The 2023 Philadelphia Phillies post-mortems are done; once again, the South Philly 9 didn't go home with the big trophy befitting a $257 million team. As in '22, "good pitching beat good hitting."
The corollary to this is: The pitchers don’t have to be generally good, experienced, or even impressive. They just have to be good when it counts. Two rookie pitchers for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Brandon Pfaadt and Andrew Saalfrank, shoved large tree branches into the Phillies’ playoff bike spokes, for example.
It’s time to grade the important Philadelphia Phillies on this past season’s team.
Let’s look at the starting ten first. The players’ base and adjusted salaries are given in parentheses, if there is any difference. Otherwise, just what was paid is given, and yes, the salaries do affect the grades.
Bryce Harper ($26M/$27.5M+): B+. And I can hear the howls already, so all right, this would probably be an A- if he had played the whole year, and yeah, an injury’s an injury, but grades paid to at least the top three moneymakers on the team must reflect whether a full season is played. In Harper’s case, it wasn’t.
There’s no denying Bryce Harper is the “heart and soul” of the current Phillies team. Many times this season, he produced significantly when it was needed. He did not produce significantly in the NLCS, going 5-for-29 (.172) with 3 RBI. He’s still making good progress in playing first base.
Trea Turner ($27.2M+): B-. Really, a C+ is probably justifiable, considering Turner’s team base-high salary, and his .236 batting average at the end of May and that .242 figure at the end of July. But then, of course, after some warm feelies sent his way from Philly fans at Citizens Bank Park, as has been too thoroughly documented, he hit .333 in August and .299 in September. He drove in over a third of his regular season’s 76 RBI (26) in August alone. He also contributed 30 stolen bases without being caught.
But Turner had a dreadful season in the field, posting a fielding percentage 14 points below the league average of .974. He committed a career-high 23 errors sprinkled among 568 chances and some spectacularly great plays.
He hit .261 in the postseason, but made four errors.
Zack Wheeler ($24.5M): A. Wheeler is the team’s undisputed ace, and he pitched like one this year. The regular pitcher metrics may not bespeak indisputable glory (13-6, 3.61 ERA), but the starter threw 192.1 innings and posted a career best K/BB ratio of 5.44/1, with a career low of 1.8 walks per nine innings.
Then there was his playoff performance, when he was unbeatable, even in the seventh game of the NLCS, when his team was clearly doomed by the time he took the ball. In that game, Wheeler threw 1.2 hitless, scoreless innings beginning in the seventh inning.
These three players ate up very, very nearly a full third of the salary dollars the Phillies spent this year.
On to the players who filled out the rest of the starting lineup at the end of the season…