Phillies

Gabe Kapler says Phillies players should be thinking they can win NL East

Gabe Kapler says Phillies players should be thinking they can win NL East

PITTSBURGH — Back in spring training, Gabe Kapler described himself as a relentless communicator. More than three months into the season, that has proven true. Be it in the clubhouse, the weight room, his office or on the field during batting practice, Kapler is always having little powwows with players and coaches.

The Phillies’ successful first half — they entered Friday night’s game against the Pirates at 10 games over .500 and just a game out of first place in the NL East — has created a theme for Kapler’s recent conversations with players and coaches.

“The themes right now are we’re in a position to win the National League East and make a run at that,” Kapler said. “If we take care of our business and do various things, we are going to be excited about our prospects come September. Those conversations are ongoing. They're always being had. They’re being had in various forms, but we’re asking people to take part in incubating those discussions.

“In spring training, we talked as a group, the players and our leadership group, and we said we expect to be a postseason club. I believed that then. I believe it now. We do indeed have the athletes, the horses, the leaders, the connectors, the teammates, to be a playoff team.”

With the trade deadline arriving at the end of the month, the front office is looking to upgrade the roster. A bullpen move seems quite possible. Third base is an area the team would like to bolster. And, of course, Manny Machado looms out there (see story).

What does Kapler think the team needs?

“My job is to work with the players we have in the clubhouse right now,” he said. “Everything we need right now to compete is right here. If all of our young players take these small steps that we’ve talked about since spring training, theoretically we’re a better team in the second half and we’re in a position to strike and make the postseason. I trust the work that (general manager) Matt Klentak and our front office is doing. That includes examining the landscape and looking for ways to upgrade.”

It would take a significant package of young talent to get Machado from the Baltimore Orioles. (And don't buy all the July posturing, the Phillies are in on him.) Over the last couple of days, pitcher Zach Eflin’s name was thrown around in reports. It’s difficult to imagine the Phillies dealing a 24-year-old starting pitcher who is under control and seems to be putting it together at the major-league level. (Eflin is 6-0 with a 1.91 ERA in his last six starts.)

“I don’t think we are where we are today if not for Zach Eflin’s performance in the last five weeks,” Kapler said. “He’s been incredibly valuable for us.”

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A look at how sportsbooks think Phillies' stars will fare in 2020 season

A look at how sportsbooks think Phillies' stars will fare in 2020 season

It’s been quite a sight for sore eyes seeing the Phillies work out at Citizens Bank Park over the last several days. Even if the experts and sportsbooks are not thinking highly of the Phillies, those visuals and the schedule being released are giving fans the hope that soon we will see baseball in a couple of weeks. 

With a 60-game sprint to the finish anything can happen when it comes to season leaders from a betting perspective. For instance, what if Bryce Harper catches lightning in a bottle right out of the gate and carries it through two months? 20-1 odds ($100 wager to win $2000) to win NL MVP at BetMGM might sound pretty good. 

Also take a look at these numbers shown below on Harper from BetMGM. 

At first glance 15.5 home runs seems doable for the right fielder in 60 games. However, if you look back to 2019, Harper only had 11 home runs through the first 60 contests. For those who think Harper will eclipse that 15.5 home run mark, one would have to wager $105 to win $100. Meanwhile, Harper tallied 43 RBI a season ago through 60 games, which makes the over/under of 35.5 interesting. To win $100, a bettor would have to wager $115 on either the over or the under. 

BetMGM also has odds on Harper’s buddy J.T. Realmuto. Harken back to a season ago and Realmuto racked up 39 runs and 36 RBI which makes you think why is his over/under for both categories set at 26.5. Same can also be said for Realmuto’s over/under on hits. In 2019, he smashed 60 hits through 60 games yet his over/under is listed at 50.5. If you go back to 2018, Realmuto was even more productive with 73 hits in the first 60 games. This one should be interesting to watch. 

Lastly, there is first baseman Rhys Hoskins — who hit .278, 13 HR and 42 RBI through 60 games last season. Hoskins’ over/under on RBI of 29.5 seems rather low. However, it’s important not to forget in 2019 that from game 61 to the end of the season (100 games), Hoskins hit just .198 with 16 HR and 43 RBI. So will the real Hoskins (the one from the beginning of 2019) please stand up. 

So, a bettor and a Phillies fan with hopes of seeing a Red October would hope this trio of Phillies hits the over on most of these categories. That leads to this final note: Phillies to make the postseason per DraftKings: Yes +215 / No -275. A wager on yes will pay $215 on a $100 wager. 

Baseball, hopefully, is just over two weeks away and we shall see if the Fightins prove the critics and oddsmakers wrong. 

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MLB 2020 schedule release: 5 key series to watch in Phillies' season

MLB 2020 schedule release: 5 key series to watch in Phillies' season

Every day seems to bring about a new set of questions or concerns relative to Major League Baseball’s attempt to pull off a season in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. It is folly to think we know with certainty where any of this is going. But we do know a schedule was released for the 60-game season Monday night. Here’s a look at five key series from a Phillies perspective.

July 24-26 vs. Marlins

The Phillies were originally slated to start their season in Miami with a series against the Marlins in late March. In the shortened season, the Phils will now host the Fish in the first 3-game set of the 60-game slate. This series will mark Joe Girardi’s debut as Phillies manager and will also be pivotal as the club looks to start on a positive note against an inferior opponent that has given them fits in recent years.

July 27-28 vs. Yankees

Any series against the Yankees is noteworthy. They are one of the signature brands in sports across the globe. The Bronx Bombers are also on the short list of top contenders to win the World Series thanks to the arrival of Gerritt Cole to be their ace. Oh yeah, this will also mark Girardi’s first series against the club he played for and managed for 10 seasons before parting ways after the 2017 season. Plenty of intrigue to go around there. The clubs will meet the following two nights at Yankee Stadium.

Aug. 18-19 at Red Sox

One of the joys of the game is seeing it played in its grand old cathedrals. The Phillies will not make their customary trip to Wrigley Field this season due to the regionalized nature of the reworked schedule. But they will visit Fenway Park for a pair of games. It might not feel the same if fans, as expected, are not in attendance. That being said, there’s something about that Green Monster in left that screams baseball goodness.

Aug. 25-27 at Nationals

No fans means no boo birds for Bryce Harper when he returns to his old D.C. stomping grounds again this season. But he will be returning to face a Nationals team that captured a World Series title in their first season without the one-time face of the franchise. The Nats have lost Anthony Rendon, but still sport arguably the best hitter in the National League in Juan Soto and a star-studded rotation. A playoff spot in the NL still goes through the Nationals.

Sept. 25-27 at Rays

Perhaps it’s fitting that in a season that will be devoid of ambiance unlike any in baseball history, the Philies will finish up their campaign at Tropicana Field for a 3-game series with the Rays. Imagine a playoff spot coming down to a ball hitting the catwalk. That would be an ending befitting 2020.

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