ST LOUIS, MISSOURI - SEPTEMBER 16: Ranger Suarez #55 of the Philadelphia Phillies delivers a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning at Busch Stadium on September 16, 2023 in St Louis, Missouri.

The biggest question regarding the Phillies right now is who will be in the starting rotation come playoffs. First, let us go through the possibilities: 

1) Zack Wheeler 

He is the number one on this team and should start the first game in any playoff series.  Wheeler has the stuff to go deep into games.  In his last four starts, Wheeler has been good in three of them.  The one bump in the road was the Atlanta Braves, where he gave up 6 runs in five innings, including 3 home runs.  Wheeler has been the most consistent of the 6 starters the Phillies have.  He started 6 playoff games posting a 2.78 era last season, going 35 innings with a 0.73 WHIP.  He currently has a 3.70 era for the year.  

2) Aaron Nola  

Perhaps the most interesting of all the starters right now.  Nola on the year has posted a 4.62 era. But the most bothersome thing has to be that he has given up 31 home runs on the year.  The big inning has been tough to avoid for Nola, it seems when the blow-up is coming he has had no answers.  He can get you deep into games when on, which may very well keep him as a number two moving toward October.  Nola has to keep the ball in the park and his next few starts could be crucial, in the sense of bringing a positive vibe into the postseason.  Nola pitched well down the stretch last year, but his playoff numbers were not eye-popping, in 5 starts he had a 4.91 era with an uncharacteristic 1.32 WHIP. 

3) Ranger Suarez 

Here is where it gets interesting. He has had some signs of greatness, especially in the month of June. Then injuries caught up with him.  Ranger has come back well, pitching into the 7th inning against the Marlins with a no-hit bid.  He then pitched against the Cardinals and threw 6 innings with just 1 earned run.  Ranger could be that lucky surprise that the Phillies are looking for. He has shown he has ice in his veins, pitching fantastic in the 2022 playoffs.  Ranger should get a nod. 

4) Taijuan Walker,  

He has shown flashes this year of being really good, but in his last 4 starts, he has gone 23 innings giving up 17 earned runs.  Walker is not a guy to write off, although I believe Ranger is showing enough now to put Walker into that number 4 role.  Command has been an issue for a long time.  He had one playoff start last year and it was a forgettable one. 

5) Cristopher Sanchez,  

Sanchez pitched well all season, but is hitting an innings limit and who knows when or will he be used. He seems to not be swayed by any type of pressure. He may be a good piece for the Phillies to eat innings. 

6) Michael Lorenzen 

He has pitched in the pen, so I think we know the answer. 

 My starting rotation as of today would be 

  1. Zack Wheeler 
  2. Ranger Suarez 
  3. Aaron Nola 

Could Bryce Harper Make it to 600 HRs? History Says He Has a Chance

Bryce Harper hit a historic milestone on Wednesday. 300 career Hrs. In typical Harper fashion, it was with style. He hit a go-ahead 2-run blast in the bottom of the 8th inning. The Phillies went on to lose anyway, but that was despite Harper’s best effort.

The question anytime someone hits a milestone like this is always when will they hit the next one? Will he make it to 400? Probably. Will he make it to 500? He certainly has a chance. But will he become the 10th player in MLB history to make it to 600 HRs? Most people will say no. If it took him 12 seasons to get to 300, you’d think it would take at least 12 more to get to 600, and he is already 30. But don’t be so fast to doubt Harper.

Jayson Stark joined the Best Show Ever after Bryce Harper hit number 300, and weighed in on Harper’s chances to make it to 600. And he seemed to believe Harper could hit that goal.

“He is the youngest active member of the 300-Hr Club. Just for fun, I looked at the ages of the 600-Hr Club, and how old those guys were when they hit their 300th. And Bryce is pretty much the same age as all of them, with a couple of exceptions. He is not going to hit 700. But 600? Who would say he is not going to hit another 300? This is one of the best stretches of his career. He is 16 of his last 34, with more home runs than strikeouts.”

So according to Stark, he may just be on pace for it. And remember, there was a Covid shortened season among those 12 seasons and some injury-shortened seasons. So his actual HR pace is more than 300 per 12 seasons. But let’s actually take a look at the rest of the 600 HR Club, and see how he compares at this point of his career.

  • Barry Bonds-31 years 9 months 3 days- 762 HRs

    Barry Bonds, who obviously is the HR king*, was older than Bryce Harper when he hit 300. But we also know that Barry Bonds had some assistance hitting HRs late in his career. The question is not can Harper hit 762 though, it is can he hit 600? And at the very least, he is ahead of schedule compared to what Barry Bonds did. Harper is almost a year younger than Barry Bonds was the day he hit his 300th. He won’t have HGH helping keep him strong late in his career though

  • Hank Aaron - 29 years 2 months 14 days- 755 HRs

    Hank Aaron, the HR King if you discount Barry Bonds for cheating, was over a year ahead of Bryce Harper’s pace. He also did it in two fewer seasons. But he passed the 600 HR mark by 155 Homers. So again, while this does not bode well for Harper passing Aaron, that is not the question at hand. That Aaron was just a year younger than Harper, and went on to hit 455 more, makes you think Harper at least has a chance at 300.

    MILWAUKEE, WI - AUGUST 2: Hall of famer Hank Aaron waves to the crowd before the start of the Washington Nationals game at Miller Park on August 2, 2013 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Aaron was on hand to commemorate Robin Yount on his 20th anniversary of retirement.

    (Photo by Tom Lynn/Getty Images)

  • Babe Ruth- 30 years 7 months 3 days- 714 HRs

    The first guy to reach 300 hrs did it when he was just 3 months younger than Bryce Harper. He did do it in far fewer games though. Babe Ruth didn’t start being a hitter full-time until he was 24. And he had 11 seasons of 40 plus HRs, 4 seasons with 50, and 1 with 60. Harper currently only has 1 season of at least 40. So it is hard to compare Harper to Ruth. The advantage Harper has is he started much younger, with nearly a 5-year head start as an everyday hitter. He also can hit 114 fewer Hrs and still make it into the 600 club.

    American baseball player 'Babe' Ruth (George Herman Ruth, 1895 - 1948) looks up while batting for the New York Yankees during a game, April 9, 1925.

    (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

  • Albert Pujols- 28 years 5 months 19 days

    If you want to make the case for Harper to hit 600, Pujols is not the comparison to make. By Harper’s age, Pujols was actually hitting 400. And he started at 21 whereas Harper started at 19. So in terms of HR production, as great as Harper is, he does not quite compare. Pujols’s early career production is unmatched by almost any else in MLB History. His production waned a bit after 35, but he played until he was 42 to make up for that. He became just the 4th player to hit 700.

    To reach 600, Harper is going to have to play into his 40s like Pujols. But unlike Pujols, he would still have to be hitting 30 a season into his late 30s’. Harper is under contract until he is almost 40, so hopefully for the 2030 Phillies’ sake, that will be the case.

  • Alex Rodriguez- 27 years 11 months 8 days- 696 HRs

    A-Rod is the youngest to hit nearly every HR milestone. He got an early start, having his first 30 hr season at 20 years old. And then he came just 4 short of hitting 700. But like Bonds and Sosa, his accomplishments are a bit marred by a cheating scandal. But that aside, he had as good of a power swing as anyone. He had 3 seasons with 50+ homers, more than anyone in MLB history apart from Sosa, McGwire, and Ruth.

    He only had one season with 30+ after 34 though. So while Harper is way behind his pace currently, he can catch up if stays healthier late in his career, doesn’t fall off, and also does not get suspended for an entire season for taking PEDs.

  • Willie Mays- 30 years 1 months 29 days- 660 HRs

    Mays is the only player to hit 600 HRs, have 300 steals, and not be connected to a PED scandal. Which is why many will still say he is the best player of all time. Mays was 9 months younger than Harper when he hit 300. He also took some time off to serve in the Military and didn’t return to playing Baseball until he was 23. Mays played until he was 42, and was still showing elite power until he was 35. The similar age bodes well for Harper though.

    Willie Mays watches 2004 Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies July 25, 2004 in Cooperstown, New York

    . (Photo by A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

  • Ken Griffey Jr.- 28 years 4 months 23 days- 630

    Griffey like Harper and A Rod started young. The latter part of his career was unfortunately marred by a few injuries. He just barely hit 200 Hrs after the age of 31, but he hit so many before He turned 31 that he still got to 600. Had he stayed healthy he likely would have made it to 700. Harper has not had anywhere near the highs Ken Griffey did to this point in his career. And Harper has had more injuries early in his career than Griffey did. But if he flips it, and stays healthy late, he might be able to enter the same club Griffey did when he was 38.

  • Jim Thome- 31 years 9 months 8 days- 612

    The only guy who played for the Phillies, and reached 600. He hit 400 as a Phillies but was with Cleveland when he hit 300. He is one of the few people on this list that was older than Harper, by almost a year, when he hit number 300. Thome may be regarded as one of the least exciting players of the 600 HR Club. But he is actually 6th all-time in ABs per HR at 13.76. So in many ways, he may be the most underrated player on the list.

  • Sammy Sosa- 30 years 7 months 14 days -609

    Sosa is another one of those guys who held some help reaching 600. So it is hard to compare to him because career HR push is artificial. But in terms of pace, Harper was right in line with him. Despite the help from artificial substances, Sosa only lasted until 38, and his last real power season came at 35. So if Harper stays in better shape than Sosa did, he could surpass what Sosa did just by lasting longer and starting earlier.

    18 Aug 1998: Sammy Sosa #21 of the Chicago Cubs swings at a pitch during a game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Cardinals 4-1.

    Mandatory Credit: Matthew Stockman /Allsport

  • Bryce Harper- 30 years 10 months 14 days

    Which brings us to Bryce, He turns 31 in October. So he is younger than 2 of the 9 guys who have done it before them. Many of the guys who were younger than him, shot significantly past the 700 mark. He was younger than both Barry Bonds and Jim Thome. But both also did it in fewer at bats than him

    The lack of 40 HR seasons so far does not bode well for him. He has that potential, but he has been too oft-injured. Harper has just 4 seasons with at least 140 games played. When healthy though, he could easily be a 40 HR guy

    Given his age, he has a shot at 600. But from here on he needs to stay healthy, and he needs to have more seasons of 40 plus. He needs 9 more seasons of 35 or more HRs to reach 600. But if he mixes in some 40 HR season, or even a 50 one, that can get down to 5 or 6. He is also likely going to need to stay an elite player past 35.

    500 is a more realistic target, and at this point, he is a lock to get 400. But surprisingly, it is not out of the question that he could join the 600 HR club. Like Jayson Stark mentioned, age-wise he compares well to the other guys who went on to hit 600.

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