Red October or Phailure?

Alexander McCrystal, Journalist

Eleven years. That’s how long it’s been since the Philadelphia Phillies have been to the playoffs. It is the second-longest active playoff drought in baseball. The Phillies have been trying to reach the postseason desperately ever since their 100+ win season in 2011. Philadelphia was just a game short of the postseason in the shortened 2020 season. In 2021 Bryce Harper won National League MVP, while Zach Wheeler had a career year, finishing runner-up in the NL Cy Young race. The Phillies were a couple games back of the Braves in the NL East race when the Phillies began the penultimate regular season series in Atlanta. They ended up getting swept in Atlanta, as the Phillies watched the Braves celebrate their division title right in front of them. The Phillies missed the playoffs due to injuries to key players like Rhys Hoskins and Zach Eflin, and regression from Aaron Nola and key hitters. But now, for the first time in 11 years, the Philadelphia Phillies are primed for a playoff spot, and are looking to avoid another September collapse. However, the season didn’t always look this promising.


The Phillies were 23-29 on June 2, 2022, with the idea of postseason baseball this year seeming incredibly far-fetched. Many fans would agree that the team had been grossly unperforming expectations after signing sluggers Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos in the offseason. Then the news broke. The manager, Joe Girardi, had been fired. This is the moment where the Phillies season took a turn for the better. Following the firing of Girardi and subsequent promotion of interim manager Rob Thomson, the Phillies proceeded to rattle off eight straight wins in a row, which was only the beginning of the massive turnaround. The Phillies are, at the time of writing, just around 20 games over .500 under manager Rob Thomson. Since June, the Phillies have been one of the best teams in the league. However, this has not been without adversity. 


The roster experienced major turmoil, with Bryce Harper and Jean Segura enduring injuries that kept each of them out for about two months. Zach Eflin suffered a long-term setback that kept him out for several months, only returning in mid-September. Zach Wheeler has also suffered a brief setback. However, these were overcome by elite performances from the Phillies’ top players. Aaron Nola has been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, while also being top five in strikeouts for the year. Kyle Schwarber won NL player of the month in June, which saw him put up ludicrous slugging numbers and earned him an All-Star appearance and a ticket to participate in the Home Run Derby. He currently leads the NL for home runs, and is second in all of MLB in homers, only trailing Aaron Judge. Nick Castellanos had an extremely rough start to his Phillies tenure, and began to look like his Silver Slugger self, which resulted in an elite performance at the plate in August, before succumbing to an injury that has sat him out the past few weeks. These key players have been aided by the younger players on the club. Rhys Hoskins and Alec Bohm have been the best versions of themselves this summer, playing up to their elite pedigree as of late. But the younger kids, unsung players from the minor league and dubbed by the Phillies as “The Daycare,” have played a massive role in the team’s success. Players such as Nick Maton, Dalton Guthrie, Matt Vierling, Alec Bohm, Garrett Stubbs, Bryson Stott, Darick Hall, and Bailey Falter have come up to the major league team and made massive impacts in the stead of major injuries or holes in the roster. The unsung depth pieces of the Phillies have been a key difference in this run. The bullpen issue that has plagued the Phillies for years has seen a major improvement this year. Brad Hand, Andrew Bellati, Connor Brogdon, Jose Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez, David Robertson, and others have pitched well-above expectations. David Robertson has been a valuable trade acquisition to strengthen the back end of the bullpen. Guys like Bellati, Brogdon, and Hand have been great additions to the bullpen depth.


The trade deadline saw more talent and reinforcements being brought in to shore up major holes in the roster. These brought about cuts to struggling players, such as  Jeurys Familia, Didi Gregorious, and Odubel Herrera. In turn, the Phillies traded for Center Fielder Brandon Marsh, the aforementioned relief pitcher David Robertson, defensive wizard and speed demon shortstop Edmundo Sosa, and starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard. All of these acquisitions have made major contributions to the club, coming up large in key spots. While rentals like Syndergaard and Robertson are filling their roles very well, Sosa and Marsh are young players with major upsides who could be on the Phillies for many years to come and have already made their mark.


The Phillies are dead in the middle of a wild card spot battle, with three teams vying for two spots. Their main opponents are the San Diego Padres and the Milwaukee Brewers. The Phillies currently have a lead of a couple games on both teams, holding the fifth seed in the playoffs. If the Phillies get the fifth seed, they would play the second-place NL East team, which will either be the Atlanta Braves or New York Mets. If the Phillies get the sixth seed, they will more than likely play the St. Louis Cardinals. In the wild card round, they’d play every game at the opposing team’s ballpark. 


Playoff baseball in Philadelphia is something everyone is hungry for, and every day that possibility becomes more and more real. The question is, will the Phillies finish out the regular season with the promise of October baseball, or will they experience turmoil like in years’ past? This season in Phillies land there has been a breath of fresh air, with hopefully more success to come.