2020 Phillies schedule: Phillies need to feast on weak teams in early part of schedule

2020 Phillies schedule: Phillies need to feast on weak teams in early part of schedule

If the Phillies are in the race for a postseason berth when this 60-game sprint of a baseball season reaches the final week, they will face a huge test.
The Phillies will finish the shortened regular season with three games on the road against the Washington Nationals, followed by three on the road against the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Nats won 93 games last season and went on to win the World Series.
The Rays won 96 games in the rugged American League East and advanced to the postseason via the wild card.
Both of these clubs have brilliant starting pitching staffs. In Philadelphia, we know all about Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin. We’ve seen them a lot in the National League East.
Tampa Bay boasts an outstanding top 3 of Charlie Morton, Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell.
In normal times, starting pitchers are at 30 or more starts by the time the final week of the season rolls around. This year, they’ll be around a dozen. Arms will be fresher than they are in a typical September.
So the final week of the season might not be a picnic for Phillies hitters and the team as a whole.
Ah, but there is something to feel good about in the schedule that the Phillies will play.
Check out the first 20 games:
Six against the Miami Marlins.
Three against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Three against the Baltimore Orioles.
The Marlins and Orioles both lost more than 105 games last season and this season are only expected to contend for the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft. The Jays lost 95 games last year. They are young and talented, especially on offense, but their pitching, after ace Hyun-Jin Ryu, is questionable.
The Phillies’ face the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves four times each in the first 20 games. The Yankees added ace Gerrit Cole to last year’s 103-win powerhouse and are loaded to win the World Series. The Braves, lest we forget, won the NL East last season and are loaded with eye-popping young talent, in the field and on the mound.
If the Phils can play .500 ball against the Yankees and Braves and clean up on the Marlins, Orioles and Jays over the first 20 games, they will have achieved the quick start that will be so necessary for any team to succeed in this short season.
But cleaning up against lowly teams has not been a recent strength of the Phillies.
The Phils struggled against the lowly Marlins last season and it cost them a winning season and maybe more. The division-winning Braves and wild-card Nationals both went 15-4 against the Marlins last season while the third-place New York Mets went 13-6. The Phillies went 9-10 against Miami. Their performance against the Marlins was a killer flaw and it can’t happen again.
Five teams from each league will make the postseason — three division winners and two wild-card teams. Every NL East team will play teams from the AL East. But there are nuances. The Mets will play the Yankees six times. The Phils and Braves see the Yanks four times each. The Nats play the Yankees just three times (good for them) and they will face the Orioles six times (even better) because the two teams are “natural rivals.”
When it’s over, all teams will play 40 games, 10 against each club within their division and 20 against the respective division from the other league. On paper, the AL East has two very good teams at the top in the Yankees and Rays and the Red Sox, despite the loss of Mookie Betts (trade) and Chris Sale (injury) are still the Red Sox so they can’t be taken lightly. It’s not an easy crossover for NL East teams and that will surely affect the wild-card race, but that’s life in the interleague era.
The Phils have a tough finishing stretch in 2020.
And the opening stretch is not easy with four of the first seven against the Yankees.
But extend that opening stretch to 20 games and the Phils might be able to get something going …
… if the offense produces … and a couple starting pitchers step up to complement Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler … and the team stays healthy … and …
There are always a lot of variables in a season and the schedule, no matter how it’s sliced up, is just one of them.

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Phillies Talk podcast: Could we see front-office shakeup if Phils miss playoffs?


Phillies Talk podcast: Could we see front-office shakeup if Phils miss playoffs?

If the Phillies miss the playoffs again, even in a shortened season, could we see a front-office shakeup? What would it mean for GM Matt Klentak? Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman discussed on Friday's Phillies Talk podcast.

• Are Phils even capable of going on a hot streak with this bullpen?

• Starting pitching has also stumbled some, blowing four multi-run leads.

• How much more money has J.T. Realmuto made himself with his ridiculous start?

• The excellence of Harper and Realmuto has been wasted so far.

• The impact of Alec Bohm on Rhys Hoskins, Scott Kingery and Phillies' infield.

• Factors that will play into Realmuto's free-agent decision.

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Who is the best player in the NL East?

Who is the best player in the NL East?

Calling the NL East loaded would be an understatement.

The division has the top two starting pitchers in the National League in Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, whom the Phillies face tonight. Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler ... so many upper echelon arms in the division.

Among position players, the Braves have two perennial MVP candidates in Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr. 

The Nationals have one in Juan Soto. (The division thanked the Angels for signing away Anthony Rendon.) 

The Phillies have a former MVP in Bryce Harper and one of the best all-around players in baseball in J.T. Realmuto. 

The Mets have two exciting newcomers in Pete Alonso, who hit 53 homers as a rookie last season, and Jeff McNeil, who has hit .319 in 882 plate appearances since debuting in 2018.

Who is the best player in the NL East?

Jim Salisbury (Phillies insider)

There's no right or wrong answer to this question. You could go with Freeman, Acuña Jr., Soto, Realmuto, Harper, Scherzer or deGrom and not be wrong. If I were building a team long term, I'd go with Acuña or Soto. If I needed to win a game right now, I'd go with deGrom. That kind of stinks for the Phillies because they have to face him Friday night. In an era of small parks, tiny strike zones, rock hard bats and baseballs that fly like Titleists, he has won the National League Cy Young Award the last two seasons. He regularly racks up 200 innings and 240-plus strikeouts. I'm figuring that most of my colleagues will go with offense; I'll go with something that stops offense — starting pitching — and someone who does it well.

Ricky Bottalico (Phillies Pre/Postgame Live analyst)

No-brainer: Soto. A perfect home run swing. Doesn't strike out a lot. He missed the beginning of the season but doesn't look even a little impacted by the time off. He's hitting .414 with five home runs and 10 RBIs in only eight games. He's 21 years old with a long career ahead. 

Corey Seidman (Phillies writer, Pre/Postgame Live analyst)

Even though Freeman is still probably the more feared hitter, I'm going with Acuña, who I'd have slightly ahead of Soto and Freeman for his five-tool skill set. Acuña can do it all — hit close to .300, hit for power, run, field, throw. Last season he hit 41 homers, drove in 101 runs and led the NL with 37 stolen bases and 127 runs scored. He hits righties and lefties alike. 

He's also not even 23 years old yet, and he's on one of the best contracts in all of baseball — an eight-year, $100 million contract that pays him just $1 million in 2020.

I do think Freeman and Soto are slightly better overall hitters — Freeman because the guy just exudes clutch and Soto because his plate selection is at the very highest level. But the gap is not large enough to ignore the other ways Acuña offers more overall value.

Michael Barkann (Phillies Pre/Postgame Live host)

Not going with deGrom, Freeman, Acuña Jr. or even Soto. Call me a homer ("you're a freakin' homer!") but Harper is the man. He entered Thursday night with numbers that would translate to 50 homers and 125 RBIs over a full season. He's put up MVP-type numbers so far this season, then there's his defense and leadership. Number 3 is the answer.

Casey Feeney (Phillies producer)

In my mind, there are seven players worthy of consideration: Harper, Soto, Scherzer, deGrom, Alonso, Freeman and Acuña Jr.

Because of their everyday impact, I’m inclined to go with a position player over a pitcher. Perhaps there is bias from watching him everyday, but I would take Harper ahead of the other position players mentioned.

Freeman and Soto are better pure hitters than Harper. Acuña Jr is a more electric athlete and might have the highest ceiling of any player in baseball. But Harper strikes me as the most complete package of the group. He’s also being asked to carry an otherwise incomplete roster to a greater degree than the other hitters mentioned.

Sean Kane (Phillies Pre/Postgame Live producer)

There are so many great players in the NL East — several Cy Young caliber pitchers and MVP-worthy position players. But Freeman is the best player in the division. He’s certainly the guy I would pick first for my team. His skills speak for themselves. He’s one of the best all-around hitters in baseball, he plays a tremendous first base and he’s a better baserunner than he gets credit for. Most importantly, he sets the standard for the team that sets the standard in the NL East. He is the unquestioned leader of the Braves, both on the field and in the clubhouse. He always plays hard and he always makes the right play. If you’re interested in winning baseball games, Freddie Freeman is your guy.

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