The Phillies will begin the unofficial second half of their season on Friday when they welcome the Miami Marlins to town. Philadelphia will enter the second half at exactly .500 at 44-44 and are 3.5 games behind the New York Mets for first place in the National League East.
An important thing to remember is that the Phillies have the easiest second half schedule in baseball. Heading into the break, the average winning percentage of the Phillies’ remaining opponents is .461 per Tankathon. They will have plenty of opportunity to make up the ground they need to cover in the N.L. East. In fact, they are currently favored by Baseball Reference to win the division.
However, winning the division will most likely be their ONLY way to break their 9 season postseason drought. The Phillies sit 6.5 games out of the second Wild Card in the National League and would need to jump at least two teams (currently the Reds and the Padres) to claim that spot.
The biggest challenge for Philadelphia will be finding some form of consistency and to beat the teams they should beat. Those things sound simple, but they have come extremely difficult for this team in recent years. Their series wins against the Cubs and Red Sox were the first time they won back to back road series since 2019. Since 2019, they are 71-61 against teams with a record of .500 or worse, the ninth worst win percentage over that span.
Who needs to step up
Aaron Nola needs to be much better in the second half if the Phillies are to make the postseason. He has been up and down all season, finishing the first half 6-5 with a 4.53 ERA. As we outlined earlier this season, Nola has struggled with his command this season, particularly on his fastball. His last two outings have not been encouraging, as he allowed 11 runs on 15 hits in 10 ⅔ IP. Nola doesn’t need to be the guy who tied Tom Seaver’s consecutive strikeout record. He needs to be something like the guy who threw 7 ⅔ scoreless against the Yankees on July 8th.
In a quite surprising development, Didi Gregorious is going to have to prove he deserves more playing time than Ronald Torreyes in the second half. That statement would have been ludicrous in April, but Torreyes has been a pleasant surprise while Gregorious has struggled at the plate and been downright awful on the field. Torreyes, who has a much more limited ceiling than Gregorious, has provided clutch hitting and a steady presence in the field.
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Ranger Suarez is the biggest x-factor heading into the end of July. He has been brilliant in the bullpen, posting a 0.77 ERA in 35 innings pitched across 22 games. Most notably, he was pumping 96 MPH fastballs in his last outing in Boston where he notched a seven out save and held a one run lead. If Suarez can continue to pitch anything close to what he has so far, it will be a major boost to the Phillies to be able to shorten important games down the stretch. The Phillies bullpen ERA of 4.75 is eighth worst in the Majors and they lead the league with 22 blown saves. They desperately need stability late in games and perhaps Suarez can provide that as either a multi-inning high leverage specialist or as a traditional closer.
Rhys Hoskins had a typical Rhys Hoskins first half. He had prolific home run binges and dreadful slumps. That is simply the player he has been to this point in his career. However, it would make the postseason push all the more easier if he can stretch out the hot streaks and minimize the cold streaks. Hoskins was heating up into the break, hitting .279 with a 1.058 OPS over the last two weeks. June was by far his worst month of the season, finishing with a .582 OPS in 108 plate appearances. The Phillies need Hoskins to avoid that type of crater again.