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May 30, 2024

5 Phillies thoughts: Another Kyle Schwarber June heater could be on the way, platoon problems persist and more

Kyle Schwarber homered twice in San Francisco. The calendar is about to flip to June, the month where he's hit 55 career home runs. Is "SchwarberFest" about to happen again?

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Kyle Schwarber Giants 2024 D. Ross Cameron/USA Today Sports

Kyle Schwarber has posted the best numbers of his career in the month of June. That might continue in 2024.

After dropping back-to-back series out West in Colorado and San Francisco, the Phillies are "only" 21 games over the .500 mark, still owning the best record in the majors. Some warts popped up in both the rotation and in the lineup along the way. This Phillies roster isn't perfect, nor is that true of any team in the sport. Two months into the season, it just feels odd to watch the Phils lose sometimes, so I can understand if fans are ready to hit the ceiling, but don't worry. This team will be playing in October and getting there is all that matters.

After that little preamble, here are five thoughts I currently have on the Fightins...

Another streaky June for Kyle Schwarber is coming

Kyle Schwarber has gone on so many June hot streaks that it resulted in a Wawa "SchwarberFest" promotion for the big-time slugger. As the calendar gets ready to flip this week, "June Schwarber" feels on the cusp of happening yet again. 

After rocking a home run off the right field foul pole at Citizens Bank Park back on May 6, Schwarber went 16 games without homering before going yard on Monday. Schwarber then followed that up with another long ball in Wednesday's win that staved off a sweep against the Giants:

Schwarber's OPS of .794 is the lowest it's been since the shortened 2020 season he spent with the Cubs. He's heating up though. June is coming at the perfect time. Schwarber's career splits by month speak volumes. In 158 career games in June, essentially a full season, Schwarber has an OPS of .940 with 55 home runs, 120 RBI and 109 runs scored. That's a clear-cut MVP season. 

Get ready for "SchwarberFest" at the local Wawa and grab a free Yards Philly Standard beer at their taproom the day after Schwarber homers. He's doing it all on the field and off it for Phillies fans and next month could be taking it to another level once more. 

No worries for Ranger Suárez

For the first time all season, Ranger Suárez resembled something less than a superhero. In six innings of work against the Rockies on Sunday, Suárez surrendered four runs across six innings in a 5-2 loss. A caveat should include that this transpired at Coors Field, a house of horrors for any big league pitcher. Suárez still struck out nine batters with his overall strikeouts per nine innings jumping to 9.6. 

Suárez continues to lead the majors in WHIP. He leads the National League in ERA, ERA+ and hits per nine innings. He might be the starting pitcher for the NL in the Midsummer Classic. 

It happens during the trek of a 162-game season. 

Cristopher Sánchez wows

Zack Wheeler is a dominant ace. Calling him the best pitcher in baseball in 2024 is more than reasonable. Suárez is the game's best No. 2. Aaron Nola, sort of relegated to a No. 3 role given the dominance of Wheeler and Suárez, is way overqualified for that billing. The Phillies have the best 1-2-3 in the sport. Do they actually have the best 1-2-3-4 though with the way Cristopher Sánchez has come along?

In Wednesday's win over the Giants, Sánchez pitched six scoreless innings, striking out seven batters while walking just one. Sánchez has a 2.38 ERA over 11 starts this season. Across both 2023 and 2024, Sánchez's ERA is 3.21 in 159.2 innings of work in 30 appearances. That's a rock solid sample size that showcases Sánchez as a legit MLB pitcher. 

Don't go making 2011 "Four Aces" comps with Sánchez slotting in between the Phils' top trio, but he's greatly exceeding expectations. The Phils have three pitchers in the top nine in ERA in the NL. Suárez is at the top, Wheeler is fifth and Sánchez is holding his own at No. 9. 

Whit Merrifield's woes

It's no secret that the Phillies aren't getting a lot of production from their outfield. Brandon Marsh hasn't hit left-handed pitchers well enough to fully gain Rob Thomson's trust despite my frequent claims early this season that he should be a full-time player. Before his three-hit clutch day on Wednesday, Nick Castellanos was performing like one of the worst regulars in baseball. Johan Rojas is a glove-first, no-bat player who hasn't even been as good as advertised in centerfield this year. 

No one has been more infuriating at the plate than Whit Merrifield though. A three-time All-Star in his age-35 season, Merrifield was brought in this year to be a super utility back-up who could fill in multiple spots. He's played in left, platooning with Marsh against left-handed hitters and in the infield, too. He's been dreadful at the plate. He's hitting .184 and it feels like a Herculean accomplishment for him to even make strong contact. His OPS is .552. He's one of 12 NL players who's had at least 110 plate appearances so far in 2024 whose OPS is that low, per Stathead. Not good!

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is always going to be aggressive. A right-handed bat to upgrade over Merrifield would be huge before the trade deadline. 

Goodbye, Ángel Hernández

This is a larger baseball thing, but universally loathed umpire Ángel Hernández has retired. To cap off his controversial career, here's a video of Schwarber absolutely (and justifiably) losing it on Hernandez back in 2022:

See ya!

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