The Phillies have (finally) started strong. How does that change their season projection?

4 weeks ago

Trea Turner (right), J.T. Realmuto, and the Phillies are rolling to start the season, with a 21-11 record heading into Friday. Read more

If the 2022 and 2023 Phillies were synonymous with one thing — well, aside from flying fingers, clubhouse DJs, and bashing homers at Citizens Bank Park — it was slow starts.

A listless 22-29 record to begin the 2022 season cost manager Joe Girardi his job. The Phils turned things around, finishing the regular season on a 65-46 tear under Rob Thomson and going all the way to the World Series before falling to the Houston Astros.

But a year later the team was in a near-identical place.

» READ MORE: Is the Phillies’ dominant starting pitching sustainable all season? Their catcher thinks so.

In fact, the Phillies in 2023 were as many as seven games below .500 (at 25-32) even deeper into the season than when they had been in 2022.

Naturally, the 2023 team also did a dramatic about-face — going 65-40 down the stretch, beating the Atlanta Braves in the playoffs (again), and putting themselves on course for what seemed like a return trip to the Fall Classic until everything unraveled in the end. But they did themselves no favors early in the year.

Based on that pattern, then, it’s downright unusual to see the Phillies actually start the season without digging a deep hole in the standings. Though the Braves once again lead the National League East, the Phillies are keeping pace, sitting a half-game back heading into Friday’s games.

The Phils’ record through 32 games, at 21-11, is 12 games better than in either 2023 or 2022 (when they were 15-17 — two games below .500 — both years).

If we project out the rest of the schedule with the team winning at the same pace it did from this point onward in 2022 and 2023 (a .565 winning percentage), the Phillies would end this season with 95 victories — a five-win improvement on last season and the franchise’s best showing since winning 102 games in 2011.

Now, it might be unrealistic to expect the Phillies to keep their foot on the gas the same way as when the team felt pressure to escape a bad start. According to an average of various statistical forecast systems (such as FanGraphs, Baseball-Reference, Baseball Prospectus), the Phillies are tracking to win around 90 games again despite getting off to a much faster start than usual.

Perhaps the thinking is that these are still the same Phillies we’ve all gotten to know, once Alec Bohm stops hitting .362 or pitchers Ranger Suárez and Spencer Turnbull stop posting sub-1.70 ERAs.

But it isn’t as though every player on the roster has started with a bang all at once.

Nick Castellanos is off to a horrid start by his (or anyone’s) standards, hitting .186 with a .504 OPS. J.T. Realmuto, Kyle Schwarber, and Bryson Stott have been league-average hitters at best, well down from last season’s numbers. Aaron Nola’s fielding independent pitching (FIP) is an uncharacteristically high 4.46, and Taijuan Walker is working his way back after an injured spring training and a shaky season debut Sunday.

In other words, there’s reason to think that the dreaded “regression to the mean” can cut both ways for these Phillies going forward — not that the wheels will completely fall off the bus. And if Suárez or Turnbull has truly ascended to another tier of starter, as each has teased at different times in their careers, the Phillies might have the scariest rotation this side of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt.

Most important, though, the Phillies get to keep all the wins they have racked up during this start. And that’s a whole lot better than banking a bunch of early season losses.

» READ MORE: Best rotation in MLB? Alec Bohm an All-Star? Buy or sell the top storylines from a 19-win Phillies April…Read more by Neil Paine


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