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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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The race for Red October: Previewing the Phillies’ potential playoff run

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GRAPHIC: SADIE HENZES ’24/THE HAWK

As the MLB playoffs quickly approach, the Philadelphia Phillies are preparing to challenge for a World Series title once more.

The Phillies own a comfortable lead ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks at the top of the National League (NL) Wild Card standings. This gives them a strong chance of clinching home field advantage in the best-of-three Wild Card round. The Phillies will be favorites against any potential first round matchup, whether that is Arizona, the Miami Marlins, the Chicago Cubs or the Cincinnati Reds.

Should they advance, they will face stiff competition. The Phillies have losing records against the Atlanta Braves, the Milwaukee Brewers and NL division winners, the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, the Phillies will be a strong contender to win the NL pennant due to their improved hitting, defense and bullpen.

The Phillies have several key hitters playing well as the playoffs near. As of Sept. 25, left fielder Kyle Schwarber ranks second in the MLB for home runs with 45. Shortstop Trea Turner has recovered from his slow start, batting .314 with 16 home runs since Aug. 1, according to Baseball Reference. Former MVP Bryce Harper leads the team in batting average and on- base percentage since returning from ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, more commonly known as Tommy John surgery. The Phillies have received consistent production from homegrown talents like third baseman Alec Bohm and second baseman Bryson Stott.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Phillies’ season has been the defensive alignments. First baseman Rhys Hoskins suffered an ACL tear during spring training, leaving manager Rob Thomson to field six first basemen this year. This includes Bohm and career outfielders Harper and Jake Cave. In all likelihood, Harper will be the playoff starter. He cannot throw long distances due to his surgery, and Nick Castellanos can continue to play right field in Harper’s place.

With Harper at first, it is likely that Schwarber will be the postseason designated hitter (DH). Schwarber is a poor defender, ranking last in MLB’s outs above average, a stat that measures defensive production, according to MLB’s Baseball Savant page. With Schwarber on DH duty, that allows Brandon Marsh to slide to left field and 23-year-old Johan Rojas to play center field. Both are much stronger defenders than Schwarber, and will give the Phillies a more solid outfield than they had in last year’s playoffs.

Based on how Thomson managed last postseason, it seems likely that he will again opt for a four-man starting pitching rotation. Ace Zack Wheeler had a fantastic year, posting a 3.64 earned run average (ERA) and leading the team in strikeouts. Aaron Nola has been more up-and-down, with a 4.57 ERA, but will still get starts. Ranger Suárez was solid and seems locked into the playoff rotation.

Cristopher Sanchez will likely take the fourth slot, posting better strikeout and walk rates than the remaining starters, Taijuan Walker and midseason acquisition Michael Lorenzen.

Thomson will then move these two to relief duty, adding depth to a strong bullpen. Walker, Lorenzen, Jose Alvarado, Seranthony Domínguez, Jeff Hoffman and Matt Strahm is a very formidable bullpen backed up by 2023 All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel.

Overall, the Phillies are stronger and deeper than they were last year. The addition of Turner, improved defense and consistent production from the bullpen arms set the Phillies up to make another deep run in Red October.

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