Tonight the Phillies will begin their second half of the season. With that comes a few different things. Trade season will be getting underway any day now. The pennant race will really heat up in both leagues. The Phillies will look to end their National League-long 11-year playoff drought.
Before that all happens, let’s take a look back at the first half and hand out some awards.
The Phillies had a roller coaster first half. It began with them teetering around .500 for the first two or so months. Then, at 22-29, they fired their manager and have been on a pretty strong run since. They lost arguably their two best hitters and just before the All-Star Break, two of their starters went down. As the Phillies look to get healthy and push toward the postseason, the players on the field are the reason why this team is within striking distance. Without further ado, let’s present some hardware.
Best Pitcher – Aaron Nola
I’m giving a slight edge to Nola over fellow starter Zack Wheeler here simply because of consistency. It feels like Nola is back to his dominant self where we can expect at least six innings every night. He has kept the Phillies in virtually every game he’s pitched this season. The last time he went under six innings was May 21. That’s two months of quality starts every fifth day. He’s been the Phillies’ stopper and given them a steadying presence on the mound when they’ve needed it most. None of this is a knock on Zack Wheeler, but he’s been a bit more wavy than Nola this year. He’ll have a number of really great starts in a row then three or four where he looks average. For the Phillies to reach and have success in the playoffs, they need both their aces to pitch as well as they ever have these next few months.
Honorable Mentions – Zack Wheeler, Seranthony Dominguez
Best Hitter – Bryce Harper
Yes, he’s missed 30ish games. Yes, he’s been the DH all year. No, the Phillies are not in this spot without his production. Right now, they’re barely a wild card team. Without him for the first 60-70 games, they’re not even in the race. Getting Harper back will provide this team with a boost of energy and production. He may not play in the field again until 2023, but having his bat will bring more life into this team that, if they can sneak into the playoffs, no one will want to play.
This is not Kyle Schwarber simply because all he does is hit home runs and walk. If he doesn’t do that, he’s likely going 0-4 from the leadoff spot.
This is not Rhys Hoskins because Harper is just simply more important and more productive. Hoskins’ contributions should not be overlooked at all, especially considering the disappointment of Nick Castellanos and the early struggles of JT Realmuto, but it should be thought of as more of an insurance policy. He’s a good bat to have in the event of a Harper injury. It has saved the Phillies from having to shell out some prospects for another pending free agent that has decent pop but can’t play in the field.
HM’s – Kyle Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins
Best Rookie – Matt Vierling
So many fans will want this to be Bryson Stott because he’s more of a trendy pick, but the simple fact is that Vierling has been flat-out better. He’s held his own at the plate, played well in centerfield, and kept Odubel Herrera off the field (since Girardi was fired anyway). Mickey Moniak hasn’t had an impact. Darick Hall hasn’t been in the show long enough to warrant real consideration here. There really aren’t any other contenders.
Before everyone gets into the “Stott has been good recently/Stott has been the best shortstop,” Bryson Stott has been one of, if not THE worst hitter in the National League this year. Sure, he’s been getting better. He’s also hitting .188 in 63 games (202 ABs). That’s not a small sample size. That’s a 120-130 game pace. One key for the Phillies in their playoff chase will be the improvement from Bryson Stott. Defensively, he’s been good. Offensively, if you take away the walk off home run against the Angels, what has he really done?
HM – Bryson Stott
Best First-Year Phillie – Kyle Schwarber
Schwarber was the Phillies’ lone representative in the All-Star game thanks to Bryce Harper’s injury. He leads the NL in home runs and only trails Aaron Judge in the majors. Castellanos has been a disappointment, Garrett Stubbs has been a really good backup to JT Realmuto, and Brad Hand has been pretty steady out of the bullpen. This wasn’t an easy pick, but without Schwarber, the Phillies’ offense would be a lot more flat.
Best Reliever – Seranthony Dominguez
After working his way back from perhaps the most mysterious Tommy John surgery story the game has ever seen, Dominguez has been dynamite for the most part. When the Corey Knebel experiment somewhat failed, Dominguez stepped in and did a great job of nailing down saves when his number was called. His fastball might not reach triple digits like it once did, but it still gets some serious velocity and movement on it. That, compared to his elite slider has given the Phillies a great option at the back-end of their bullpen. They may go out and get another bullpen arm (they should), but the performance of Dominguez, coupled with the steadying presence of Brad Hand and the emergence of Andrew Bellatti and Connor Brogdon has really saved this bullpen. All they needed to be was league average and not be the reason the Phillies lose. Recently, they’ve accomplished those two things, which is huge for their playoff chances.
HM – Brad Hand
Best Manager – Rob Thompson
On a serious note, has he done enough to earn the job moving forward? He has at least bought himself a full season with this club. If they make the playoffs, John Middleton might give him the nod and a pretty long leash to come with it. If not, and the Phillies don’t make any huge moves this winter, he’ll be on a short leash in 2023. This team isn’t exactly built to win for an extended period of time. They need to figure out if he’s the guy. If so, great. If not, they need to find whoever it is, as soon as possible.
Dishonorable Mention – Joe Girardi