The Philadelphia Phillies have a 69-58 record on the season and hold sole posession of the first Wild Card spot. If you told me the Phillies would have the first Wild Card spot on August 24th I would've believed you, but if you told me they'd be 13.5 games back of first place with virtually no shot of catching Atlanta, I would've told you you're crazy.
The reigning NL Champs have been good for much of the 2023 season, but another slow start and some disappointing performances cemented themselves as a likely four-seed in the NL. They proved last year that they can still find a way to win as long as they get in, but we would've liked to see this team play more good baseball over the course of the season.
Had the Phillies gotten the performances they expected out of these four players, maybe the team wouldn't be out of the division race in August.
1) Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola has been a major disappointment this season
If you're thinking about disappointing Phillies, Aaron Nola has to be at the top of the list. This guy entered the season as one of the best pitchers in baseball, finishing in the top seven of the NL Cy Young race for the third time in five seasons. Nola had a 3.25 ERA in 32 starts and 205 innings pitched last year. That helped him earn fourth place in the NL Cy Young balloting. He's gone from being Zack Wheeler's co-ace to being a guy fans question should even be in the postseason rotation.
Through 26 starts this season, Nola has a 4.49 ERA in 160.1 innings pitched. Nola is still the innings eater he's always been, and him taking the ball every fifth day regardless of how he's performing is certainly helpful, but this kind of performance from a guy who was seen as one of the best pitchers in baseball entering the year has been so disappointing to witness.
Nola's numbers are down across the board. His walk rate has shot up from 3.6% to 6.1%. His strikeout rate is down to 25.2% from 29.1%. Most alarmingly, his home run rate has spiked from 2.4% to 4.4%. Nola allowed just 19 home runs all of last season and had never allowed more than 27 in a single season before. He's allowed a career-high and league-leading 29 this season and August isn't even over.
I don't really know how to explain the downfall of the 30-year-old. Is it the pitch clock? Is it the pressure of being a free agent this coming offseason? Is it the pressure of pitching for a team expected to win each time he takes the mound? Whatever it is, the Phillies hope he can kick it in gear for the final month of the season heading into October.