Can the Phillies win the NL East with the Braves predicted to take a step back this season?

Is this the year for the Phillies to overtake their hated divisional rivals?

Division Series - Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Four
Division Series - Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Four / Rich Schultz/GettyImages

As the MLB regular season is finally upon us, the Philadelphia Phillies will once again have their sights set on one goal, which is to bring home the World Series championship for the first time in 16 years. But with focus set firmly in place, they do have one big obstacle that could be standing in their way.

That daunting hurdle happens to be in their own division as the Atlanta Braves are back looking to defend their division title. With the Braves having perhaps the best offense in baseball, do the Phillies actually stand a chance in the NL East?

According to an early bold prediction by Will Leitch of, he thinks so. Leitch predicts the Braves to actually take a step backward, albeit a minor one, this season. He points out that the Braves were very fortunate on the injury front last season, as the bulk of their lineup remained relatively healthy to put up the eye-popping numbers that they did.

On top of that, a potential knee issue for superstar Ronald Acuña Jr. could end up limiting his explosiveness this season and his overall numbers as a result. In addition, with the Braves’ pitching staff getting up there in age, led by incumbent Charlie Morton at age 40 and Chris Sale in his mid-30s, there could be some drop-off in performance in 2024.

Leitch also suggests that the Phillies currently have a starting rotation that is reminiscent of the Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt-led teams back in their strong contending years from 2007 to 2011. Of course, with the co-ace tandem of Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola anchoring the current starting five, along with the steady improvement of both Ranger Suárez and Cristopher Sánchez, added to the likes of Taijuan Walker and now Spencer Turnbull, the Phillies can probably matchup and compete against any team in the league and not only the Braves.

Last season, the Phillies’ pitching staff ranked fourth overall in the NL with a 4.03 ERA and an opponent batting average of .240, ahead of the Braves' marks of 4.14 and .245, respectively. As the saying goes, great pitching can shut down great hitting. And if there is ever any doubt, just rewind to last season in the playoffs when the Phillies dispatched their juggernaut division rivals in just four games to advance to the NLCS. Anything is possible.

But with slight reservation, Leitch's bold prediction did include the caveat that the Braves will probably still win the division, but they won’t be attaining the 100-win threshold as they have in previous seasons. With that in mind, along with both the expected revitalized versions of Trea Turner and Bryce Harper entering 2024 and the determined winning mindset of the entire Phillies organization from top to bottom, we say the Phillies stand a great chance to knock off the Braves once again this season in one way or another.

They can certainly make their statement right from the get-go as they face Atlanta in the very first series of the 2024 regular season, which will help set the tone for the rest of the year. Let’s go, Phillies!