Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images
Injuries marred the season, but Philadelphia had few contingency plans.
Over the 2018-2019 offseason, it’s possible that no other team did as much to improve their roster as the Philadelphia Phillies. Following a late season collapse that saw the team miss the playoffs and finish 80-82, the Phillies went out and did the following: trade for Jean Segura, trade for J.T. Realmuto, sign David Robertson, sign Andrew McCutchen, and sign Bryce Harper to what was the biggest contract in baseball history before Mike Trout signed his extension with the Angels. ZiPS projected those five players to combine for 16.1 fWAR which is a major upgrade over the players they were supposed to replace— namely Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr, and Maikel Franco.
FanGraphs gave the Phillies a 48.5 percent chance of making the playoffs, a vast improvement from where they began 2018 (10 percent). Philadelphia, however, will not be going to the playoffs. They were eliminated from postseason contention with a loss in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Nationals.
Their record now stands at 79-78. The worst they can finish is with a repeat of 2018’s record. The best they can finish is 84-78. Their base runs record paints a much grimmer picture. That has the Phillies pegged as a 72-83 team or roughly as good as the Padres, Mariners, and Angels. Baseball Prospectus’s third order winning percentage is even less impressed, putting them down as a 70-84 win team. The Phillies didn’t take the huge step forward they were supposed to. If anything, they got a little worse.
They needed some cosmically bad luck to take that step back though. The players they acquired over the offseason were as advertised, at least when they were healthy. Andrew McCutchen had a 120 wRC+ in 59 games before he tore his ACL. David Robertson only got into seven games before going down for the year and eventually undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Robertson was not the only casualty of the bullpen. Far from it. Seranthony Dominguez, Jerad Eickhoff, Tommy Hunter, Adam Morgan, and Pat Neshek are all on the injured list. The only reliever from the Opening Day roster who made it through unscathed was Héctor Neris. The Phillies didn’t have a great bullpen to begin with, so they couldn’t afford to lose pitchers like Robertson or Dominguez, let alone everyone.
A good-not-great year from Aaron Nola was highlighted by the rest of the rotation falling apart around him. The most notable implosion was Jake Arrieta who attempted to pitch through bone spurs for part of the season before realizing he was doing himself and his team more harm than good pitching through pain. Zack Eflin took a step back. Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta were both a little worse and had to move to the bullpen.
The series of misfortunes that decimated the pitching staff is unlikely to repeat, but it revealed an alarming lack of depth. The Phillies roster is far from complete, and it’s not obvious how they will choose to address this. They don’t have a lot of high-rated talent in Triple-A, and ownership might not want to spend “stupid money” again. The Phillies can’t afford to stand pat this offseason though. They’ve already fallen behind in the NL East.
Kenny Kelly is a writer for Beyond the Box Score and McCovey Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter @KennyKellyWords.