It is guaranteed that the Philadelphia Phillies will end the 2023 season with a better record than their National League Champion 2022 season. They've already surpassed the 87 wins, and they've doubled their players with a 3.0 WAR or higher. The Phillies look like an excellent baseball team, even moreso than they did during the last regular season.
However. Last season they snuck into the postseason, caught fire like mad and outlasted the competition. It is insanely difficult for that to happen consecutively. If the postseason lasts the whole month with 14 teams, September momentum is only gonna keep together for certain teams. The Phillies have caught fire this year, but they've also gone cold in a snap. They've also blown games thanks to a bullpen explosion, or somebody like Dylan Covey or Craig Kimbrel deciding the game wasn't over yet.
And yet...I just feel really good about this team, in a way I didn't even feel good about the 2022 team.
Last year, Bohm, Marsh, Stott and Suarez weren't definites to me. They felt like placeholders. And then after a while they clicked into place. Bryson Stott has been incredible this year, both defensively and at the plate; he has over 150 hits and over 30 steals, and Trea Turner's close to joining him on the steals front. Ranger Suarez has an ERA under 4 and has continued his standard of consistency. Brandon Marsh has been an excellent starting outfielder, and he's become more of a contact option than a 'strikeout-or-nothing' type like he was his rookie year in Anaheim.
...And then there's Alec Bohm. Who is so close to greatness. Bohm is within reach of an 100-RBI season, has 150 hits, and could reach 20 home runs this year. He's proved himself offensively, and has been there for several big-game moments. Unfortunately, he's absolutely terrible defensively. He has a -11 defensive WAR figure. The only way that's not the worst defensive total on this team is that Kyle Schwarber also exists. But a bad defensive outfielder isn't as bad because the Phils have Johan Rojas and Cristian Pache on hand as defensive substitutions. Bohm is a corner infielder in a year without Rhys Hoskins. The pressure is on him to be a competent defensive position player at either corner, and he's just not good at it at all.
The hope is that the season doesn't come down to him needing to be proficient at third, because games have come down to that before, and it's not always pretty. Same with Schwarber's strikeouts, Nola's rough year and Kimbrel's blown saves. This is a team that has flaws, and even if people like Harper, Stott, Castellanos, Wheeler and Marsh have made me very happy this year, they still exist, and still could prevent this team from truly excelling this postseason.
I'm hoping for the best, and I think the Phillies could make another push, but it's gonna take so many things falling into place, much like they did last postseason.
Coming Tomorrow- An outfielder for a team that, if their division was a little better, would still be in the conversation.