Phillies: 57 games in 56 days would not be a bad thing
By Matt Rappa
The Phillies should not mind playing doubleheaders this season
For the Philadelphia Phillies to play 60 games as anticipated entering the shortened season, they would have to play 57 games in 56 days.
Before, they were supposed to have played 60 games in 66 days, however, seven of their matchups against the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays were postponed due to COVID-19; and, instead of trekking down to Miami early this week to play the Marlins as scheduled, the Phillies will instead make up their home-and-home set opposite manager Joe Girardi’s former American League East team.
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In other words, you might as well throw out the previously announced 60-game schedule, as more changes are sure to come as the weeks progress. And, at least for now, Major League Baseball intends for teams to make up all of their postponed games.
Is it feasible that the Phillies can make up for the lost time and play 57 games over 56 days starting Monday, August 3, against the Yankees? Probably not. Would it necessarily be a bad thing for their team that has a weakened bullpen? No, it would not.
Late last week, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association agreed to play seven-inning doubleheader games for the remainder of this year’s regular season. They stated that this pact helps to promote player health and safety, amid the high chance several doubleheaders will take place due to “dynamic circumstances.”
With fewer days remaining than games needing to be played, chances are the Phillies will be playing in a lot of these seven-inning games for the remainder of the season. For their bullpen who was notably “exposed,” to say the least, in their season-opening slate against the Marlins, this has to be good news for Girardi, pitching coach Bryan Price, and company.
Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler could throw seven-inning complete games and the Phillies would never have to turn to their bullpen.
In 11 2/3 combined innings against the Marlins, July 24-26, Phillies relievers combined for a 6.17 ERA, allowing 14 hits, eight earned runs, two home runs, and five walks.
Granted, their starting pitchers did not fare much better; posting a 5.28 ERA with nine earned runs and three home runs yielded across 15 1/3 frames. Most of those less-than-ideal numbers come from the struggling Vince Velasquez in the series finale. But, the Phillies have plenty of options to try to fine-tune their rotation; Jake Arrieta and Zach Eflin have yet to appear, so they are still unknown factors.
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Of course, a counter-argument could be that playing seven-inning games are great until the postseason comes around. Phillies relievers who normally would get plenty of chances across a 162-game schedule to find their groove would have far fewer opportunities in 2020, especially now, not having eighth- and ninth-inning opportunities in doubleheaders. For a team that is looking to make the postseason for the first time in nearly a decade, they should be willing to take their chances.
The Phillies were supposed to play their first doubleheader under this new agreement on Saturday, August 1, however, the twin bill was postponed because two Phillies staff members tested positive for COVID-19. These test results later were reportedly determined to be false-positives.
Seven-inning doubleheader games are not the first shortening rule Major League Baseball took from the minor leagues and collegiate level and enacted for the unprecedented 2020 slate. The notable other rule is starting each half of innings in extras with a runner on second base; this same rule applies in seven-inning games, starting in the eighth inning.