Philadelphia Phillies Season Recapby Alex Kielar October 13, 2021 1 comment
The Philadelphia Phillies had another up-and-down year, as they missed the postseason for the 10th straight season. They finished above .500 at 82-80 for the first time since losing the National League Division Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011. Since winning the World Series in 2008 over the Tampa Bay Rays, they have been on a tailspin. The Phillies just weren’t able to put it all together the whole year, but still had a chance to beat out the Atlanta Braves for the NL East. The Braves wound up holding on, winning the division by 6.5 games over Philadelphia.
Despite having a top MVP candidate in their lineup and a top Cy Young candidate in their rotation, the Phillies had numerous offensive and pitching struggles outside of those two. Trade deadline acquisition Kyle Gibson was a boost to the struggling rotation the last two months, providing them with playoff life. Hector Neris was a bright spot as well for the final two months, as he pitched to a 2.38 ERA in 30 games while striking out 46 and allowing a .152 average against. That was after he struggled early on and got the closer role stripped in July. Ian Kennedy was another trade acquisition and he stepped into the closer role post-trade but had an up-and-down two months with the team.
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Manager: Joe Girardi
Position: Second in NL East
Postseason: Missed Playoffs
Ultimately, the offense besides their MVP, and their bullpen, is what did the Phillies in. They had no one in the middle of the order to protect said MVP and they never really had a set closer as their bullpen blew a number of games they had a chance to win. The bullpen blew a major league record 34 saves, but they actually went 14-13 in games in which they blew a save. There were times in which they blew multiple saves in one game, and they actually had three blown saves in one game. The Phillies averaged just 4.53 runs per game, which was 13th in the majors and they ranked 20th in wRC+ at 93.
Rookie Alec Bohm was a major disappointment on offense and defense. Top pitching prospect Spencer Howard struggled before being traded to the Texas Rangers. Zach Eflin went down in July and Vince Velasquez wound up DFA’d. Their leadoff hitters ranked 29th in the majors with a .302 on-base percentage. Philadelphia’s defense was also a big issue, with Didi Gregorius really struggling at shortstop, as he had -18 outs above average (OAA) and -11 defensive runs saved (DRS).
Most Valuable Player: Bryce Harper
The 2012 NL Rookie of the Year and 2015 NL MVP returned to similar form in 2021. After signing a record 13-year, $330 million contract in 2019, Harper had his best season so far in Philly. He led the majors in doubles (42), slugging (.615), OPS (1.044), and OPS+ (179) while also mashing 35 taters. The former Washington National was also among the leaders in walk rate at 16.7 percent. A testament to the lack of protection behind him and his patient approach.
Starting Pitcher of the Year: Zack Wheeler
The true ace of the Phillies’ staff, Wheeler had an outstanding first full season in Philadelphia. The right-hander finished with a 14-10 record, 2.78 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and an NL-leading 247 strikeouts over a major league-leading 213 1/3 innings. Wheeler also led the league with three complete games, including two complete-game shutouts. Without the former New York Met leading their rotation, the Phillies may have barely treaded water all season.
Relief Pitcher of the Year: Ranger Suarez
Suarez did wind up making 12 starts to end the year but came out of the bullpen for 27 of his 39 appearances. The southpaw had a 0.93 ERA before he stepped into the closer role, where he held a 1.59 ERA. As a closer, he saved four out of seven save chances. As a reliever as a whole, the 26-year old put up a 1.12 ERA, a .152 batting average against, a .239 slugging against, and 42 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings.
Best Hitter of the Year: Bryce Harper
Best Fielder of the Year: Jean Segura
Segura was gold in a pile of crap for the defense. At second base, he had five DRS and nine OAA while far above being the best defender on the team. In fact, no other player had more than three DRS. Although, Segura didn’t have the best range as his ultimate zone rating was -1.4. But compared to the rest of the team, his defense was a bright spot.
Comeback Player of the Year: Ranger Suarez
Suarez tested positive for COVID last year and it took him until September to work back to the majors, where he made just three appearances. This year he came back and did it all, going from high-leverage reliever, to closer, to starter. He moved into the rotation after the trade deadline and delivered a 1.51 ERA in 12 starts. In his second-to-last start, Suarez threw a Maddux, as he pitched a complete game shutout while needing just 97 pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He then struck out a season-high nine batters over seven shutout innings in his final outing of the season.
The Phillies need to make some major moves this offseason to end their postseason drought. Finding a legitimate closer, a solid leadoff hitter, and other bats in the lineup besides Harper should be on top of the list. They have already started an overhaul on their coaching staff. They are bringing in former Nationals hitting coach Kevin Long to replace the recently fired Joe Dillon. Long now reunites with Harper, who he coached in Washington, along with Girardi and bench coach Rob Thomson. The trio of Girardi, Thomson, and Long worked together with the New York Yankees for several years. Philadelphia also parted ways with infield coach Juan Castro, as they work towards improving their infield defense.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images