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- The Phillies are proving why you spend money for prime offensive talent
The Phillies are proving why you spend money for prime offensive talent
The Phillies’ quest to the World Series is one of the more intriguing stories this postseason because they have shown why you spend big money for elite offensive players for your lineup.
The theme for the Phillies in the postseason has been the long ball. Over their last four games, they have slugged 15 home runs, the most over a four-game span in postseason history. Additionally, Sarah Langs of MLB.com shared that the Phillies have outhomered opponents by 37 home runs in the postseason at Citizens Bank Park, which currently stands as the best home run differential in the postseason for any team in any park. Their 17 home runs at home over a five-game span in the most in the postseason as well.
Also, the Phillies have outhomered opponents by 15 home runs so far this postseason which is also the best home run differential for a team in any eight-game span within a single postseason. It doesn’t stop there as the team has had four individual multi-home run games this postseason, tying a record set by both the 2009 Phillies and the 2002 Los Angeles Angels.
The offense also has produced a +33 run differential over an eight-game span thus far, yet another record in a single postseason, while also having trailed at the end of only two full innings this postseason which, per Elias Sports, is the fewest through the first eight games of a postseason, beating the prior record of seven set by the 2014 Kansas City Royals.
The key to the Phillies’ offense has been their star contract players performing on the biggest stage. The bulk of their offense is making a combined $118.7 million dollars in 2023 and breaks down as such:
- Bryce Harper: $27.5 million (13-year $330 million)
- Trea Turner: $27.3 million (11-year $300 million)
- J.T. Realmuto: $23.9 million (5-year $115.5 million)
- Nick Castellanos: $20 million (5-year $100 million)
- Kyle Schwarber: $20 million (4-year $79 million)
Together this group has combined for a .351/.429/.784 slash line with 17 home runs, 32 RBI, 34 runs, and a wRC+ of 213 according to FanGraphs. They sport an Isolated Power of .432, a 57.3% hard-hit rate, and a combined 1.52 Win Probability Added. They have also combined for an 11.1% walk rate and a 19.3% strikeout rate. Add on the fact that three of the five players have at least one of those multi-home run games mentioned earlier and there is the reason the Phillies offense is so formidable.
Future Hall of Famer Bryce Harper is living up to every bit of hype and destiny forged for him since the days of his youth. He is the leader of the bunch and is doing what a $330 million man is supposed to do for his team, provide clutch hits and be the driving backbone for the offense. He’s batting a sultry .385/.543/.846 with four home runs and drawn nine walks to six strikeouts. Teams are hesitant to pitch to Harper but the advantage of this lineup is that there is no respite for the weary.
Immediately, teams have to face the prolific slugger that is Kyle Schwarber in the lead-off spot. While Schwarber doesn’t provide much in the way of batting average and strikes out quite a bit, he counteracts that with the fact that he makes punishing baseballs look like child’s play. For the second year in a row, Schwarber belted at least 45 home runs while leading the league in strikeouts. Yet, he remains a prime candidate to lead off a game because of the impact he has to set the tone for the offense. In Game 2 of the NLCS against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Schwarber belted two long balls as part of a 10-0 victory. Despite his on-base struggles, he still has a .563 SLG and three home runs.
Then, after dealing with Schwarber, teams have to deal with the power-speed combo that is Trea Turner. After early struggles in his first season with the Phillies, Turner shifted gears partway through the season and returned to form. In eight games this postseason he is batting .500/.559/.967 with three home runs. While the majority of this quintet is power-based, Turner brings the ability to hit for average while still bringing a power threat. His impeccable plate discipline has him at a split 11.8% for both his walk and strikeout rates. His four stolen bases have played a huge role and his 302 wRC+ leads this group of players. He’s the pseudo leadoff man behind Schwarber and perfectly sets the table for the rest of the lineup, such as Harper behind him.
Later in the lineup, you have to deal with the consummate professional that is J.T. Realmuto. While his main focus is on the defensive end of things, he still provides one of the best bats by a catcher in the league. Realmuto has provided two home runs while also providing a solid .300/.344/.600 slash in eight games. The choice to keep Realmuto before 2021 after trading for him has continued to pay dividends for the Phillies. He’s a key reason the pitching has been so great this postseason, but he is also getting it done on both sides of the baseball. His 10 RBI while batting in the lower half of the lineup is critical, giving the team a reliable option to drive in runs, especially late in games if needed.
Which brings us to Nick Castellanos. In eight games thus far this postseason, Castellanos has had back-to-back multi-home run games for a total of five home runs in a three-game span. His 1.325 OPS while batting in the lower third of the lineup in the postseason this year is a looming threat for opposing pitchers. One would think that the “weaker” hitters would occupy those spots but Castellanos shifted down from batting clean up to seventh, leaving no oasis for opponents to search for. He is the mirage of safety that provides no refuge.
The Phillies have spread out their stars to protect and lengthen the lineup which in turn boosts the supporting cast of players. Brandon Marsh, Alec Bohm, Bryson Stott, and Johan Rojas have all benefitted and contributed in their own ways by getting clutch hits. The superstars around them enrich their at-bats. Spending big is something many teams do, but it has worked for the Phillies because they have spent big (with some well-constructed contracts to spread out the money) on players in their primes.
They will likely pay the price down the line as Father Time exacts its toll and luxury taxes loom, but the Phillies are proving why you spend money on elite players, consequences be damned because if it leads to a World Series title, it will have all been worth it. In the meantime, baseball fans will continue to enjoy the hit parade.