Look man, I get that this Phillies season has disappointed in more ways than one. A complete and total lack of depth in both the rotation and bullpen led to one of the most infuriating stretches in recent Phillies history. Just a few weeks ago, it seemed as though every pitcherthe Phillies were trotting out there was a batting practice machine. Jerad Eickhoff had the highest home-run per 9 rate in the league before getting injured, Arrieta is only good for 50-70 pitches due to an elbow bone spur and Nick Pivetta took an enormous step back.
Starting pitching may have been a weakness headed into the season, but nobody expected it to be this bad. It was always assumed that at least one of Pivetta, Eflin, Eickhoff or Velasquez would stabilize but that has not been the case. The end result is a pitching staff that is set to give up record amount of home-runs, and that is frustrating. It’s especially frustrating given how much hype the team placed on this season, only to have the front office completely skimp out on the rotation.
The bullpen has also been a roller coaster ride this season. David Robertson only pitched a couple innings before getting hurt, Neshek is down and Tommy Hunter is done for the year. Veteran relievers not being on the field has caused the Phillies a multitude of problems this season, especially in the late innings. Hector Neris is the only reliever with a true ninth inning track record and as a result, he’s been out there far more than he should be. It’s led to more than one blown save, which was totally predictable given how hard it is to be the only late inning righty on a team.
The bullpen has largely been horrific, and though there have been minor improvements of late, nobody in Philadelphia is relying on the pen.
Third and finally, fans have been disappointed with the overall output of Bryce Harper. His mega deal gave people expectations of MVP caliber production from start to finish and that simply hasn’t been the case. Has Harper been terrible? Certainly not, he’s actually delivered expected results (though he could use a few more home-runs). Harper is a streaky player who walks a ton and has the ability to carry a team. So far he’s just about lived up to the bargain,. but fans still don’t seem satisfied.
It’s Time To Give Negadelphia A Rest
So again, it’s totally reasonable to be frustrated with the Phillies. This team has looked comically bad at points and has blown far too many close games, including Nola gems.
They’ve had rough times this season, but the minor upgrades made by the team over the last few weeks have the potential to go a long way. If Matt Klentak has proven one thing as an MLB GM, it’s that he knows how to make something out of nothing. Klentak has done this repeatedly, and it was on display again with the signing of Drew Smyly.
Before Tommy John surgery in 2016, Smyly was becoming an intriguing starter. Though logging innings were an issue, Smyly looked impressive in limited action and was a top billed prospect at the time of promotion. After recovering for multiple seasons, Smyly finally cracked MLB action again with the Rangers. It was an unmitigated disaster that left Smyly with an ERA of 8, but that is also what made him available to the Phillies for literally nothing.
The signing of Smyly has paid dividends so far as he most recently pitched 7 scoreless frames against the Giants, but people still just want to complain. They point out the high season ERA, Smyly’s lack of name recognition and say the same exact things about similar moves. Twitter bitched and moaned about Vargas, Blake Parker and Mike Morin as if Yacksel Rios and Nick Pivetta were guys we wanted in their roles at the time. The Phillies pitching was god awful, historically awful even. Anything was an upgrade for this team, and they did it at next to no cost.
Would it have been nice to go out and get a better, bigger name starter? Of course, but this was a weak trade market and nobody available was worth mortgaging the farm for. The Indians managed to salvage an enormous haul for Trevor Bauer while the Astros took on nearly two thirds of Greinke’s contract. Bumgarner, Minor and Matthew Boyd stayed put and it’s not like any of those guys were world beaters. There seemed to be this idea that getting Mike Minor would mirror the Cliff Lee acquisition and that is just insane. There was no Cliff Lee on this market and even if there was, he wouldn’t put the Phillies over the top.
Most teams in need of a starter went similar routes as the Phillies. I personally would have preferred the team to go get Tanner Roark instead of Dickerson, but adding another bat is still helpful.
Ultimately, the Phillies did what a wild card team should do: upgrade the team without mortgaging the future. If Vargas and Smyly can pitch to ERA’s of just 4 down the stretch, that is an enormous upgrade over what this team had. If Blake Parker can provide any help at all in the eighth or ninth innings, that is another enormous upgrade. The Phillies were performing at basement levels, so the only place to go is up.
Plus, it should be pointed out that these are the exact same moves the Phillies were making in 2007. No big names were acquired then, and the 08 rotation wasn’t great either. Phillies fans have been spoiled by the days of Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay mowing teams down, and it’s hard to blame them.
However, it’s just tough to fault the front office for their recent moves. Everyone agrees that the pitching evaluation was way off base but Klentak has tried to right that ship. The Phillies have improved their chances at chasing a wild card while not at all mortgaging the future. If Harper and Realmuto continue to hit down the stretch, this team can get by with a rag tag rotation.
So let’s just put the negadelphia on temporary hold because we all know it will come roaring back if this team collapses. As things currently stand, they’ve weathered a tough stretch of games and are playing better as August begins. They’ currently sit in a four-way Wild Card tie and have as good a chance as anybody to make it. Can we please just enjoy the ride and remember that this team hasn’t been to the playoffs in 7 years? That’s all I ask.