The 2021 Philadelphia Phillies season is upon us. The Phillies will be looking to end their current nine year postseason drought, the longest in the city of Philadelphia and the second longest in Major League Baseball. Will the lineup build off of last season and still be a strength? Will the rotation stay intact long enough to pitch in October? Will the black hole of despair known as the bullpen return? Here the TPL staff will attempt to predict what will happen with the Phillies in 2021.
Joe Edinger @Joe_Edinger
The negative attitude surrounding this team is a little puzzling. Yes, they have not made the playoffs in nine years. Yes, they are not a lock to do so this year. But they should firmly be in contention to end that postseason drought and have improved from last season.
It took the second worst bullpen of all time to keep them out of the postseason and they only missed by a game in perhaps the most unusual season played since World War II. A bullpen makeover was the highest priority this offseason, and at least on paper that was accomplished. Hector Neris will be the only reliever from last year’s opening day bullpen to be on the opening day roster this year. Newcomer Archie Bradley has the 8th best ERA (2.95) among relievers with over 200 appearances since he became a full time reliever in 2017. Jose Alvarado has a career 27.9 K% and a .212 career average against. Brandon Kintzler and Tony Watson have both been very effective in recent years despite being 36 and 35 respectively.
All of that is a long way to say that the Phillies bullpen should be much better than it was in 2020. It’s hard to get worse. With the Phillies offense essentially staying intact with an addition of a full season of Alec Bohm, they should still be a good offense with the ability to be a great one. Their rotation was good last year despite injuries and poor performance from the back half. The additions of Matt Moore and Chase Anderson don’t really move the needle much in the rotation, but the Phillies essentially need just one of them to be remotely effective while the other competes for the fifth spot with Vince Velasquez, Spencer Howard, and others. If the team’s rumored interest in Jake Odorizzi results in a deal, it will go a long way to providing stability in the rotation by allowing the rest of the back half to slide into more appropriate spots.
If the Phillies get something even close to resembling league average bullpen production, they will find themselves among the favorites for the second NL Wild Card. They have both a top ten offense and a top ten rotation with room to improve in each. Their bullpen was the biggest hindrance in 2020 and it should be, at a bare minimum, improved. The competition in the NL East will be stiff, as it is shaping up to be the most competitive division in baseball. First place might be a pipe dream, but second place and a Wild Card appearance is well within the realm of possibilities.
How can any conversation about 2021 Phillies season expectations not start with the bullpen? I’m just now getting over their 7.06 ER in 2020, the second worst mark in MLB history. The pen simply killed the team’s playoff hopes. The starting rotation had the 10th best ERA in the league. The offense scored the 5th most runs. Alec Bohm showed promise. These are all ingredients that would make the Phillies a lock for the playoffs. However, it also signals how much of a let down the bullpen was in 2020.
The Phillies had the worst bullpen ERA, WHIP and BAA in the entire league last season. It was a bullpen that had more blown saves (13) than saves (11). According to Jayson Stark, the Phillies as a team lost 14 games it led by at least two runs, 7 led by at least three runs and four it led by at least four runs. All numbers that were dead last in baseball.
Still here? Well ok, let’s get to the good news. In a league where teams routinely roll out fireballers touching the upper 90s (other than the Phils of course), this year’s Phillies bullpen has an interesting cast of characters this season. At least on paper, the bullpen in 2021 is much improved. Archie Bradley, Sam Coonrod and Jose Alvarado can not only throw heat, but they also significantly help a bullpen that allowed an MLB-worst 21.9% home run per fly ball in 2020.
I have to be honest. I’m not one that will be putting down money on the Phillies making the playoffs this season. This is a team that’s essentially running it back in 2021 with an improved bullpen. All eyes will be on said bullpen when they play this spring. A consistent and healthy bullpen has to be among the most important factors when discussing the Phillies playoff hopes. Spring training is finally here and hope springs eternal. I think an improved and healthy bullpen gets the Phillies their first playoff birth in nine years.
Amedeo Grassia @AmedeoGrassia98
I always find myself getting pumped up when spring training starts; getting to watch players like Bryce Harper, Aaron Nola, and Alec Bohm is a treat. The 2020 season for the Phils is definitely something fans want to forget. Having one of the worst bullpens in MLB history, no lead was safe for the Phillies last season. Also losing 7 out of their last 8 games to miss out on the 2nd wild card spot still stings. For this Phillies season; I am excited, but I am also going to be realistic about their chances.
The bullpen possibly cannot get any worse than last season. Key additions like Archie Bradley and Jose Alvarado will make anyone’s bullpen better. Matt Moore and Chase Anderson are also quality offseason pickups to add depth to the bullpen and possibly the rotation. We also get to see a full season of JoJo Romero and Connor Brogdon. The top three in the rotation are Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Zach Efflin, but who will the 4th and 5th spots go to? I for one do not want to see Vince Velasquez anymore in the rotation, that experiment has gone on for too long. Spencer Howard needs to prove himself this year; I do not want to give up on the kid, but his struggles last year make me more skeptical than I want to be.
The lineup is essentially the same from the past few seasons. We know what they can do on a nightly basis, and that is putting runs on the board. Center field is still the major question mark for this team; will it be Scott Kingery, Adam Haseley, Roman Quinn, even Odubel Herrera (I hope not)? Alec Bohm was a hitting machine last season, finishing tied for 2nd in rookie of the year voting. He is a star in the making and I am very excited to see this kid grow. Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto are the dynamic duo of the offense and they will always produce. Another question mark for me is Rhys Hoskins; he started off last season very cold, then he got hot, and then he got an injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season. Which Rhys Hoskins are we going to get this year?
The NL East is going to be a competitive division this season. The Atlanta Braves are and will be the favorite to win the division for many years to come. The Mets drastically improved getting Francisco Lindor in the offseason, but will the Mets actually live up to their expectations? The Nationals are not a power house, but will still be a tough team with their starting rotation. Trea Turner and Juan Soto are also great players. The Marlins are a very young team, so for a full season I can see them taking a step back. The Phillies are a team that could slip into the 2nd wild card spot this season. I will not bank on that, but it is possible if things go right for them.