Rob Thomson. The bullpen. The resurgence of JT Realmuto. Rhys Hoskins’ hot streaks. Nick Castellanos is getting better. The return of Jean Segura. The defense and emergence of Alec Bohm (future Gold Glover).
So many things have gone right for the Phillies since they began their hot streak at the beginning of June. The overall improvement and belief that the Phils are BACK is something that has infused energy into a team that was 22-29 and had just fired a manager with a World Series championship on his resumé. The Phils had nothing going for them, nothing. They were an aging team with a bad bullpen, two reliable starters, and a Bryce Harper. So, it’s not like one addition could have turned this team completely around.
The manager change got the ball rolling. John Middleton finally came to his senses and realized Joe Girardi was not getting the job done. It’s fair to wonder if he just wanted to get rid of Girardi due to the team’s performance under him or if he actually had a plan in place. Either way, it’s worked out. And that plan, unless it includes Rob Thomson at the helm for the next 57 years, should be put on the back burner for the rest of the year. Thomson’s laid-back, go-with-the-flow, the players can figure it out attitude deserves a lot of credit for the Phillies coming all the way back to being a top-seven team in baseball and top-five in the National League. A clubhouse takes the mold of its manager. Girardi wanted a tight grip on things and to know what was going on. Thomson, it seems like, doesn’t really care and trusts his guys to be pros. As a pro athlete, you can’t really ask for much more from your “boss.” He’s given the bullpen more traditional roles. Seranthony Dominguez is the closer with David Robertson a very good backup plan. Corey Knebel’s attitude from being removed from the closer’s role to set-up man has been very impressive, as has his recovery since the change. He opted to go with Jeurys Familia a lot less than Girardi did, an obvious choice. The resurgence of Jose Alvarado as someone who can now pitch in big spots again is huge. Connor Brogdon is a pretty safe choice for any non-save situation. Brad Hand has proved to be a really good signing. Overall, this bullpen went from liability to weapon really quickly. They made one addition, and to be fair, they were already pretty good without him. They DFA’d a horrible pitcher. It’s the same unit, more or less, just with less unknown and more trust from the manager. This has been a clinic on how to manage a bullpen.
JT Realmuto has returned himself to looking like the best catcher in baseball. After a very slow start to 2022, Realmuto is now up to .267 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs. It took him a while to get going offensively, and defensively it wasn’t looking pretty either, but he’s back. Realmuto was recently ranked 10th in MLB.com’s Power Rankings for hitters. Behind the plate now, the elite pitch framing is there, the game calling keeps hitters off balance, the work with the pitching staff is another big reason why the bullpen has become legit, and he still hoses runners every night. Realmuto’s 3.7 WAR (Fangraphs) ranks first among all catchers in baseball. His soft contact rate has gone down to just under 16%. Realmuto might yet again end up collecting some hardware at the end of the season.
Rhys Hoskins. The James van Riemsdyk of baseball. Not good defensively, not much value to him other than his offense, but when he gets going, he REALLY gets going. Hoskins has been a big reason the team has not only stayed afloat without Bryce Harper, but they have really flourished without him. He’s hitless in his last two games but overall this year he’s hitting .249/.340./.488 with 24 homers and 54 RBIs. His .828 OPS is right on par with his career average. The once on-base machine has started drawing more walks while getting on base via the base hit at the same time. He is on pace to finish with the highest OBP since 2019 (.384 in 2020, but he played 41 games) when it was .364. When Harper returns to the lineup, they may have to drop Hoskins as Harper will hit third and current three-hole hitter, Alec Bohm, is riding a season-long hot streak that has done wonders for his confidence. Bohm will likely move up to second, Harper will hit third, Hoskins could move back to four, five, six, or seven. All of those spots are in play as Realmuto has been scorching hot batting fourth, Castellanos finding his swing, and Segura’s return has made it harder to find an open spot in the order. It’s a good problem to have when one of your best offensive players has to hit near the bottom of the lineup because everyone else is hitting so well.
Nick Castellanos, after saying he hits baseballs for a living and not doing it for three months, has started earning his $100M contract. While he’s still at -0.6 WAR (Baseball Reference), Castellanos is showing signs of (finally) breaking out. His go-ahead home run in the ninth inning against the Braves in Atlanta was the reason the Phillies won that game. His swing looks better, he looks more relaxed, and we finally got that Nick Castellanos attitude in his post-game media session with NBC Philly’s Jim Salisbury when Salisbury asked him if he had “heard the boos” from striking out with runners on in the 8th inning. Since the altercation, Castellanos’ power has returned and he has started getting on base more. Hopefully, Castellanos continues his stretch of good play and gets hot like the rest of the Phillies’ lineup. Hitting is contagious. You can also read more about Castellanos’ hitting here from PSN writer Ryan Sheahan.
Jean Segura’s return has brought energy to the Phillies’ lineup. Since returning to the lineup, he’s hitting .263 (5/19) with a home run. He’s batted seventh and sixth since returning and could be moving up the lineup soon. His return has shifted rookie Bryson Stott over to his natural position of shortstop and allowed the Phillies to release ever-underperforming SS Didi Gregorius.
Maybe the biggest of the Phillies’ 2022 season is Alec Bohm. After a 2020 season that saw him hit close to .340, albeit, only 44 games, and finish second in NL Rookie of the Year voting (he still should’ve won). In 2021, the goal was to build on a strong rookie year and prove to the Phillies that he was going to be the third baseman of the future. He did the exact opposite, being optioned to AAA for most of the summer and only returning due to injuries and the Phillies’ (seemingly) annual September collapse. Not only will the collapse not happen this year, but Alec Bohm has proven he is the third baseman of the future. He’s hitting .293 in 103 games, has untapped power potential, and has played really good (elite?) defense at third base since his three-error game at the start of April. Bohm’s defense has gotten so much better this season that he should start to be considered in the Gold Glove conversation. Maybe not this year, because annual winner Nolan Arenado never has three errors in a season, let alone a game, but Bohm’s defensive performance has saved runs on numerous occasions in 2022. Without him at third base, the Phillies aren’t as good defensively as they have been all year. With all the talk about this team being able to win games with their bats this season, they have been a really good defensive team. Not like an average defensive team, like really really good. The only Gold Glover might be Realmuto, but this entire team deserves a lot of credit for really getting better defensively.
Overall, there are so many reasons the Phillies are on this run. You can’t point to one thing and say it’s the only reason. Teams get better when individuals get better. Each individual on the Phillies has gotten better at some point this year which has resulted in them streaking their way into the second NL wild card spot. The final improvement will be when the reigning NL MVP makes his return, not only to the lineup but to right field, where he belongs. Getting back the best hitter in the National League makes this team so dangerous heading into the playoffs. The Phils are 3.5 games behind the Braves for the top spot in the wild card, and 10.5 behind the Mets for the division lead. With seven games against New York in the next 10 or 11 days and the bulk of the remaining schedule featuring teams that aren’t even in the playoff discussion, it’s time. It’s time to dust off the rally towels, break out the red hoodies, and bring the noise. Put the word out: The Phils are back.