April has come to an end and with it the first full month of baseball season. The Philadelphia Phillies ended the opening month 11-12 and five games back in the division behind the surging New York Mets. Considering where they looked for the better part of a week, ending the month one under over .500 is a small victory.
But of course, baseball is a marathon not a sprint. Nevertheless, there should be no argument that the Phillies underperformed in April. Here are five takeaways from the end of the first month of the 2022 season.
The Offense is good and has room to improve, but…
It might surprise some fans to know that the Phillies have actually been one of the better offenses in the league through April. In fact, they’re in the top ten for most offensive categories. The Phillies rank sixth in total runs scored, ninth in runs per game, sixth in OPS, seventh in AVG, and fifth in home runs.
Phillies’ Numbers and Rank
|Runs Scored||106 (6th)|
|Runs per game||4.61 (9th)|
|Home runs||25 (5th)|
All of that is despite slow starts from some of their biggest hitters, namely Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, and Kyle Schwarber. Schwarber is a notoriously slow starter, as he holds a career .228/.334/.484 line in the first half as opposed to a .255/.360/.527 line in the second half. Both he and Harper are heating up as the calendar flips to May, with Schwarber hitting .300 with 3 HRs in his last seven games and Harper hitting .320 with 2 HRs over the same span. The Phillies will see their already good offensive numbers continue to climb once their bigger bats get going.
But, just how good are “good” offensive numbers in 2022? So far this year, the league as a whole owns a collective .231 AVG and .675 OPS. Those are the lowest numbers for those categories through April dating back at least ten years, with 2020 being exempted. They are actually on par with 1968, also known as the year of the pitcher. Hitters then had a .237 AVG and .639 OPS for the entire season. There is widespread speculation that MLB once again altered the baseball, this time deadening it so it doesn’t fly as far, thus sapping offense.
This could prove to be early season worries and could all change once the weather warms up. But if the league-wide trend continues, the Phillies may have gone all in on offense in a year where MLB turned off the offense.
Alec Bohm looks much improved
The biggest development for the Phillies has been the resurgence of Alec Bohm. The 25-year-old is hitting .309 with a .821 OPS in 21 games played. He has forced his way back into a full-time starting role after his disastrous sophomore season in 2021. Bohm looks balanced at the plate, and is actually suffering from some bad luck despite his excellent numbers. His expected batting average of .357 and hard hit percentage of 55% suggest his numbers should be even better than they already are.
Additionally, ever since his infamous three error game, Bohm has looked comfortable in the field at third base. He is making the routine plays and his throwing is much improved from a shaky start to the season.
Alec Bohm just saved a run from scoring 👀 pic.twitter.com/12TraTQzGb— Brodes Media (@BrodesMedia) May 1, 2022
The play below illustrates the level of confidence Bohm is playing with right now. Last season, he bobbles this ball, rushes it, and throws it over Rhys Hoskins’ head. Here, he stays calm, recovers, and fires a strike to first for the out.
Here's another look at the play by Alec Bohm! pic.twitter.com/3Q03B7YH5J— Brodes Media (@BrodesMedia) April 26, 2022
He will never win a gold glove, but Bohm proving he can be competent at third is massive for the Phillies outlook in the short and long term.
The Rotation is off to a slow start
This was to be expected to a certain extent. With Ranger Suarez and especially Zack Wheeler entering the season behind schedule, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the Phillies starters’ 4.10 ERA ranks 22nd among Major League rotations.
Wheeler currently sports a 5.79 ERA, but most of that was from one disastrous outing on Easter when his velocity was down and he allowed seven runs in three innings. In his last start, Wheeler went six innings while allowing one hit and four walks with seven strikeouts. But most importantly, he kept his velocity through the game. He should continue to round into form as we begin May.
One starter who isn’t off to a slow start however is Kyle Gibson. Gibson’s 2.93 ERA is best among the Phillies starters and his second best of his career to start a season. Last year with the Rangers, Gibson pitched to a 2.16 ERA in six starts in March/April. Gibson’s improved cutter has been the key to his success, as he’s limiting opponents to a .200 batting average and a .133 expected average so far.
Joe Girardi is on the hot seat
Girardi hasn’t had one stand-out disastrous moment you can point to, but he has continued puzzling trends that have existed since his hiring. He all but benched Bryson Stott for Johan Camargo before Stott was sent down to Triple A. Even Alec Bohm had to fight to gain playing time over the utility-man Camargo. Girardi’s decision to use Jose Alvarado in not one but two bases loaded, one out situations against the Mets in back-to-back nights seemed ill-advised and blew up in his face the second night.
But most alarming is the feeling that the player’s don’t feel they have Girardi at their back. Kyle Schwarber took it upon himself to stick up for his teammates and argue with Angel Hernandez over a poor strike zone and ultimately get ejected. Girardi elected to not say or do anything until after the fact. Now, it’s not fair to assume that had he done anything Girardi would have changed the outcome of that game. And they did win the next four in a row over the Rockies who didn’t seem all that interested in playing. But when the Phillies were desperately looking for some kind of spark, the manager didn’t seem to provide it. Frankly, it doesn’t seem like there’s anything you can clearly point to that Girardi has provided.
The Mets are a problem
Yes, it’s early, but this looks to be not your usual Mets team. New York has yet to lose a series and has gotten phenomenal pitching all while Jacob DeGrom is sidelined. They have already run out to a respectable lead in the N.L. East. They’ve built a three-game lead over the Marlins in second and a five-game lead ahead of the Phillies in third. The Mets are already 4-2 against the Phillies including a no-hitter. Their rotation has a 1.59 ERA against Philadelphia in those six games with 31 strikeouts in 28.1 innings.