The Philadelphia Phillies had high expectations for 2019 after being one of the busiest teams during the offseason. Unfortunately, they fell flat, making them one of the most disappointing teams.
The good news is that the Phillies get a chance to hit the reset button, doing so with a new manager. They’ve doubled-down by making more win-now moves.
Of course, the Phillies will only be getting a 60-game season. That doesn’t leave a margin for error, especially in what figures to be one of the most competitive divisions. Will the Phillies be able to put a disappointing 2019 behind them?
More importantly, what will a sportsbook say about their regular-season win total and World Series odds? Do the Phillies have enough to leapfrog three teams in the NL East and become World Series contenders? Let’s take a closer look.
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Philadelphia Phillies 2019 Results
The 2019 season started with great promise. They swept the reigning NL East champion Braves and were 7-2 a week into April. However, they played mostly .500 baseball during the rest of the month.
Despite a hot-and-cold month of May, Philadelphia climbed 10 games over .500 by May 29. However, that’s when the season started to turn. They hit a seven-game losing streak in the middle of the month, ultimately finishing June 11-16, dropping them to four games over .500.
From there, the Phillies couldn’t gain traction. There were three occasions in July when they won consecutive games. A similar trend in August. While the Phillies never hit an extended losing streak, the club never got hot enough to string a series of wins together.
By the time September rolled around, the Phillies were four games over .500 and on the periphery of the playoff picture. Any hope of a late push was lost by the middle of the month. At one point in September, Philadelphia lost 10 of 13 games.
When all was said and done, the Phillies were 81-81. They finished fourth place in the NL East, 16 games off the pace, and eight games out of a Wild-Card spot.
It was enough for the Phillies to part ways with manager Gabe Kapler after two seasons, ultimately hiring veteran skipper Joe Girardi as his replacement.
Philadelphia Phillies Key Additions
In addition to bringing in Girardi, the Phillies tried to upgrade their starting rotation by signing longtime Mets starter Zack Wheeler. Philadelphia wasn’t in the market for an ace since Aaron Nola has that role.
However, Wheeler could be an ideal No. 2 starter after posting a 3.96 ERA. Based on the last two seasons, Wheeler’s injury woes from earlier in his career appear to be behind him, and he is finally reaching his ceiling as a frontline starter.
Outside of Wheeler, the team’s biggest addition was shortstop Didi Gregorius. Despite having a pre-existing condition that could have allowed him to opt-out of the season amidst the pandemic, Gregorius has decided to play in 2020.
He will step in as Philadelphia’s everyday shortstop. That will likely move Jean Segura to third base and make Scott Kingery the team’s primary second baseman.
Gregorius wasn’t quite himself in 2019 after playing only half a season because of Tommy John surgery. But he’s a good candidate to have a bounce-back, especially since he’ll return to the free-agent market in the winter.
To reinforce their infield, the Phillies have also brought in veterans Neil Walker and Josh Harrison. In bench roles, Walker and Harrison should be a positive influence for the Phillies in 2020.
Philadelphia Phillies Big Losses
With the Phillies adding Gregorius, Walker, and Harrison, it’s only natural that they parted ways with several infielders. The most notable loss was third baseman, Maikel Franco.
At times, Franco showed flashes of being an impact offensive player. However, the Phillies grew frustrated with his inconsistency. After hitting .234 with an OPS of .706, the club parted ways with Franco, who ended up with the Royals.
Veteran second baseman Cesar Hernandez is also no longer with the Phillies after spending his entire career in the City of Brotherly Love. The Phillies non-tendered the light-hitting Hernandez despite the fact that he had a career-high 14 home runs last season and led the team in at-bats.
Utility men Sean Rodriguez and Brad Miller have also left. Rodriguez didn’t produce, although Miller was outstanding in a limited role, posting a .941 OPS in 118 at-batss.
On the pitching front, there were few notable losses. Some of the club’s back-end starters, like Jerad Eickhoff, Jason Vargas, and Drew Smyly, are with other clubs in 2020.
That trio combined for 33 starts, although signing Wheeler means the Phillies will need one fewer starter to fill out their rotation. In the bullpen, Juan Nicasio is no longer with the Phillies after having the third-most appearances on the team in 2019.
Philadelphia Phillies Pitching
In the NL East, there is a lot of pressure to have a top-flight starting rotation, and the Phillies are optimistic that they have one that stacks up. Two years after finishing third in the Cy Young Award voting, Aaron Nola is the undisputed ace.
Meanwhile, Jake Arrieta could be the wild card. When they signed him, the Phillies expected Arrieta to be the acef. That hasn’t quite been the case, with Arrieta’s 2019 season-ending early because of bone spurs in his elbow.
However, the former Cy Young winner will be a free agent this winter, so he’ll be motivated to put together a strong season. If Arrieta can get back to being the pitcher he was a few years ago, he can be a difference-maker.
Assuming Nola, Wheeler, and Arrieta take the first three spots, the Phillies have no shortage of options for the final two spots. Based on last year’s performance, Zach Eflin is a good bet to take one of the spots. He was 10-13 with a solid 4.13 ERA, showing the stuff to be a solid mid-rotation starter.
Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta have also started a lot of games in recent years, with mixed results. If those two struggle, youngsters like Ranger Suarez and Spencer Howard could get a chance.
Meanwhile, the bullpen is still a mixed bag. Hector Neris is in line to remain closed after saving 28 games in 34 opportunities. Unfortunately, the rest of the bullpen is full of pitchers who are either unproven or unspectacular. Seranthony Dominguez is questionable to pitch at all in 2020 after being hampered by elbow trouble.
In his absence, Adam Morgan and Jose Alvarez will continue to be key setup men. Both should be reliable. The rest of the bullpen will be filled out by a combination of youth and experience. Veterans like Tommy Hunter, Anthony Swarzak, and Blake Parker are options, although the Phillies shouldn’t expect anything special.
Young pitchers like Suarez and Victor Arano could also get an opportunity to pitch in relief.
Philadelphia Phillies Offense
Scoring runs should be less of a concern than preventing runs in 2020. Despite a disappointing first season in Philadelphia, outfielder Bryce Harper is still one of the most talented hitters in baseball. Nobody would be surprised if his numbers took a big leap, especially with no fans in attendance to add to the pressure.
Perhaps more importantly, the Phillies have a great supporting cast around Harper that could give them one of the most potent lineups in the National League. Both catcher J.T. Realmuto and first baseman Rhys Hoskins are among the best hitters at their position. Adding Gregorius will make the heart of Philadelphia’s lineup that much deeper and stronger.
One of the X-factors for the Phillies could be Segura, who moves from shortstop to third base. After three straight seasons of hitting .300 or better, Segura’s numbers fizzled.
On the bright side, veteran outfielder Andrew McCutchen is back after missing the second half of 2019 because of a torn ACL. He’s a potential difference-maker if healthy.
With the designated hitter being used in the National League, it should be easy for the Phillies to get at-bats for slugger Jay Bruce. While he won’t hit for much average, Bruce smashed 26 home runs and has plenty of power.
However, the center field remains a huge mystery for the Phillies heading into the 2020 season. Adam Haseley, Roman Quinn, and Mikie Mahtook will all compete for playing time, but the team can’t be sure what they’ll get out of that position offensively.
Philadelphia Phillies Three Key Players
In the starting rotation, Wheeler is the biggest key. The team signed him to make an impact and be a frontline starter Philadelphia has pitchers who can eat up innings at the back of the rotation, but the Phillies need Wheeler to win.
In the bullpen, Neris is the key figure. The Philadelphia bullpen isn’t likely to be among the best, but there are enough arms to put together a halfway decent bullpen. It all hinges on Neris.
If he reverts to his 2018 form, things can fall apart quickly. However, if Neris can be consistent, the Phillies should be able to figure out the rest of the bullpen.
Finally, Harper is being paid to be a superstar, and his 35 home runs and .882 OPS from last season are good but not at a superstar level.
Granted, he has a lot of help around him. But Harper needs to be a player who can carry the Phillies. If he can’t do that, their chances of winning the NL East decrease dramatically.
Philadelphia Phillies Schedule Breakdown
The adjusted schedule means the Phillies will play 40 of their 60 games within the NL East. The Phillies had a winning record against the Braves and Mets, although they had a losing record against the Marlins and were a pitiful 5-14 against the Nationals.
That makes it difficult to project how the Phillies will fare. Of course, playing their 20 remaining games against the AL East, including teams like the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox doesn’t make Philadelphia’s schedule any easier.
Meanwhile, BetUS.com lists the club’s over/under at 30.5 wins. That means oddsmakers believe the Phillies will be an average team, much like last season. If you are new to sports betting, please check out our MLB betting hub page to get started.
If the Phillies can play a lot of high-scoring games, they might be able to slug their way into the playoff race.