With a new manager behind the wheel, the Phillies look to take back the NL East crown. Will they be able to overtake the Nats and Braves?
Philadelphia Phillies 2019 record: 81-81. Fourth in the NLDS
Washington’s record vs Philadelphia last season: 14-5
The Phillies had a disappointing 2019 season despite adding Bryce Harper, J.T. Reamulto, Jean Segura, David Robertson, and Andrew McCutchen. Manager Gabe Kapler was fired as a result and the team replaced him with Joe Girardi. Didi Gregorius was brought in on a prove-it deal to improve the offense. The Phillies offensive woes started last year when McCutchen tore his ACL. No one was able to fill his shoes in the leadoff spot and the offense sputtered because of it. With high expectations and barley any cap room left, the Phillies have to run it back while hoping for progression from their core pieces.
The Phillies offense should also improve solely from bounce-back seasons by Jean Segura and Rhys Hoskins. After hitting over .300 from 2016-2018, Segura hit .280. Due to not getting on as much, Segura had the least amount of stolen bases (10) since his rookie year (7). Segura needs to be a threat on the base paths to apply constant pressure to opposing teams.
Hoskins did not live up to expectations in 2019, to say the least. Hoskins had a breakout season in 2018, where he hit .246, with 34 homers, and 96 RBI’s. At only 26, Hoskins was projected to take his game to the next level, but instead, he took a step back. In 2019, he hit .226, with 29 homers, and 85 RBI’s. But with that much talent, expect Hoskins to build on his 2018 and not look like his 2019 self.
The front office then went and spent most of the remaining cap room on Zack Wheeler on a five-year contract to bolster the pitching staff behind ace Aaron Nola. The pitching staff was the Phillies biggest weakness in 2019. They were 17th in ERA (4.64), 20th in opponents batting average (.262), and fifth in walks allowed (310). Wheeler is coming off a season where he went 11-8, with a 3.96 ERA, and 195 strikeouts. With the Mets, Wheeler was great but never spectacular. The Phillies are hoping they can take him to the next level and form a dangerous top two in the rotation.
Nationals to Watch:
The Phillies strength is their lineup. When healthy, the offense can torch opposing pitchers from top to bottom. Due to this, the National to watch is Stephen Strasburg. In 2019, Max Scherzer was placed on the IL for the first time in his career. He dealt with a back injury and then had a pinched nerve in his neck in the World Series. At 35, it wouldn’t be uncommon for Scherzer’s body to start to wear down. This is where Strasburg comes in.
He is coming off the best season of his career which culminated in a World Series MVP trophy and a new contract worth 245 million. In 2019, Strasburg went 18-6, with a 3.32 ERA, and 251 strikeouts. He will need to show that the injuries are behind him and he can stay healthy. Strasburg has dominated the Phillies in the past and don’t expect this to change in 2020. In 205 at-bats against Strasburg, the current Phillies offense is hitting a meager .229, five homers, and 16 RBI’s.
A key match up to pay attention to will be Strasburg Vs. Reamulto. Reamulto has excellent numbers against the 31-year-old, dating back to the formers time in Miami. Reamulto is 11/28, with two triples, an RBI, and an OPS of 1.021. The veteran catcher will have an opportunity to make or break a game.
2020 Series Prediction:
May 29-31 @ Philadelphia
July 10-12 in D.C.
July 20-23 @ Philadelphia
August 28-30 in D.C.
September 8-10 @ Philadelphia
September 25-27 in D.C.
Washington owned the Phillies last year and return the majority of the team minus Anthony Rendon. With an improved Nats bullpen and a deep pitching staff, Washington should once again own the Phillies.
Prediction: Nats win season series 12-7