Tuesday, November 24, 2020
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5 Reasons for Phillies Optimism Even After Missing the Playoffs



5 reasons for Phillies optimism originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Phillies should have been playing Wednesday.

If not for their late-season collapse, they would have been opening their first-round playoff series. More than half of MLB teams made the postseason this year, which makes the fact that the Phillies are not playing all the more damning.

But there are some things to look back on about the 2020 Phillies season that the team can build upon for 2021 and beyond.

Top of the rotation

While the pitching depth was noticeably lacking, especially in September, the top of the rotation was as advertised. Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola were a strong tandem as the team’s top two starters.

In Wheeler’s 11 starts, he left the game with the lead in nine of them. He finished the season with a 4-2 record, and if not for the cringeworthy bullpen, he would have been 8-2, and could have been in the Cy Young conversation.

Nola had some hiccups, but his dominance showed often. In five of his 12 starts, he allowed three hits or fewer, while striking out eight or more. No pitcher in baseball had more than five.

Alec Bohm

If you’re looking for a reason the Phillies faded down the stretch, you can’t pick on Bohm. The rookie played in 29 of 30 games in September, and was arguably the team’s best offensive player. In the final month, Bohm led the team in batting average (.367), on-base percentage (.421), doubles (seven), tied for the team lead in runs scored (17), and only Marcell Ozuna of the Braves had more hits than his 40.

He’s surprisingly not in the NL Rookie of the Year conversation according to some pundits, but if he can approach the production he had this year going forward, the Phillies have something special.

Hoskins figures it out

The Phillies’ first baseman began his 2020 much like he finished 2019: lousy. A .200 batting average with one home run and seven RBIs in his first 20 games. Then something happened. The 2017 Rhys Hoskins showed up. A barrage of power the likes of which Phillies fans hadn’t seen since his rookie season.

Before a freak elbow injury cut short his season in mid-September, Hoskins was on a serious roll. Over his final 23 games, he hit nine homers, knocked in 19 runs and scored 21. If Hoskins can carry this over into 2021, a 40-homer season isn’t out of the question.

Now you see him …

Looking at Bryce Harper’s season numbers, things look solid: a .962 OPS, 13 HRs, 33 RBIs. Over 162 games, those power numbers extrapolate to 35 homers and 89 RBIs.

But a little bit of consistency would go a long way for the Phillies’ most expensive player. Consider how much better those numbers would be if he didn’t slump for nearly half the season. Over 26 games spanning August to mid-September, Harper hit .163 with two homers and six RBIs. In the other 32 games he played: .352, 12 homers, 30 RBIs. Yikes.

Limiting the swoons will be key in the seasons to come for Krew’s daddy.

Salvation in the bullpen?

Yes, we’re as surprised as you are to see a relief pitcher in here. But 25-year-old rookie Connor Brogdon may be a real find. After a disastrous opening to his big-league career — his first pitch was clubbed for a three-run homer — Brogdon lugged a 16.88 ERA back to Allentown. He returned a different pitcher, nearly unhittable. In 8 2/3 innings down the stretch, he allowed one hit and no runs — that’s an .037 opponents’ batting average — and struck out 14 of the 29 batters he faced.

That’s more than enough to chisel his name in the 2021 bullpen, and maybe enough for a key setup role for Joe Girardi. 

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