Since firing Joe Girardi, the Phils have a new lease on life. Boardroom dives into just how Rob Thomson & Co. are doing it — and how far they just might go if they keep things up.
The Philadelphia Phillies haven’t reached the MLB postseason since 2011, but under the leadership and guidance of interim manager Rob Thomson, Baseball-Reference currently gives them a 77% chance to end this decade-long drought.
A 22-29 start under longtime skipper Joe Girardi led to his replacement with Thomson, whose 33-18 managerial record included a nine-game winning streak to begin June and a current five-game winning streak that’s brought the Phils to 55-47, the highest number of games over .500 they’ve been in 2022 to date. The team has notably thrived despite reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper being out since June 25 after getting surgery to repair a fractured left thumb.
So, how have they done it?
- A July staff ERA of 3.33 ranked No. 5 in the NL and helped lead the team to a strong 15-10 month, including a balanced 3.24 from relievers and 3.39 from starters. This came during a month when the Phils finished 19th in MLB in runs scored, 22nd in on-base percentage, and 18th in OPS. This included continued excellence from Zack Wheeler, 16 scoreless innings from Ranger Suarez, and 10 2/3 scoreless frames from closer Corey Knebel.
- A 19-8 record in June, meanwhile, was carried by the offense, whose 146 total runs was No. 5 in baseball. The Phils were also fifth with 43 homers, fifth in OPS, No. 6 in slugging percentage, and ninth in on-base percentage. That included 16 RBIs in 18 games from Harper, 12 homers from slugger Kyle Schwarber, who leads the NL with 33 homers, and seven dingers from Rhys Hoskins.
Aside from Harper, Schwarber, and Hoskins, the offense got a significant boost from young third baseman Alec Bohm, who hit an otherworldly .434/.457/.632 in 20 July games to boost his average to .299 for the season. While JT Realmuto has been solid at catcher, Nick Castellanos has been disappointing offensively after signing a five-year, $100 million contract in March, with just eight homers, a .300 OBP and a -1.0 Baseball-Reference WAR after hitting 34 homers and driving in 100 runs in 2021.
Aaron Nola has been his consistent self, with a 3.25 ERA and 152 strikeouts, good for third in the NL. In relief, Knebel has been helped by setup men Seranthony Dominguez, who has a 1.67 ERA in 39 appearances after throwing just one inning last season, and Brad Hand, who has a 1.99 ERA after registering a 3.90 mark in 2021.
Down the stretch, the Phils should get both Harper and infielder Jean Segura back from injury. They could certainly get a lot more out of Castellanos and, to a lesser extent, Realmuto. Acquiring pitching depth and perhaps an outfielder to replace the limp Odubel Herrera/Matt Vierling duo before Tuesday’s MLB trade deadline would certainly help the team’s playoff hopes; with that in mind, the team’s No. 3-ranked prospect a catcher in Logan O’Hoppe would presumably be expendable with Realmuto signed through the 2025 season.
In order to secure their postseason hopes, Philadelphia also needs to play better at Citizens Bank Park, where their 26-25 home record the worst among clubs currently in playoff positions. A 29-22 road record is definitely admirable, but a .500 home mark isn’t going to cut it — nor will a 12-16 record in one-run games. Divisional games will be pivotal the last two months. While the Phils will get to fatten up on the Washington Nationals, against whom they have 11 games remaining after going 6-2 so far, they have seven more contests against the New York Mets (3-9 through 12 games) and nine more against the Atlanta Braves (5-5).
The tools are there for the Phils to break their playoff drought. It will take a bit more health and consistency from both the lineup and the pitching staff, but a productive trade deadline and opportunistic play against poorer teams they ought to beat could even end up earning Thomson some Manager of the Year votes.