The Phillies are frustrating again. While I missed baseball, I certainly did not miss this pain.
After a 10-3 victory where the offense had 10 hits, there was hope the team was finding its way out of the slow start. Unfortunately, the hope was for naught, as the Phils laid an egg in the series finale, losing 11-3 to the pesky Marlins.
Through 10 games of the season, the Phillies have not been the team most expected they would be. Baseball is a long season, and there is plenty of time for the Phillies to get on track.
That being said, there are causes for concern. The Phillies offense has started slow. Statistically, they are an above average offense. However, performances like Saturday and the 9-5 win on Opening Day skew the numbers. Outside of a few hitters, including Nick Castellanos, there hasn’t been fight in the lineup. Spring Training performances did not carry over for most.
After his performance against the Marlins, MV3 seems poised for an offensive tear. Hopefully, Kyle Schwarber can take his performance on Easter and build on it. Even so, hitting becomes infinitely harder when always battling back from deficits.
The pitching staff has to be better.
The rotation will find a way to right the ship. While I am unsure if they will be amongst the game’s elite staffs, they will be good enough to keep the team in games. The bullpen, outside of a few long relief appearances, has been a strength. Offseason additions Corey Knebel, Brad Hand, and Jeurys Familia have looked impressive out of the gate. Similarly, holdover Seranthony Dominguez looks the pitcher he was pre-surgery.
In other words, the backend of the bullpen looks better than it has in a few years.
While the team should find its stride at one point, there is one thing that concerns me. Ultimately, it will be what holds the team back and that is Joe Girardi.
Although last year was not entirely his fault, Girardi struggled to make the right in-game decisions. From day-to-day lineup construction to simple pitching changes, Girardi either overmanaged or undermanaged. There was no in between.
To start 2022, it has been more of the same.
How he has handled the lineup juggling has been abysmal, especially on the dirt. Through 10 games, for example, Didi (a Girardi guy) has 34 at-bats and Alec Bohm (not a Girardi guy) has 11. Bohm and Didi have both reached base 10 times. In fact, Bohm has reached base more than all the other infielders on the roster, excluding Rhys Hoskins. Didi has averaged a career-low exit velocity of 82.2 through the short season, to pair with a blah .629 OPS.
Granted, Bohm has been horrendous at third base. That being said, he has looked incredibly comfortable at the dish. He is showing a more consistent ability to drive the ball. The visible increase of confidence should be enough to keep him in the lineup. However, Girardi has been giving the bulk of at-bats to anyone but Bohm.
Recently, Johan Camargo has caught the eye of the Phillies’ manager because of his strong defense. In the offseason, him being a switch-hitter was a positive. Now, it just gives Girardi a reason to play him every day. Against righthanded pitchers, Camargo is a lifetime .247/.308/.392 hitter. He doesn’t exactly tear the cover off the ball.
I like what Camargo brings to the Phillies. However, if Girardi holds to the same patterns he has, he will be overexposed. With the return of Odubel Herrera imminent, expect even more of a reliance on fringe MLB veterans (Is Ronald Torreyes going to be next?). Depending how Realmuto takes to the lead-off spot, don’t be surprised if you see Herrera leading off as soon as this weekend.
Even though he wasn’t producing, taking Schwarber out of the leadoff spot, just 9 games in, was a sign of desperation. How many times did he run 37, with his .287 OBP in the spot, out as the first batter? Girardi is beginning to the feel real pressure, and rightfully so. Unlike last season, excuses aren’t as plentiful. The team, while still not perfect, went into the tax because they thought they could compete.
I thought Girardi held the Phillies back last year, and he is proving so again this year. Only, this time, fans will be able to notice. Expectations coming into this season were sky high, with this year being playoffs or bust. Depending on how the team’s upcoming performance, there is a real possibility that Girardi doesn’t get the entire season to fix it.
At this rate, I don’t see Girardi making it past June. Even if he doesn’t get fired in-season, if the Phillies miss out on the playoffs another year, you can’t justify keeping him. The Phillies gave him a lot of power last year and, so far, he hasn’t delivered.
This season, Girardi has to earn his $5 million salary. More series like the one in Miami and he won’t be here much longer.