Matt Strahm is key to understanding the Phillies problem

Many reasons have been given for the unpleasant start to the Philadelphia Phillies season. Many are surely known to attentive fans.

The team doesn’t hit with runners in scoring position. Trea Turner seems off. The defense looks like a pinball machine sometimes.

However, the principal problem can be put into just ten words: The best starter now for the Phillies is Matt Strahm. The team hadn’t really intended to use Strahm as a starter this season, but because Ranger Suarez wasn’t ready to start the season on time, he was forced into the role.

Phillies journeyman Matt Strahm points to the team’s biggest early season weakness.

And going into play May 23, Strahm carried a 2.73 overall ERA, covering starting and relief appearances, with starter’s numbers as follows: 3.51 ERA, 2.54 FIP, and a .194 batting average against. These covered his six starts between April 4 and May 2, and none of the Phillies four more highly paid starters were anywhere near him.

You may know the names beside Suarez: Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Taijuan Walker.

So, it was hardly surprising that, when necessity called, Matt Strahm was given another start May 23 against the Snakes.

But oddly, the 21-31 lifetime, left-handed journeyman who had overperformed was predetermined to throw only two innings. Thus, that’s what he threw, despite making, essentially, only one bad pitch. In the second inning, he surrendered a home run to Arizona’s catcher Gabriel Moreno.

Moreover, perhaps that wasn’t even entirely his error, as the decision to pitch to Moreno was odd. Moreno hits right-handed. The following batter was left-handed.

Nonetheless, trailing 2-1, Strahm was removed from the game after throwing only 28 pitches.

One wonders whether Phillies manager Rob Thomson was just a little too eager to see what the recently acquired Dylan Covey was able to do (the Phillies had gotten Covey off waivers from the Dodgers three days earlier). However, that doesn’t necessarily make Thomson’s decision a horrid one; it just underlines the Phillies need for quality starts. Covey is apparently being considered as a replacement for the putative fifth man, Bailey Falter.

Ranger Suarez has now returned to the team, and despite his pitching without any distinction in two appearances, Matt Strahm will likely be returned to the bullpen for the most part.

What is to be made of all this? The result on Tuesday was that Covey pitched reasonably well, giving up a run in five innings on 91 pitches.

But the Phillies still lost, 4-3. Bottom line: Don’t be greatly surprised if Matt Strahm moves onto another team at the season’s end, but at this point that doesn’t seem quite fair to the 31-year-old battler.