The Philadelphia Phillies have just 16 games left on the 2023 regular season schedule. As the season begins to wind down, the Phillies find themselves in the same boat as many other National League teams as they vie for a playoff berth. The Phillies currently find themselves atop the NL Wild Card standings, but things can change over the final three weeks of the season.
The club would obviously prefer to stay in that top Wild Card spot to secure home field advantage at Citizen's Bank Park for the NL Wild Card Series. However, the 2022 Phillies showed that anything is possible once a team gets hot in the MLB Postseason. With the expectations being that the club will give the city another "Red October", certain questions start to arise as fans start to think about lineups and rotations in October.
Rob Thomson appeared on the WIP Morning Show on Wednesday morning and was asked about the potential playoff rotation. The manager confirmed that he expected the postseason rotation to consist of Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suárez, and Taijuan Walker.
While some may argue that one or more of these pitchers should not start a postseason game, the options are limited. Michael Lorenzen has looked gassed since his no-hitter in early August. Cristopher Sánchez has pitched reasonably well, but like Lorenzen, he is well over his maximum number of innings pitched in the big leagues and may be better suited for a relief role. However, after another strong outing against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night, Sanchez may have earned the right to gain consideration for a start in the postseason.
Recency bias may indicate that the Phillies' starters named by Thomson would not and could not carry a team through the postseason. That very well could be the case. Wheeler was hit around by the best team in baseball on Tuesday night, Nola has been inconsistent and has struggled to keep the ball in the yard, Walker has had a rough few starts lately, and Suárez has been dealing with injuries for much of the season.
It is important to remember, however, that the Phillies pitching— the rotation included— helped carry the club during parts of the summer when the offense was lackluster. From June 1st through August 31st, the Phillies rotation ranked the highest in baseball in fWAR (9.3) and had the second-best ERA (3.53) in the league behind the San Diego Padres. The rotation also pitched the most innings in baseball during that time— a good indication that the starters were eating innings.
Since the start of September, the rotation ranks 24th in ERA (6.17) and13th in fWAR (0.9), yet holds the 4th most innings pitched. If the rotation can get back on track down the stretch, the Phillies and their fans can be more confident in the starters as they look to make a postseason charge. A pitching reset is possible with Lorenzen potentially moving to the bullpen soon, and some less potent offenses coming up in the schedule in the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Mets, and Pittsburgh Pirates. As many know, pitching is king in the playoffs. The Phillies will need their starters to step up during the biggest moments of the 2023 season.