to him isn’t an indictment of the Philadelphia Phillies; it’s a reflection of the fact that Stroman is really damn good at his job.
Maybe we don’t think of Stroman in the same way we think of Aaron Nola, but the data tells us a story. He’s a tough matchup any day of the week. We’re going to have games when our bats get silenced by opposing pitchers. We lost to Jacob deGrom and Marcus Stroman. Yeah, well, we aren’t the only ones who’ve held that distinction. We’re also going to have games when we run the starter from the game in the opening few innings (see April 3rd and April 7th). That’s baseball.
The Philadelphia Phillies Will Get Better
Here’s my final point: the Philadelphia Phillies are only going to get better. When I look at this team, I see a group of hitters who aren’t firing on all cylinders. Alec Bohm is not a .230 hitter. Bryce Harper is not a .230 hitter (historically, he’s been a slow starter). Andrew McCutchen is definitely not a .139 hitter. Roman Quinn is…
Phillies center fielders so far this season: .091/.212/.091
Phillies pitchers so far this season: .118/.118/.176
— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) April 14, 2021
Ok, well, he sucks. The less said about Quinn, the better. With the Phillies bringing up Mickey Moniak, however, I’m hopeful that we’ll start getting some production out of centerfield. Even if Moniak isn’t the answer, the Phillies will ultimately find someone to plug that hole. A good front office will make the necessary moves to compete. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a blockbuster deal either. Historically, there have been many low-key moves that paid off in a big way later in the season. Think of the Baltimore Orioles going out and acquiring Nate McClouth to bolster their leftfield situation back in 2012, the 2018 Red Sox adding eventual World Series hero Steve Pearce to their bench, or (this one hurts) the 2010 San Francisco Giants adding Cody Ross. Sooner or later, the Phillies are going to figure out their centerfield situation. That’s just what well-run teams do.
As a whole, the Phils offense is only going to get better. Their bullpen is legit this year (Vince Velasquez notwithstanding). The starting rotation has been solid for the most part (Chase Anderson, short outings aside, as our #4 looks so much better than Vince or Nick Pivetta did last year). This is a team that will compete in the NL East. Will there be road bumps? Sure, but I’m not going to panic after 12 games. Now, if we’re in the dog days of June and July and we’re still averaging 3.5 runs per game, then I’ll get a little concerned.
Prognosis? The Philadelphia Phillies Will Be Fine
There’s simply far too much season left to go. I get it, though. We love sharpening our pitchforks when things aren’t going our way. Who’s to blame for losing five of six? What changes must we make? Well, sometimes the best course of action is to simply hold steady. Every team goes through ebbs and flows to their performance. The good teams figure out a way to prolong those flows and shorten those ebbs. Coming off the 2020 season, we need to remember that last year was a sprint. A three-game set in a 60-game season holds a different type of importance than one in a 162-game season. 2021 is a marathon. Let’s let a few months play out before we begin to lose our minds. And please…please…please…lay off the sauce if you’re making comments like this: