The Phillies currently stand at a very solid 21-18 and are right in the thick of things in the National League playoff race, and for good reason.
We know where their strengths and weaknesses have lied so far through the first 39 games of this shortened 60-game season. The bullpen has been a weakness, and the starting pitching has been anywhere from okay to very good, but it’s obvious where this team’s biggest strength lies: their offense.

The Phils rank inside the top 10 or right outside of it in almost every category amongst all of the teams in Major League Baseball, including 2nd in OBP behind only (surprisingly) the Mets. Their offense has seemed to get them through many tough games that the bullpen very nearly blew.

They really don’t have a weakness anywhere from 1-9 in their lineup, even when they switch things up like resting some bigger bats. Heck, even Andrew Knapp is having a career year. The only real concern on offense all year has been Scott Kingery, but that is a conversation for another day.

With all that said, we all know who comes to mind when talking about the anchors of the Phils offense. Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins, and more recently Alec Bohm, are all the ones who get the headlines, but the real driving force behind some of the big moments and games so far have been the less-talked-about veterans of the lineup.

Andrew McCutchen, Didi Gregorius, Jean Segura, and Jay Bruce have all enjoyed success at various times in their careers. 

All of them except Didi have been in at least 2 All-Star Games. Cutch has been an MVP. Didi was the successor to some guy named Derek Jeter. Segura has been an All-Star in both leagues. Bruce has quietly been one of the best home run hitters of his generation.

Even with all that mentioned, these guys still seem to go a bit under the radar when talking about the players on this team that really get them going.

Sure, none of the 4 are quite in their prime or making it back to any All-Star games anytime soon (once they start playing them again), but there’s no doubt that they are huge parts of this team’s success.

Andrew McCutchen

Let’s start with Cutch. Primarily the lead-off hitter when he’s been in the lineup, not only this year but last year as well, he’s been responsible for getting things going for the Phils in many big games

Remember his first hit as a Phillie? I do. I was still in line waiting to ger into the ballpark on Opening Day last year, but boy was the replay nice:

GIF: NBC Sports Philadelphia

Cutch has cooled down a bit over the last week or so, but in the weeks prior Cutch had a period of 5 home runs in 15 games after opening up the season with 0 home runs in the first 14 games.

He also drove in 18 runs during that span, but no one really talked about it. It was all about how much Rhys Hoskins started to heat up, but Cutch has taken advantage of his legs being kept fresh with a few starts at DH per week, which is genius on Joe Girardi‘s part. 

He’s certainly not the same MVP-caliber player he was in Pittsburgh, but he is a huge part of this team’s success so far.

Didi Gregorius

Didi Gregorius is another former Yankee making an impact for the Phils in this his first year with the club. After signing a 1-year deal to reunite with his old manager this offseason, Phils fans weren’t sure what to expect out of a guy who is coming off of an injury-ridden 82-game season in 2019. What we’ve gotten, though, is a shortstop who not only has held the middle of this lineup together but also has been a lot more solid defensively than we all thought he would.

Didi’s 23 RBI’s are 5th amongst all MLB shortstops, and he has done it while being the most versatile hitter in the whole Phillies lineup. Joe Girardi said before the season that he could see Didi hitting anywhere in the order from 2 through 6, and he has spent most of his time hitting around the 5-6 spot. 

Once pitchers get past the Hoskins, Harper, and Realmuto’s of the world, they usually have to go through Didi, and he’s been a tough AB every single time up. He has overshot everyone’s expectations so far, all while wearing a mask and doing it better than most without one.

Jean Segura

Not to be outdone, Didi’s new middle infield buddy Jean Segura has gone from shortstop last season, to Opening Day third baseman this year, back to second base, where he had the best season of his career with the D’Backs in 2016.

This version of Jean Segura has been the most comfortable we’ve seen him in a Phillies uniform. His defensive style is made for the second base at this stage of his career. He has looked way more sure-handed there than he has at shortstop and third base. That spells bad news for the aforementioned Scott Kingery, who could be left out of the equation once he returns from the IL.

He has hit well over .300 over the last 2 weeks of play, and we can’t forget about his big extra-inning 2-run home run to lead the Phils over the Mets a couple of nights ago. Jean has never been flashy, but he always seems to get the job done, and he seems to get overlooked because of that. That should change.

Jay Bruce

Last but not least is possibly the most overlooked of all, Jay Bruce. Has there ever been a player who has been as consistent of a home run hitter as quietly as this guy?

His 318 home runs have him possibly on pace for 400 home runs by the end of his career if he can stay healthy. The DH being in the NL permanently would also help a guy like him. He has also shown vast improvements in the field so far this year, even spelling Cutch in left field a lot more often than we thought he would.

He’s currently 13th amongst active players in AB per HR (18.6), including this stat from Corey Seidman:

That last part is key, though. Just gotta keep him on the field. He’s made a heck of a career out of just hitting big home runs, and even though it hasn’t been the largest sample size, that’s what he has done during his time as a Phillie. He may be the one player on this team that everyone loves, but everyone forgets about it.

There’s one thing to be said about all four of these players:

Every single one of them isn’t just there for their playing ability. They all seem to be well-liked, high-knowledge veterans who bring a whole lot more to the table than what they give on the field. All of them are seen as good-character guys, which can be said for most players on this team. 

These four, though, stick out when it comes to veteran presences who just flat out do their job, and that job is to provide a spark when needed and to help younger players keep a level head.

You won’t find anyone talking bad about any of these four guys, and it’s about time people start publicly appreciating them as if they were stars.
This team would be nothing without players like this who aren’t getting paid to be the backbone of this team, but they just are, and we appreciate them for that.

Featured Image: Brynn Anderson/AP /The Intelligencer
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