Are the Philadelphia Phillies a dangerous playoff team?

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 08: Zack Wheeler #45 of the Philadelphia Phillies in action against the New York Mets during a game at Citizens Bank Park on August 8, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 08: Zack Wheeler #45 of the Philadelphia Phillies in action against the New York Mets during a game at Citizens Bank Park on August 8, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia Phillies are an interesting baseball team. Coming into the season, the expectation was that their offense would rake, their pitching would be top-heavy, and their defense would be dreadful, which has largely been true.

They made a couple of nice moves at the deadline to improve the holes in their roster. They added David Robertson to step into the closer role, Noah Syndergaard to round out the rotation, and Brandon Marsh to bolster the defense in center field. As of Monday, they are 11 games over .500 at 66-55, good enough to hold the last Wild Card spot in the National League.

The question is, how dangerous would the Philadelphia Phillies be to face in the playoffs?

Let’s start with their pitching, because that’s what wins ball games in October. Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler at the top of the rotation is a great 1-2 punch. Having two aces like that is huge in October. Ranger Suarez is having another good year, so he’s going to be the third starter. If they need a fourth starter, it would likely be Syndergaard, who has good stuff and some playoff experience. Kyle Gibson is the other option, but his stuff isn’t as good and neither are his numbers.

The only reliable arms in their bullpen are David Robertson, Brad Hand, and Connor Brodgon … so they have a closer and two setup guys, but that’s it. Seranthony Dominguez was having a great season, but he’s currently on the IL for at least two more weeks and should be back for the postseason. Jose Alvarado, Andrew Bellati, and Nick Nelson all have severe control issues, so I wouldn’t trust them in a playoff series. Maybe they opt to move Gibson, Syndergaard, or both to the bullpen to minimize the risk of those guys with control issues and cover multiple innings.

Their lineup is supposed to be really good, but they’ve had a lot of injuries and a few guys have had down years as well. Bryce Harper was playing like an MVP before he got hurt, and he should be back before too long. Rhys Hoskins and Kyle Schwarber have both provided a lot of power in the middle of the lineup. J.T. Realmuto started slow, but he’s back to his usual level of production now. Unfortunately, Nick Castellanos has really struggled all year.

They’ve had a couple of young guys who have had breakout seasons. Alec Bohm is having a really nice season and Darick Hall has raked since getting the call. Jean Segura has been his usual self. Unfortunately Brandon Marsh got hurt after coming over at the deadline, but he should be back in early September.

The big issue with this team is the defense. Hoskins is awful at first. Segura isn’t great at second. Bohm struggles mightily at third. Schwarber belongs at DH, but he has to play the outfield while Harper is out. Castellanos isn’t great either, and with his offense lacking, it really stands out. Mets broadcaster Keith Hernandez asked SNY to not assign him Phillies games because he can’t stand watching them.

I think the answer to this question lies in their injured list.

Can Harper come back, play the field, and stay healthy? Can Seranthony Dominguez come back and keep his dominant season going? Will Brandon Marsh be playing center field in October? These answers are decisive because they change the lineup and defense of the team. An outfield of Castellanos in left, Marsh in center, and Harper in right with Schwarber DH’ing is a massive upgrade over Schwarber in left, Matt Vierling or Bradley Zimmer in center, and Castellanos in right.

Right now, I’d say they are a somewhat dangerous team to face in the playoffs. On a scale of 1-10, I’d rate them at a 5 right now. As a Mets fan, I’ve seen a lot of them this year. The top of their rotation features two legitimate aces, which is dangerous in a playoff series, and Ranger Suarez as a three is no slouch. The current bullpen doesn’t scare me at all, but there are a couple of reliable arms there. The offense is powerful and dangerous when they’re hot, even with some injuries and struggles. However, when they’re cold, they are easy to mow down due to their heavy swing-and-miss tendencies.

The big factor is how awful the defense is, because they allow baserunners and give up unearned runs that other teams simply don’t.

Even with the high-end starting pitching, other teams will have chances to score runs off the defense. The Mets have had several late-inning comebacks against them because they just can’t hold the lead when it matters most. If they hold the last Wild Card spot over the Brewers, they would face the Cardinals in St. Louis, who are a much more well-rounded team. It would be very tough for the Phillies to beat them in October.

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