The 2023 season couldn't have gotten off to a worse start for the Philadelphia Phillies. After getting swept in Texas and losing the first game in New York, the Phills didn't even get their first win of the season until their fifth game.
11-12 is not what Phillies fans envisioned after a trip to the World Series last season. We knew Bryce Harper would be out so a blazing start wasn't necessarily expected, but we expected better than this.
At 11-12 the Phillies are closer to the last place Nationals than they are the first place Braves. They've dug themselves a small hole, but a four-game deficit isn't anything too insane, and with three Wild Card spots we know it's impossible to rule the Phillies out. There's no reason to believe this team can't recover from what's been a rocky start.
1) Reason to believe in the Phillies despite the poor start: The two aces haven't been aces yet
The Phillies arguably have two of the top 10-15 starting pitchers in all of baseball. Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola are arguably the best duo to lead a rotation in the game right now. They're both perenial Cy Young contenders, and there's no reason to expect them to suddenly fall off.
Despite their track record of success, both Nola and Wheeler have gotten off to shaky starts.
Wheeler has a 4.73 ERA through his first five starts. His walk rate is up to 8.6% after being under 6% each season he's been in Philadelphia. The good news is his strikeout rate of 29.1% is right where it was in 2021 when Wheeler was robbed of the Cy Young award.
Wheeler just hasn't been at his best. He hasn't gone more than six innings after being a workhorse in each of the last five seasons. Things just haven't been as crisp for the right-hander. He did pitch fairly well his last time out, allowing three runs in six innings with 11 strikeouts in a victory over Colorado. He had just one bad inning.
Nola has had similar issues. He's sitting on a 5.40 ERA through his first five starts of the season, and has two starts in which he's allowed four runs or more already. Like Wheeler, his walk rate has skyrocketted from 3.6% last season to 7.6% this season. However, unlike Wheeler his strikeout rate has gone way down from 29.1% in 2022 to a career-low 18.6%.
Despite only recording three strikeouts, Nola held the Rockies to three runs over seven innings his last time out. Hopefully this is a sign of what's to come for the veteran right-hander. For him to get the contract he's going to want this offseason, he's going to have to be much better.
These guys haven't been at their best, but they both have track records to suggest they'll turn it around and be the aces we've come accustomed to.