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July 08, 2024

5 Phillies thoughts: Major tests for Phils lie ahead with reinforcements on the way

Fans will learn a lot about this Phillies team before the end of July.

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Phillies-Trea-Turner-Alec-Bohm_070824_USAT Brett Davis/USA Today Sports

The Phillies offense — and pitching staff — are both very well represented for the upcoming All-Star Game.

The biggest test of the season awaits the Phillies Tuesday, as they'll get a potential NLCS preview against the high-powered Dodgers at home in South Philly this week.

How are things currently trending? What should be on Phillies' fans minds right now during a somewhat confusing stretch?

With injuries to superstars, All-Star selections and division battles eating the headlines, there are no shortage of things to muse about. Which is where we'll dive in for the latest five thoughts we have about the Phillies right now:

The Braves series was a win/win

Yes, they dropped two of three games against Atlanta this weekend. That's never a good thing, and we're not saying that it was. But the Phillies entered the three-game set with a nine-game lead for the division and left it with an eight-game lead. That's the biggest lead for any team in baseball right now. The squad didn't do much real damage to themselves.

Everyone knew if the Phils lost the series — which they did — it would be easy to cite their legitimate injury issues. They played the Braves without Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber or J.T. Realmuto. They also trotted unproven Michael Mercado out there with two fifth starters on the injured list. It's not like the two teams dueled at full strength and the Phillies were pummeled. It was going to be an uphill battle with Kody Clemens as the sixth best hitter. No major reasons for concern are coming from this weekend.

The best All-Stars ever?

The 2024 Phillies have a chance to set a franchise record for regular season wins, and post a bunch of other all-time great statistics this season. More importantly, they're among the front-runners for a World Series trip. They have seven All-Stars, the most in team history. That made us curious, is this the best group of All-Stars in team history?

Here's a look at a handful of the best Midsummer Classic contributions the Phillies have made:

2024: Alec Bohm (3B), Bryce Harper (1B), Jeff Hoffman (P), Matt Strahm (P), Ranger Suárez (P), Trea Turner (SS), Zack Wheeler (P)
2011: Roy Halladay (P), Cole Hamels (P), Cliff Lee (P), Placido Polanco (3B), Shane Victorino (OF)
2009: Ryan Howard (1B), Raul Ibanez (OF), Chase Utley (2B), Shane Victorino (OF), Jayson Werth (OF)
1995: Darren Daulton (C), Lenny Dykstra (OF), Tyler Green (P), Mickey Morandini (2B), Heathcliff Slocumb (P)
1993: Darren Daulton (C), Dave Hollins (3B), John Kruk (1B), Terry Mulholland (P)
1979: Bob Boone (C), Larry Bowa (SS), Steve Carlton (P), Pete Rose (1B), Mike Schmidt (3B)
1965: Richie Allen (3B), Johnny Callison (OF), Cookie Rojas (2B)
1951Richie Ashburn (OF), Del Ennis (OF), Willie Jones (3B), Robin Roberts (P)

That 1979 group is pretty special. 

Reinforcements on the way

Schwarber will be back Tuesday to face the Dodgers. Harper will be back then too, most likely. Realmuto should be back sometime after next week's All-Star break. There could be some moves made on the trade market ahead of the July 30th deadline. The timing couldn't be better. 

After the NL West leading Dodgers this week, the Phillies have two cakewalk series against the Athletics and Pirates sandwiching next week's break. They also will be assisted by having six days off in the next 23, which could go a long way in helping them avoid needing a fifth starter all that much.

After facing the Pirates to start the "second half," things will get tough:

7/22-24at Twins51-39
8/2-4at Marlins32-58
8/5-7at Dodgers55-36

With 12 games against four of the best teams in baseball over a two and a half week span, you won't hear anymore soft schedule criticisms. 

Pitching prowess 

Even after allowing 17 runs in three games to the Braves, the Phillies still have the best pitching staff in baseball by most metrics and it's not close.

Philadelphia's 3.26 ERA is the lowest mark across 30 teams — the Braves are in second at 3.43. Philly's arms have allowed the second fewest home runs, the fourth fewest walks, have the second lowest WHIP and have struck out more hitters than any other staff.

Will the team be able to keep it up? Four hurlers are going to the All-Star game, among them Ranger Suárez who has been pretty bad over his last few starts after starting the year like a Cy Young winner. They have some really tough offenses ahead as we just detailed. Keep an eye on those pitching stats. 

Money talks

Of the top 16 players you can bet on to win the NL MVP award, five of them are Phillies. That's insane. Via FOX Sports, Bryce Harper is 2nd, Alec Bohm 9th, Trea Turner 13th, Zack Wheeler 14th and Ranger Suárez 16th by way of betting odds (all behind Shohei Ohtani). The Dodgers have three players in the top 20, while the Braves and Brewers have two apiece.

Will the Phillies' top stars make a real MVP case despite time missed to injury, in the cases of Harper and red hot Turner? Individual performances could be the legacy of this memorable team if this kind of play continues.

Follow Evan on Twitter: @evan_macy

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