Phillies: 10 keys to winning the National League East
The Phillies have a shot to win their first National League East title since 2011.
Through bleak seasons headlined by young players, washed out veterans, and coaching changes the Phillies are preparing to make a run for the National League East for the first time since Charlie Manuel was fired in 2013.
Philadelphia has finished no better than third or played better than .500 baseball in seven years, which feels like an eternity for fans.
Now with star power across the board, the Phillies have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs under second year manager Gabe Kapler.
Here are 10 keys for the Phillies to clinch not just a playoff berth, but a division title in 2019.
Gabe Kapler must prove he’s the manager of the future
The hiring of Gabe Kapler has been questioned from day one by fans who are skeptics of an inexperienced former player whose ideology heavily favors analytics. Kapler was booed at his first regular season game as the skipper and fans didn’t let up when a team that was 11 games over .500 at the trade deadline finished with a losing record.
Kapler prides himself on being able to adjust, and while it’s something he and others around him tout highly the fans remain skeptic. Will Kapler allow starting pitchers to go deep into games, will he use his gut over the numbers, will the lineup change on a daily basis?
A lot of the reasons fans questioned Kapler in his rookie managerial season will change in 2019, not just because Kapler will adjust, but because the front office addressed the team’s weaknesses.
Kapler has already said that the lineup will not change as often as it did in 2018 when he used 138 different lineups, excluding the pitchers. Five players from last year’s opening day lineup either aren’t on the team or likely won’t start:
- Cesar Hernandez (starting)
- Carlos Santana (traded)
- Nick Williams (not starting)
- Rhys Hoskins (starting)
- Aaron Altherr (not starting)
- J.P. Crawford (traded)
- Maikel Franco (starting)
- Andrew Knapp (not starting)
With veterans Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, J.T. Realmuto, and Jean Segura added to the lineup, Phillies fans should expect more consistent lineups.
Kapler must also show he has control over the clubhouse after last seasons collapse and the Fortnite “scandal” that broke out. Changes have already been made, including limiting video games in the clubhouse, requiring players to be in the dugout during games, and the consultation of 13 players on these rule changes going into the season.
With so much firepower in this lineup, pressure mounts on Kapler to put his players in the best position to succeed. If the players can’t do that, the hot seat will only burn stronger under Kapler.