July 15, 2019
By: Sean Fritz
The Philadelphia Phillies are set to begin the second half of their season with a three-game series hosting the divisional-foe Washington Nationals. The Nats come into the series leading the Phils by a half-game in the National League East standings while the Phils trail the division-leading Atlanta Braves by 6.5 games as the All-Star break concludes. Its a little hard to believe things have unraveled as rapidly as they have for this Phillies team. A team that got off to as hot of a start as they did to begin the season and became the same team that relatively speaking played solid baseball up until around Memorial Day. However once the calendar struck June so did the fate of the Phillies playoff hopes thanks to a record of 11-16 in the month of June that included three sweeps, one of which that came at the hands of the National League's worst team in the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park.
The month of June certainly plagued the Phillies but the reasoning for their poor play could be caused by a laundry list of could've, should've, would'ves. The first being the loss of leadoff hitter and starting leftfielder Andrew McCutchen, who is out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. McCutchen was an on-base machine who worked a lot of at-bats in just two months with the Phils. Another tough loss, in a sense, was the loss of centerfielder Odubel Herrera, who's been suspended by MLB for a domestic violence incident. Herrera wasn't necessarily as big of a contributor in terms of production this season, but his absence since June 1st has left the Phillies scrambling to find an every day centerfielder which in turn has opened up more holes in an already shaky defensively-aligned ball club. Along with the losses of those players the Phillies have also had to deal with a revolving door of arms in their bullpen which was considered by many to be hit-or-miss even with a healthy pitching staff. Free-agent acquisition David Robertson has been out since April to go along with Seranthony Dominguez, Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, Adam Morgan and others who have all missed significant time due to injury. If that wasn't a big enough problem the Phillies starting rotation hasn't gotten much either with the exception of Aaron Nola, as of late, and maybe Zach Eflin. Jake Arrieta, who is now being monitored closely with a strong possibility of a season-ending surgery looming in his future, and Nick Pivetta have been nothing short of inconsistent while the likes of Vince Velasquez and Jerad Eickhoff have been unable to take advantage of the opportunity to earn their spot within the rotation.
All of this along with quite frankly quiet first-halves from many in your lineup have the Phillies looking up at the Braves with a brutal stretch coming up to begin the second half. How do the Phils get back in this thing? There's a few answers to that but all should be preceded by the fact that they need to act quickly. The front office's refusal to aggressively pursue pitching options for this team up to this point whether via trade or free agency has narrowed the time frame for the Phils to turn this around before the trade deadline. The Phils have a three-game set with the Nationals, followed by four with the Dodgers and then end the month with the Braves. In these series laid out, the Phillies have to find a way to keep themselves in it or I'm afraid any move made by the deadline could all be for not depending how many games out they could be by August 1st. Is this season salvagable or did the Phillies front office wait too long in acquiring pieces to reach the team's goal of a postseason berth? The answer is not clear yet, but I can guarantee it will be within the next three weeks or less.