The Reds travel to Philadelphia to kick off their first road trip of the 2023 season. Originally scheduled to play in Philadelphia’s home opener on Thursday, a rainout forced it to be pushed to Friday, giving the teams a traditional weekend series.
- Friday, 3:05 pm
- Saturday, 4:05 pm
- Sunday, 1:05 pm
The Reds played the Phillies seven times in 2022, winning just one game. The Phillies had more widespread success, making the playoffs on the strength of a third place finish in the Wild Card, going 87-75. The run for the Phillies didn’t end there, as they rolled through the playoffs all the way to the World Series, where they’d fall to Dusty Baker’s Astros in six games.
What makes their run more improbable and perhaps more impressive is that the team struggled to a 21-29 record over the first 50 games before relieving manager Joe Girardi of his duties. Interim manager Rob Thomson took over, with the Phillies going 65-46 to finish the regular season. Thomson was later awarded a contract extension during the playoffs, signing a two year contract.
The Phillies had an active offseason, signing four free agents while seeing five depart. Trea Turner was the marquee acquisition, signing an 11 year, $300 million contract in December. Taijuan Walker was the next biggest addition, at 4 years, $72 million. Relievers Matt Strahm (2/$15m) and Craig Kimbrel (1/$10m) rounded out the Phillies’ free agent acquisitions. They also acquired two time All Star reliever Gregory Soto from Detroit in a trade that sent Major League talent in Matt Vierling and Nick Maton to the Tigers.
While the Phillies did make some key acquisitions, they also lost some fairly significant contributors in free agency. Starting pitchers Noah Syndergaard, Zach Eflin, and Kyle Gibson were the biggest losses, though they also saw relievers David Robertson and Brad Hand depart.
Here are the pre-season projections for Phillies hitters, per Fangraphs.
The Phillies offense ranked 10th last year in wRC+, and Turner posted a 128 wRC+ for the Dodgers. Brandon Marsh actually posted a 114 wRC+ after coming over to the Phillies in a trade from the Angels at the trade deadline, and could potentially outperform his projections if there was a legitimate improvement made in his approach.
If you are familiar with the Phillies, you may have noticed two key omissions from the projections above. First baseman Rhys Hoskins tore his ACL near the end of spring training and is expected to miss the entire season. Hoskins posted a 122 wRC+ last season for the Phillies. Also missing is outfielder/DH Bryce Harper, who had Tommy John surgery in November. While Harper’s recovery won’t be as long as a pitcher’s since he can DH upon his return, he will miss this series and will also still be out when the Phillies come to Great American Ball Park next week.
The Phillies will replace Harper in the interim with some combination of Cristian Pache and Jake Cave, both notable steps down from the players they are replacing. While Darick Hall was first in line to replace Hoskins, he suffered a torn ligament in his thumb on Wednesday and will miss extended time of his own. Hall had some small sample size success in 2022, posting a 120 wRC+ in 142 PA. Infielder Kody Clemens, the son of Roger Clemens, was called up to replace Hall.
The Phillies had been running out the below lineup against RHP, though that’s sure to change with Hall now heading to the IL and Clemens in the fold.
- Trea Turner
- Kyle Schwarber
- J.T. Realmuto
- Darick Hall
- Nick Castellanos
- Bryson Stott
- Alec Bohm
- Jake Cave
- Brandon Marsh
They’ll likely line up differently on Saturday against the left handed Lodolo. Being a heavily left-handed team, it seems reasonable to assume Lodolo will be the Reds pitcher that matches up best against the Phillies. Marsh is dealing with an injury of his own as well, an ankle injury that forced him to sit out Wednesday, though he’s scheduled to be back in the lineup Friday.
The stats are pre-season projections from FanGraphs except for GB% and xERA, which are the pitcher’s numbers for 2022. Note that Matt Strahm’s projections only include his projected totals as a starting pitcher. He’s projected to spend most of his season pitching out of the bullpen. McKinley Moore’s GB% is his number in the minor leagues last year, and being a rookie, he does not have an xERA from last year to list.
The Phillies’ pitching staff ranked in the middle of the pack last season in ERA, though they were top 10 in both FIP and xFIP. That tracks logically, as the Phillies played rough defense behind their pitchers, most notably with the outfield as a whole, and Alec Bohm at third base. They also posted the ninth best strikeout rate and ninth best walk rate. Their starting pitching was generally better than the bullpen, ranking top five in the league in both FIP and xFIP.
The Phillies’ top two starters in Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler each return in 2023, as does the young Bailey Falter. They’re joined by newcomers Taijuan Walker and Matt Strahm, though Strahm’s inclusion in the rotation is likely to be short-lived. Ranger Suárez, who posted a solid 3.65 ERA, 3.87 FIP, and 3.82 xFIP in 2022 after a downright dominant 106 innings in 2021, is currently on the IL with an elbow injury, and though he has begun throwing again, will not return in time to see the Reds in either series. In the meantime, Strahm will get some run as a starter, though he’s likely to be a bit more limited in pitch count, not unlike Luis Cessa for the Reds last season. Walker should provide a steadying force as the #3 starter, coming off consecutive solid seasons with the Mets.
There are two things that stand out looking at the Phillies’ pitching staff that could play in the Reds’ favor. The Phillies bullpen is fairly susceptible to walking batters, with all but one of the Phillies’ relievers projected to post a walk rate of 9.9% or higher. While the starting rotation is actually the opposite, and doesn’t walk many batters, patience against the Phillies’ bullpen could play in the Reds’ favor. The other stat that jumps off the page is the ground ball rates of the entire pitching staff, with the exception of José Alvarado. Each of the Phillies’ pitchers had a ground ball rate of 48.1% or below last year except for Alvarado, with five of them being below 40%. While that may not be an immediate advantage for the Reds in this series, it should play right into their hands when the Phillies come to GABP next week.
The Phillies have some definite talent in the bullpen despite the flaws, with Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez, and Craig Kimbrel each having previous success. Alvarado is best known for his nasty stuff, possibly best demonstrated by this pitch from 2019.
99 mph shouldn't move like that. ? pic.twitter.com/MHx38w33TS
— MLB (@MLB) April 3, 2019
Probable Pitching Matchups
- Friday: Hunter Greene vs. Zack Wheeler
- Saturday Nick Lodolo vs. Bailey Falter
- Sunday Graham Ashcraft vs. Taijuan Walker
The Reds are pretty fortunate to catch the Phillies at seemingly the right time. With Hoskins, Harper, and Hall out, and Marsh still somewhat questionable, the Phillies’ offense doesn’t pack the same punch. The Reds will also miss Nola at least in this weekend’s series, though it’s likely they’ll have to face him next week at GABP. Still, it doesn’t seem like there will ever be a better time to have to face the defending league champions, a team that is projected to once again be a serious playoff contender at minimum, and a threat to capture the title at best.
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