A calm and rational person can probably step back from the wreckage of the Phillies’ listless 10-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves this afternoon and point out many positives about this club. I guess it isn’t all that hard to do. After all, they went 6-4 on their 10-game homestand, are a healthy 16-11 overall, and sit very much in the thick of things in the NL East as the calendar nears a turn to May. What’s more, a promising young team weathered the storm of a tumultuous 1-4 start and the intense criticism brought upon them thanks to Gabe Kapler’s embarrassing early-season tactical miscues.

Each are auspicious developments and they shouldn’t be overlooked, but here’s the thing-I wouldn’t have spent 102 words in the paragraph above listing those positives if I wasn’t going to point out a few problems that range anywhere between minor annoyances and significant concerns.

That the Phillies lost two of three to the red-hot Diamondbacks on the heels of a four-game sweep over the Pirates is no big deal, but their performance over the weekend was disheartening. Three series against the Braves. Three series losses. They have lost six of nine (not nice) to an Atlanta team that they are supposedly better than, and have been outscored 54-30 in doing so.

Things devolved to the point that Jesse Biddle (!) was resurrected by the Braves and summoned to finish the slaughter. He struck out five Phillies in two innings of work, including this mastery of Aaron Altherr:

Biddle even collected his first major league hit, giving him on the day as many extra-base hits and RBI as the entire Phillies lineup combined:


Simply put, the Braves dominated the Phillies over the final two games of the series and completely shut down what has been, to this point, a surprisingly impotent offense. Ten days after Brandon McCarthy limited the Phillies to one run over five-plus innings, he did it again today. How does that happen? It’s Brandon McCarthy for Christ’s sake!

As several of the Phillies’ heralded young hitters continue to scuffle and hit into outs after doing baffling shit such as this:


Ozzie Albies, who I’ve seen just about enough of, started the game by doing this:

The juxtaposition of the two videos above outlines two problems:

First, while I credit Kapler for, in part, the bullpen’s early success and for capably navigating his team through close games (6-1 in one-run games and 4-0 in extra innings), I do wonder to what extent his handling of playing time distribution has negatively impacted several of his young players. Williams, whose ill-advised approach we saw above, emerged in 2017 by playing with energy and confidence, but looks completely lost this season. Moreover, is there a correlation between Kingery attempting to learn and effectively play six different positions and his .224 batting average? With Jorge Alfaro, J.P. Crawford, and the aforementioned Altherr each off to rough starts and getting irregular playing time, it’s a question at least worth asking.

And then there’s Vince Velasquez. Just keep grooving those fastballs, man. Last week, I wrote extensively about his over-reliance on the fastball and how despite improved K/9 and BB/9 rates from a season ago, his performance will continue to be erratic and often underwhelming. The only commentary I’ll add to that piece in the wake of today’s shelling is this:

I asked people on Twitter earlier for other similar players that we spent years foolishly attempting to talk ourselves into being good even though they weren’t. I got back some good responses: Bryce Brown, Reggie Brown, Dom Brown, Stewart Bradley, Michael Carter-Williams, Jahlil Okafor, Ryan Moats (possibly my favorite), Hank Baskett, and L.J. Smith.

There’s still some hope for Velasquez, but it’s dimming by the start.

From this perspective, the concern is that the Phillies’ starting rotation has been the biggest reason for the team’s stellar April, but with Velasquez’s old warts resurfacing and injuries mounting, they are a mild Nick Pivetta regression away from having serious issues there.

The bottom line is this: The Phillies, if nothing else, have made themselves relevant after one month of baseball, but if they wish to remain that way beyond the Sixers’ playoff run and into the summer months, the offense needs to wake up and they need to start handling their shit against teams like the Braves.