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It has not been the strongest start to the season for the Philadelphia Phillies, but this weekend, they might have finally broken through. After getting swept by the Mets up in New York, the Phillies traveled down to Washington to round out a 10-game NL East road trip with 3 games against the Nationals. The opening game wasn’t great, with Zack Wheeler getting knocked around a bit by a Washington lineup that isn’t all that good, but the Phillies ended their 5-game losing streak with a win in Game 2 and then opened the floodgates in the final game of the series on Sunday. It was an awesome performance and one that hopefully points towards a coming breakthrough for a team that has struggled mightily early on this season.

Now, if you’ll remember, the 2022 Phillies didn’t really hit their stride until the month of June. Part of that had to do with the firing of Joe Girardi and the promotion of Rob Thomson to interim manager, which obviously is not something that will be repeatable this year. But another part of it had to do with just the weirdness of baseball. Some people call it mentality, and some people, like Charlie Manuel, would call it “Hittin’ season”, but however you break it down, the June Philadelphia Phillies were an absolute force in 2022. Not only was the team better, but individual players broke through this time last year, mainly Kyle Schwarber. Schwarber, who might be the greatest hitter in the month of June in the history of baseball, turned it on again last year, helping the Phils crawl back into the playoff hunt. So, the bottom line, there’s the origin of the June Philadelphia Phillies.

This year, though, the roster is more talented and less productive. The Phillies have by all accounts improved their team this offseason, and yet the 2023 season has been a striking disappointment so far. They started off the month of June by falling to last place in the NL East, and the fan base fell into a pretty dark place as well. But the losing streak was broken in Game 2 in Washington, and then in the getaway game, the Phillies finally broke out. Of course, it was Kyle Schwarber who played a big role in the Phils’ 11-3 win, hitting a pair of 3-run homers to open up thoughts of a June hot streak once again. Newcomer Drew Ellis also homered twice in the game, JT Realmuto left the yard once, and Ranger Suarez put together a strong start to make sure the Nationals didn’t have any chance of mounting a comeback. It was a beautiful game, and for the first time in a while, there was some optimism of a turnaround.

The Phillies still have a long way to go to reach expectations for the 2023 season, but everyone in Philadelphia’s fingers and toes are crossed that this was finally the breakout game. They’ll start a home series with the Detroit Tigers on Monday night, a team that has struggled this season as well and is very beatable. If the Phils come out and get handled by a bad Detroit team, we’re all going to feel dumb for even enjoying Sunday’s drubbing of the Nationals, but maybe, just maybe, this is the beginning of a stretch where the Phillies turn into the team we all thought they would be before the season started. If not, it’s going to be a long summer.

The 7 Most Concerning Phillies Trends This Season

The hope would be that things would be different for the Phillies in the regular season this year. There was hype last season. But man did they come out of the gate slow. So slow, that Joe Girardi lost his job. Once Rob Thomson took over, things started to change. They scuffled at the end of the regular season a bit, but managed to end the decade-long playoff drought. Once they got there, they really took off. They upset the Cardinals. Followed that up by upsetting the 100-win Braves. And then continued that by beating the Padres to get to the World Series.

You would think that would carry over into this season. They even had what on paper was a great offseason. They signed the biggest Free Agent on the market, Trea Turner. Added some powerful arms in the bullpen. Got Taijuan Walker in. Expectations were even higher than they were going into last season.

But they have started slow again. They have hovered around .500 all season. And every time it feels like they are taking off, they go on an extended losing streak to fall back under .500 and down into 4th place in the NL East.

More concerning, there are some troubling trends in these losses that make you wonder if they really are as good as we think. Memorial Day is coming up, and they are still struggling. It is of course still early. And the Phillies were under .500 going into June last season, then ended up in the World Series. But is that really the road they want to go down again? Settling for one of the final two wild card spots, then having to claw through the post-season on the road? The Phillies need to pull it together. The faster the better.

Here are the 7 most concerning Phillies trends this season so far:

  • Aaron Nola's Inconsistency

    The Phillies have an Aaron Nola problem. It has been a problem for a while now. At times, he looks like an Ace. He gave up 2 earned runs or less in two of his last 4 games. But also 4 earned runs in two of his last 4 starts. He is hard to trust. You would think in a contract year he’d be giving you his best stuff. But at least so far, he is struggling. His ERA is at 4.31. The Phillies are at .500 in games he pitches. And in some of those they gave him a lead, he just blew it.

    The Phillies World Series hopes hang on him being a true number 2 pitcher. Sometimes he is that. But will he be when they need him to be? How comfortable will you be if they make the World Series and he is on the mound for a decisive game 6 or 7? It’s been an issue for a while. And while he may eventually settle in and be great the rest of the season, it is going to be hard to trust him in big moments given his history.

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - May 20: Pitcher Aaron Nola #27 of the Philadelphia Phillies reacts as Dansby Swanson #7 of the Chicago Cubs rounds the bases after hiting a two-run home run during the sixth inning of a game at Citizens Bank Park on May 20, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

    (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

  • Not Hitting With RISP

    I dont think I can put their struggles with Runners in scoring position any better than Jayson Stark did when he joined The Best Show Ever last week.

    “They have got a worse AVG with RISP than the Royals… A worse SLG % with RISP than the As… They have got 5 HRs with RISP all year, the Braves have 15. I don’t know how you explain this… This should be a better situational hitting team than this. But hitting in those situations is contagious, and so is not hitting.”

    They have the talent. And every other hitting stat shows the Phillies are having a good season. But when runners are in scoring position, they just struggle for some reason. This one is tough to get my head around because it makes no sense. The hope is they will just figure it out. But for now, it is a real problem. When you rely on home runs and extra-base hits to score, you will see the wild swings in production the Phillies have had so far.

  • Trea Turner's Struggles

    Trea Turner was supposed to be the MVP while Bryce Harper was on the mend. Every Baseball expert who called into this station in the off-season had nothing but praise for that signing. Turns out, Bryce Harper came back early. And even with all that time off, and having to recover from major surgery, he is still more productive than Trea Turner.

    Turner is striking out a lot. Like on track for nearly 200 strikeouts a lot. And you will take that when you get a lot of home runs as with Kyle Schwarber. But Trea Turner is a speed guy. But he is not stealing bases, barely getting on base, and he is swinging at everything. You hope he is just such a talented player he figures it out. But his swing is as bad as it has ever been in the MLB. A line of .257/.300/.393/.693 is not going to cut it for Trea. If they are going to be serious contenders they need him to be the power speed threat that was promised.


  • Using the Bullpen Way Too Much

    Aaron Nola has done a much better job of late of getting through 6 innings, even when he gives up runs. The same goes for Zack Wheeler. But outside of them, the Phillie starters are struggling to go deep into games. Meaning the bullpen is getting a lot of use. They are relying on some of these top guys way too often. And for the most part, the bullpen is doing well. The ERA is a bit inflated because of some blowup games. But when the bullpen is given a lead, they usually keep it. They have just 6 losses, which is tied for the 4th least in the MLB.

    But if they keep getting taxed, their best arms may be tired by the time the games start to matter. We saw it a bit in the World Series. And you don’t want that to happen again.

    Ranger just got back from injury and will take a while to get his arm strength up. And we will get to what is going on with Taijuan Walker and whoever their 5th starter is. Beyond just giving the Phillies bad starts they have to dig out of, that could be creating issues down the road for the Phillies bullpen.

    PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - MAY 09: Gregory Soto #30 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches during the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Citizens Bank Park on May 09, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

    (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

  • Taijuan Walker Blowup Games

    The Phillies thought they were signing a true 4th starter. Walker had an ERA of 3.49 last year with the Mets. He was the type of guy you could actually pitch in the playoffs. The Phillies didn’t have 4 playoff-worthy starters last year. But now based on what we have seen so far, they still don’t. Walker’s ERA is up at 5.79.

    The issue is he is taking his last name too seriously. 22 walks in 10 starts. He had just 45 last season. They are not even a 3rd of the way into the season. Like Nola, he has been inconsistent. In his last time out he saw him pitch 5.1 scoreless innings. But he has 4 starts where he allowed 4 or more earned runs, yet 5 where he allowed 2 or fewer. So there are still signs of the pitcher they thought they were getting. But if he is a ticking time bomb that could blow up with an awful start, it will be hard to trust him when it matters.

    Hopefully his start on Sunday is a step in the right direction

  • Don't Have a 5th Starter

    Going into the season, the Phillies rotation looked great. Now they may not have a 5th starter. Bailey Falter has been unplayable. They have lost 7 of the 8 games he pitched, and his ERA is in the 5s. That isn’t counting all the unearned runs he gave up his last time out vs the Giants. He was bad enough they had to send him down. The problem is they don’t have a 5th starter on hand to replace him. There are no clear options in the minors, and there are no trade options right now.

    The hope was that Andrew Painter would be the 5th starter. But we have not heard a word about him since he went down with an injury after his one start in Spring Training. Maybe we see him eventually. But it’s not something they can rely on. Their best option might be to put Matt Staham back into the rotation. He did well there. But they are relying on him out of the pen too. So you would just be fixing one problem by creating another one somewhere else.

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 6: Bailey Falter #70 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch in the top of the first inning of the game against the Boston Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park on May 6, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

    (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

  • Awful Fielding

    This is one that will not fix itself. They will just have to overcome the fact that their fielding is going to be bad. Trea Turner makes it a bit better. Maybe Harper at first eventually might improve that too. The issue is the outfield. Castellanos and Schwarber are bad out there. Real bad. Marsh has great range but is prone to dumb mistakes. Ideally, Schwarber/Castellanos will be able to DH a lot more once Harper gets into the field. But they don’t exactly have a great option off the bench either. Maybe once Christian Pache is healthy that is the way to go. But no matter what they do they are going to have issues in the field.

    SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - MAY 15: Nick Castellanos #8 of the Philadelphia Phillies misplays a ball hit by Wilmer Flores #41 of the San Francisco Giants that resulted in a run in the second inning at Oracle Park on May 15, 2023 in San Francisco, California.

    (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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