Philadelphia Phillies Intro to Team
From 1984 to 2006, the Philadelphia Phillies made one appearance in the postseason, losing to the Toronto Blue Jays four games to two in the World Series after winning the National League East. The team’s fortunes dramatically changed under manager Charlie Manuel, who led the team to the playoffs in five consecutive seasons from 2007 to 2011, including the 2008 World Series title in years at the helm.
Philadelphia Phillies Last Season Performance
The Phillies haven’t made the playoffs since 2011, finally posting a winning record in 2021 after failing to do so in the previous nine seasons. They were in first place for a total of three weeks in 2021, but losses in six of their last seven contests, including a three-game sweep at the hands of the Atlanta Braves, cost them the division and a shot at the postseason.
During the offseason following the 2020 campaign, the Phillies brought in longtime front office professional Dave Dombrowski, who crafted the Marlins team that shocked baseball with a World Series title in 1997, as President of Baseball Operations. There are high expectations for Dombrowski to have the same kind of impact on the Phillies as he did in making the right moves to lead Boston to their 2018 World Championship over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Although they fell short of the playoffs, the Phillies appeared to make progress in 2021, led by MVP Bryce Harper, who hit .309 with 35 home runs, 84 RBI, and 101 runs scored. He was the lone offensive bright spot on a team that combined for an average of .240, ninth in the National League.
The starting pitching for the Phillies was solid, with 31-year-old right-hander Zach Wheeler leading the way with a record of 14-10, a 2.78 ERA, and 247 strikeouts in 213.1 innings pitched. As a unit, the staff had an ERA of 4.39, ninth in the National League while their 34 blown saves led all of the Major Leagues and resulted in 27 losses for Philadelphia.
Overall, despite sporting a winning mark for the season, they were outscored 745 to 734 on the season, largely due to their inadequacies in the bullpen and the lack of timely hitting behind Harper. Both of those areas will be focal points for Dombrowski to address in the offseason.
The Phillies suffered a couple of key injuries to first baseman Rhys Hoskins and starting pitcher Zach Elfins, which were big blows to a team that already lacked offensive depth with the loss of Hoskins’ power that had produced 27 home runs in 107 games tough to replace. The loss of Elfin put additional pressure on a bullpen that had a lot of difficulty holding leads and finishing games.
Philadelphia Phillies Off-Season Changes
The most impactful moves were in allowing veteran outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Odubel Herrera to pursue free agency, which gave Dombrowski a lot of salary money to pursue replacements on the free-agent market. The Phillies also made some early trades with the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros to add to their depth.
In addition, they made moves to retain seven players off their 2021 roster, including first baseman Rhys Hoskins, who banged out 27 home runs in 107 games, and right-handed pitcher Zach Effin, a 4-7 starter with 99 strikeouts in 105.2 innings pitched. Dombroski was also active in working the waiver wire, with right-handed pitcher Yoan Lopez from the Atlanta Braves the most visible of those four claims.
As with all Major League Baseball (MLB) teams, all activity at the parent team level stopped with the lockout on December 2nd, but minor league deals were allowed to continue and the Phillies have made a number of acquisitions for assignment to their AAA affiliate with a shot at making the club in spring training.
Philadelphia Phillies Key Additions
Dombrowski was busy early, landing Lopez off waivers and trading for catcher Garrett Stubbs from the Houston Astros and catcher Danny Sands along with right-handed pitcher Nick Nelson from the New York Yankees. He also grabbed left-handed pitcher Kent Emmanuel off waivers from the Houston Astros.
The Phillies should be able to go after some high-profile free agents once the lockout ends and league offseason activity resumes. The team will be looking for relief pitching, defense, and outfielders who can provide offensive production in support of Bryce Harper
Among the players, Philadelphia is rumored to be pursuing are Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Nick Castellanos, and Michael Conforto. They could also eventually be in the running for Carlos Correa, Freddie Freeman, and Clayton Kershaw, although a decision on whether the designated hitter will be headed to the National League could have a big impact on what direction Dombrowski heads, especially for a player like first baseman Freddie Freeman.
Philadelphia Phillies Key Subtractions
McCutchen and his 27 home runs and 80 RBI will be missed, but the 34-year-old only managed a .222 batting average in 2021, making him a feast or famine hitter who couldn’t really be counted on for consistent offensive production. His $14.75 million salary was also beginning to look like a big liability for a team in rebuilding mode with a goal of stockpiling talent that can pay big dividends for years to come.
Although Herrera was more respectable with a .260 batting average in 2021, his $10 million price tag was also an amount that the Phillies felt could be better allocated elsewhere, especially for a team looking to clear space below the luxury tax payroll level. It will remain to be seen whether the departures of the two outfielders have an impact on the field until free agency activity resumes following the lockout.
Another valuable player who left the team is Hector Neris, a right-handed pitcher coming off a season where he went 4-7 with a 3.64 ERA. The Phillies paid him $5 million in the final year of his contract but he was able to strike a two-year commitment from the Astros for $17 million, a nice raise for the 32-year-old who also recorded 12 saves in 2021.
Catcher Andrew Knapp never realized his potential after getting taken by the Phillies in the second round of the 2013 draft, and after a disappointing 2021 campaign where he hit just .152 in 62 games, he was sent to the minors but took the free agency route instead. The 29-year-old signed with the Cincinnati Reds, with whom he will compete for a spot with the club during spring training.
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Philadelphia Phillies Head Coach Analysis
Manager Joe Girardi will be in his third season with the Phillies after prior stints with the Florida Marlins (2006) and the New York Yankees (2008-2017), with whom he won a World Series title in 2009. In two seasons with the Phillies, he has a record of 110-112 and a career mark of 1,098 – 906 for a winning percentage of .548.
Girardi’s 28-32 record in the Covid-19 truncated 2020 season was his first losing campaign since he posted a 78-84 mark in his lone year with the Marlins where he led a team with a total payroll of just $15 million. If the Phillies can attract a group of high-profile free agents, Girardi should be able to handle the task of managing the talent and the egos after spending 10 years at the helm of and playing four years with the Yankees.
The combination of Dombrowski and Girardi, who has a World Series title amid six playoff appearances, should yield success for the Phillies if they can fill the roster holes through free agency or another round of trades. After ten years of non-winning records, the Phillies were at least able to contend for the NL East crown under Girardi’s experienced leadership.
It remains to be seen how short a leash the club has regarding Girardi, but they’ll probably need to demonstrate some patience since the front office recognizes that they still have a lot of work to do in getting the talent level to a point where a deep playoff run is a realistic possibility. Girardi definitely has the track record to instill confidence in Dombrowski and the rest of the organization.
Philadelphia Phillies Injured Players at the Beginning of the Season
First baseman Rhys Hoskins, whose 2021 season was cut short by a lower abdomen tear in August for which he underwent surgery, is expected to be healthy by spring training after what he describes will be a normal offseason. However, with no activity due to the lockout, it remains to be seen if his recovery progressed as expected with no ill effects once the players are able to report to training camps.
Right-handed pitcher Zach Eflin underwent surgery on September 10th for a right knee injury that will require between six and eight months of recovery, putting his timetable for a return sometime between March and May. Depending on how he progresses and the timing of the opening of spring training, he might not lose a great many starts if the beginning of the regular season is delayed.
Outfielder Roman Quinn is recovering from surgery for a ruptured Achilles tendon that he tore on May 29th at Tampa Bay. It is expected to take him nine to 12 months to recover, giving him a return date of sometime during the summer.
Left-handed pitcher JoJo Romero went to the IL on May 6th and underwent Tommy John surgery on May 25th, a procedure that takes anywhere from 12 to 18 months to completely recover. If he makes a return at all during the 2022 season, it will be no earlier than sometime during the summer.
Philadelphia Phillies Prediction for 2022 Season
The real constants for the Phillies should be the play of Bryce Harper along with the starting pitching rotation, but with a pile of cash available to Dombrowski and all major league activity halted, the rest of the lineup remains in flux. Given the track record of the veteran deal maker and the consistency of Girardi’s management, it’s probable that the Phillies will continue their upward trajectory in 2022. Check their MLB Odds for this season.
The return of Hoskins will help offset the departure of McCutchen, but it will take some big moves by Dombrowski to supply the talent needed to continue the rebuilding effort that is ultimately intended to return the Phillies to playoff and title contention. Many of the early moves that were made prior to the lockout will help provide depth to their lineup, but the Phillies will need to make an acquisition, while not as cataclysmic as Harper, at least big enough to lift the team to a new level.
Even though the starting pitching is solid, it is aging, which should open up an opportunity for 26-year-old Ranger Suarez to come into his own. While he was primarily used in a reliever role in 2021, he started 12 games and recorded a total ERA of 1.36 with one of the team’s five complete games, the best in the National League.
Look for the Phillies to cut down on blown saves and make it more difficult for opponents to score runs, which should add at least four wins to their total from 2021, which would put them squarely in contention for a playoff berth if not the NL East title. It’s conceivable that Dombrowski has a line on an outfielder who can come in and replace McCutchen’s lost power and it wouldn’t be surprising to see that deal made very soon following the end of the lockout.
Overall, even though other NL East teams are making moves to improve, the Phillies were in the hunt throughout 2021 and there is no reason to believe that they can’t make a similar run with a healthy pitching staff and an improved offensive outfield to augment Bryce Harper. Dombrowski, Girardi, Harper, Wheeler, and a few players not yet on the roster will combine to make the Phillies a surprise contender in 2022 MLB Lines.