The Phillies jump back into action Friday with a doubleheader against the Miami Marlins, an opponent that has given them all sorts of trouble over the last three seasons.
Since 2019, the Marlins have a .579 winning percentage against the Phillies while holding a .385 winning percentage against all other teams.
Still, a four-game weekend set against a team bringing up the rear in the NL East at Citizens Bank Park, where the Phillies are playing .600 baseball this season, kicks off what is a decidedly friendly second half schedule.
After generating optimism by reaching the .500 mark at the All-Star Break, let’s get ready for the final 2 1/2 months of the season with some bold predictions.
Connor Brogdon Emerges
I’m doubling down on a pro-Connor Brogdon take. Before the season, I was on record in an episode of Crossed Up, saying that he would ultimately take over the team’s closer role this season. While that may not happen, I expect Brogdon to finish the second half strong.
After ending last season on a tear, the 26-year-old reliever stumbled out of the gate this season.
In April, Brogdon appeared in 10 games, pitching to a 6.30 ERA while opponents posted a healthy .796 OPS against him. Since the first month, there have been some shaky moments, but he has been much better overall.
Since May 1, Brogdon has a 3.33 ERA, limiting opponents to just a .627 OPS over 27 appearances — and he’s been even better since mid-June.
— Brodes Media (@BrodesMedia) July 6, 2021
Dating back to June 13, he’s held opponents scoreless in 10 of 13 appearances, posting a 2.38 ERA while holding hitters to a .171 average and .471 OPS.
If the Phillies want to make a run, they must add to the bullpen mix, but expect Brogdon to step up his game when he comes off the COVID-related IL.
A Top 5 Second Half National League Lineup
The Phillies lit up the scoreboard during a condensed 60-game season in 2020, and while that production came with an obvious small sample size caveat, there was a reasonable expectation this lineup would again be among the game’s best.
Through 88 games, that has certainly not been the case.
The Phillies are right in the middle of the pack in terms of several major production categories:
- .240 BA (14th)
- .316 OBP (14th)
- .400 SLG (14th)
- .716 OPS (15th)
This production is in line with some deeper metrics such as wRC+ (16th) and ISO (16th). Still, there’s reason to believe the Phillies will best that production over their final 74 games, assuming the lineup stays relatively healthy.
You’ve heard a lot about a weak remaining schedule, one that relatedly features a number of bad pitching staffs. Keep in mind there’s a chance those staffs deteriorate even further in the coming weeks as teams that fall out of the race ship away starting pitching and key bullpen pieces.
A now (mostly) healthy Phillies lineup that has turned it on during the month of July should be able to do some damage with frequently advantageous matchups.
Since July 1, the Phillies’ offensive production in several key categories has revved up, but even if we step back and expand the sample to include an inconsistent June, the numbers are favorable. Check it out:
- .251 BA (12th)
- .328 OBP (14th)
- .441 SLG (6th)
- .769 OPS (6th)
- 108 wRC+ (9th)
- .190 ISO (5th)
As for July, the Phillies’ .242 ISO leads all of baseball, while their OPS (4th), wRC+ (4th), BA (7th), SLG% (2nd) are among baseball’s best.
Aaron Nola Turns It On
I wrote about Aaron Nola’s first half struggles in detail yesterday, but I’ll summarize here:
Nola has been uncharacteristically bad with leadoff hitters, with two outs, and with runners in scoring position this season.
- 2021: .304 BA with an .824 OPS
- Career: .226 BA with a .657 OPS
With two outs:
- 2021: .242 BA, .483 SLG%, .799 OPS
- Career: .215 BA, .338 SLG%, .626 OPS
- 2021: .321 BA with a .940 OPS
- Career: .233 BA with a .674 OPS
Nola’s velocity remains relatively unchanged, as do other several key indicators. At times, he has been outstanding.
Aaron Nola’s complete game shutout is the first with 2 or fewer hits allowed by a Phillie since Cole Hamels no-hitter in his last start as a Phillie 6 seasons ago
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) April 18, 2021
However, one thing that jumps out is that opponents are doing more damage against his curveball and changeup. A more consistent feel for his fastball will likely translate to better luck with his secondary offerings, but even still, some plain old positive regression should make for an improved second half.
Nola hasn’t pitched since July 6. When he comes off the COVID-related IL, which I assume happens sometime next week, he will be roughly two weeks between starts. Nola should be more than well-rested at that point and ready to fully reset.
Looking ahead, he will have to overcome past September failures, but he’s been very good throughout his career during the month of July. He has also been spectacular during the month of August, posting a 2.73 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 28 career starts.
I’ll bet on a big bounce back.