June 26, 2019
Major League Baseball announced which players reached the second stage of All-Star voting on Wednesday, and the Phillies struck out.
The Phils, suddenly 5.5 games back of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East and sitting in the second Wild Card spot two games before the season's official midway mark, haven't seen the kinds of standout performances they'd hoped for after an enormous offseason.
Frankly, the fact that no Phillies player qualified for the second round of voting -- in which three players at each position in the NL, including nine outfielders, vie for the starting spots -- isn't surprising. It's indicative of the season the team has put together through 79 games.
Fifteen days ago, I asked if the first-place Phillies were headed for a starter shut-out. They were leading the NL East at the time -- though even that appeared wobbly at best -- but their best players weren't exactly standing out against Major League Baseball's true stars.
Fast-forward two weeks and one day. The Phillies have fallen out of first place, generally looked uninspired and bad. Even the players I said looked good have slowed down considerably: J.T. Realmuto, who was my best bet to reach the starters voting earlier this month, endured an 0-for-19 run almost immediately, which didn't exactly help his standing.
Among Major League Baseball's Top 50 players in each statistic, the Phillies have:
• 2 players in RBI: Bryce Harper, 14th, at 54; and Rhys Hoskins, T-18th, at 52
• 1 player in batting average: Cesar Hernandez, 46th, at .283
• 1 player in home runs: Rhys Hoskins, T-25th, at 18
• 1 player in OPS: Rhys Hoskins, 15th, at .935
• 1 player in WAR: J.T. Realmuto, 48th, at 2.0
Hoskins' case for a spot in the second round of voting looks the most solid. He's probably been the team's supposed-to-be-star player who has shown the most consistency this year: he's on pace for 37 home runs, 107 RBI, and a Top 20 OPS in the MLB. Hoskins could be swapped with Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and no one would blink an eye.
The same could be said for Realmuto and Braves catcher Brian McCann, who has fewer home runs and RBI than Realmuto and hasn't had the same defensive impact, but has greater name recognition and a better OPS.
It is, of course, important to note that these ballots were produced by fan votes. Fan votes don't always wind up producing the most accurate line-ups, but they do reflect one thing: fan engagement. The Phillies failing to push big offseason purchase Bryce Harper into the second round of voting, even if it was purely out of the need to say "He's ours now!", makes it clear that Phillies fans aren't exactly loving what they've seen through 79 games.
Ultimately, the Phillies' stars just didn't show up enough in the first half of the season. It's not a new trend: the Phillies haven't had an All-Star Game starter since Chase Utley in 2014. It ultimately doesn't matter outside of peacocking, but it's often a representation of your team's quality.
Look up and down the players who qualified for this year's second round of voting, and you'll find seven Atlanta Braves players, seven Chicago Cubs players, three Colorado Rockies players, and three Milwaukee Brewers players. The Braves and Cubs lead their respective divisions, while the Brewers sit ahead of the Phillies in the Wild Card race and the Rockies are tied with the Phillies for the second spot.
Maybe Hoskins will continue to produce, and Harper's bat will wake up, and Realmuto will re-find his swing while continuing to anchor the team's up-and-down defense. Perhaps Jay Bruce energizes the team, Maikel Franco finds his early-season swagger, and Scott Kingery keeps on making everyone forget about last season.
The players certainly are in place, but so far, the Phillies have yet to reach the All-Star potential we'd all hoped for.