The Phillies are 72-63 and are 3 games behind the Braves in the NL East. Two things should jump out when reading that. First, the Phillies, who were 66-96 a year ago, have exceeded that win total and with a solid September could finish well above .500 for the first time in seven seasons.
Second is that they are behind the Braves and not the Nationals in the chase for the NL East Title, something the Nationals have all but owned since the Phillies consecutive run from 2007-2011.
Yet, as the names went off the board (Happ,Hamels, Gausman, Archer, Familia), Phillies GM Matt Klentak said he liked the Phillies rotation, and some of the talking heads on Philly Sports Radio went so far as to say that Pivetta and Eflin were better than especially Happ and Hamels.
Okay, the GM is supposed to say that, and maybe in any other year it’s fine to let those young guys develop. I certainly was a proponent of that back in March. But things have a funny way of changing. While the Braves, Cubs and Brewers all have made moves to improve their pitching, the Phillies have done nothing, and it very well might cost them a post season berth. Even though it was unexpected, wouldn’t it have been fun to see them play in October? Seeing those old “Hunt For Red October” shirts come out again? Damn right it would’ve been.
I applaud the GM for the trades that brought in Ramos, Asdrubal Cabrera, Justin Bour and Jose Bautista. But to rely on young pitchers who have never been part of a race, and have them pitching more innings than ever before didn’t seem smart at the time, and neither Pivetta nor Eflin has done anything to change my opinion. It doesn’t help that Hamels has a 0.69 era for the Cubs in 6 starts, and that Happ won his first 5 starts for the Yankees. Gausman has pitched well for the Braves, too. Eflin has a 2-4 record, 5.22 era and 1.46 whip in his last 7 starts. He has started 20 games, 9 more than each of the last two seasons and 2 away from his career total. Pivetta is 1-2 with a 4.58 era and 1.25 whip in his last 7 starts. His last start puts him in new territory, having started 26 games last year, Friday was his 27th start. Even Aaron Nola, who could win the CY Young award, has already equaled his high in starts at 27 an going into today’s game has pitched more innings than any previous season.
Sure, if the Phillies win 85-86 games it’s a successful season even if there is no playoffs mainly because this was as unexpected as the Eagles Super Bowl win, even more surprising maybe than the Sixers 52 wins. It’s a great start to what could be a great chapter in Phillies history, but there’s just always going to be that “What if?” that will hang out there, and that’s the real shame.