More Sports:

May 07, 2024

What they're saying: Is Zack Wheeler the best pitcher in baseball right now?

Wheeler posted another dominant outing against the Giants as the MLB-leading Phillies continue to soar.

Phillies MLB
Zack-Wheeler-Phillies-Giants-5.6.24-MLB.jpg Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

Zack Wheeler's ERA is down to 1.64 after Monday's gem against the Giants.

It's May 7 and the Phillies are surging. 

They just completed a four-game sweep of the Giants, have won 17 of their last 20, and own the best record in baseball at 25-11, which also has them sitting three games up over the Braves for first place in the NL East entering Tuesday night. 

The starting pitching has been mowing clubs down, Alec Bohm has been swinging with one of the best bats in the majors and only just went hitless for the first time since April 15, Bryce Harper has homered in back-to-back games, and even Nick Castellanos is on a three-game hit streak now – hey, he's figuring it out. 

Oh, and with Trea Turner hurt, Bryson Stott went back to short for the first time since the 2022 World Series and...

Yeah, this team's on a heater right now, with that slow start narrative comfortably put to bed. 

Here's some of what they're saying about it...

Straight Wheelin'

MLB Network

Zack Wheeler punched out 11 batters on Monday on the way to seven innings of one-run ball in yet another remarkable outing. 

His velocity and command were always there out of the gate, but run support and some bad breaks were working against him in the early going, on April 14 against the Pirates in particular when a game-deciding grand slam undid a 10-strikeout effort

But this has been Wheeler's line ever since that game: A 4-0 record, a 0.36 ERA, 11 hits, 1 earned run, 8 walks, and 33 strikeouts in 25.1 innings pitched. 

The Phillies' starting rotation on the whole has been spectacular, but Wheeler at the top? He might be the best in baseball right now.

MLB Network is at least throwing that point out there.

Regardless, a run of Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suárez, Taijuan Walker, Cristopher Sánchez, and Spencer Turnbull if the Phils need him is just not a rotation that any hitter would be thrilled about facing at the moment. 

About the schedule

John Stolnis | Hittin' Season (WHYY)

If there is one consistent point raised against the Phillies' current hot streak, it's that the quality of their opponents during this stretch hasn't exactly been all that intimidating. 

The Rockies and White Sox are a mess, the Reds haven't been expecting much, the Padres are still trying to get back to what they were in 2022, the Angels are rudderless, and the Giants are caught in a top-heavy NL West. 

Not exactly a gauntlet there. But counterpoint: Wins are wins and the Phils are going to need every last one they can get if they're going to beat out the Braves for the division crown. 

Another, via John Stolnis: There aren't actually all that many good teams in the NL right now...

The Dodgers, at 24-13, are obviously awesome. Even though they were swept by the Dodgers in L.A. last weekend and are without their ace Spencer Strider, the 20-12 Braves are still excellent as well. The Phillies are on a tier with both those clubs, along with the 23-13 Orioles, 23-13 Yankees and 23-12 Guardians. 

Outside of that, the rest of the league is all wandering in some middle ground desert. The Cubs’ starting rotation has been amazing and has powered their 21-15 record. I’m not sure how the Brewers are 20-14 with their decimated starting rotation. The defending NL champion Diamondbacks are struggling at 15-20, we just saw how mediocre the Padres and Giants are, and the Pirates, Reds and Cardinals are basic. [WHYY]

Are the Phillies going to hit a wall or fall into some kind of slump? Yeah, eventually. It's inevitable in a 162-game season, but take the ebbs and flows of it as they come. 

Besides the first major NL East stretch against the Marlins, Mets, and then Nationals is coming up after the two-game set against Toronto beginning Tuesday night. 

Good on the verge of great?

Matt Gelb | The Athletic

Somehow, it's actually strange to have the Phillies in this kind of position. 

The 2022 run to the World Series and then the 2023 follow-up to the NLCS were both marked by poor starts through the first couple of months of the season that required a tear through the summer to claw back from and claim a wild card spot – by the time they recovered, the division was already well out of reach. 

But there is none of that this time. No runners left stranded on weak ground-outs when the Phils are scrambling for any sort of offense, no starts that fall apart, no errors that feel nearly as devastating as they used to, and no repeated postgame quotes assuring that there is still a lot of baseball left to get things sorted out.

The Phillies are doing what they're supposed to do and beating the teams they're supposed to beat, which is the mark of an outright good club. 

Now will it last? And are they great?

Wrote Matt Gelb:

The first week of May is typically when everyone at Citizens Bank Park adopts nervous looks, wondering if this is a team fit for the 162-game grind. The debate is different this time. It is reasonable — safe, even — to admit these Phillies are a good team. Are they great? It’s not a descriptor anyone has used for a Phillies regular season since 2011.

“We feel like we’re really comfortable with each other,” [J.T. Realmuto] said. “We just started off hot and, hopefully, we ride this wave the entire season.”

Then, a reporter asked on May 6 if the Phillies were peaking too soon.

“No,” Realmuto said. He laughed. “This team is built for the long haul.” [The Athletic]

MORE: 5 thoughts on the red hot Phils after a four-game sweep of the Giants

Follow Nick on Twitter: @itssnick

Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports