The Phillies were under the radar in 2022 and made the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. They got hot at the right time and made it all the way to the World Series before coming up two wins short, losing to the Houston Astros. This year, it was less of a surprise that they qualified for the 2023 postseason as the top Wild Card and won 90 games. They finished the season with the fourth-best record in the NL and the sixth-best record in all of baseball and have a terrific shot at bringing home the World Series title in 2023.
Like any team with World Series aspirations, the Phillies have a number of guys on the roster and in the clubhouse that will contribute to a successful postseason run. It will take a complete team effort to be the last team standing and hoist the World Series trophy, but there are a few reasons that stand above the rest as the foundation for a deep run.
3 reasons why the Phillies will bring home the World Series trophy
Wheeler has been the ace of this pitching staff for quite a while. He is as stable as stable comes, and he showed that again this year. Though his ERA was inflated, at 3.61, his WHIP was just 1.07, and his FIP was 3.15, which was top six in the league. According to Fangraphs, Wheeler led all pitchers with a 5.9 fWAR. Wheeler has shown that he can perform in the big games and for the Phillies to take home the title, he will have to do just that. Rob Thomson has already announced that the right-hander will be getting the ball in Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series, and it’s likely Thomson will throw him out there as much as he can throughout the postseason to give the Phillies the best shot possible.
Wheeler has found success this season by limiting the amount of walks he has given up and putting batters away with his strikeout ability. His walk rate of just 5% is the lowest of his career, and his strikeout rate of 26.9% is the second highest of his career, behind just 2021. Baseball Savant shows him relying heavily on his four-seam fastball, which he has thrown on average 95.6 mph, followed by his sinker, slider, sweeper and curveball. The sinker is thrown on average 95.2 mph and the curveball, his slowest pitch, averages 81.4 mph.
Pitching is often what propels a team to a championship and there is always one guy who shows up big every time he is called upon. Think Cole Hamels in 2008, Madison Bumgarner in 2014 and Stephen Strasburg in 2019. It’s Wheeler’s time and he’s going to deliver.
The middle of the lineup
It's cheating a bit to say that the Phillies will win the World Series because of the heart of the lineup. It's a given that the three, four and five spots are the most important, but with the Phillies, it's particularly true. With how Kyle Schwarber and Trea Turner have been getting on base, it's imperative that Harper, Bohm and Stott capitalize and knock them in. They are the difference between leaving runners in scoring position and not scoring or scoring just one run, to putting up crooked numbers and putting the game out of reach for the opposition.
The good news is Harper, Bohm and Stott have been the most clutch players in 2023. Harper is batting .272 with RISP, Bohm is batting a mind-boggling .344 and Stott is batting .277 with RISP. While the guys behind this trio will also have the opportunity to come up clutch, the lineup goes as the three, four and five hitters go.
Experience from last year's run and the home field crowd
In 2022, the Phillies finally made it back to the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. The crowd and fans were starving to welcome their team back to Citizens Bank Park. Now, the Phillies are hosting the Wild Card round at home in front of the Philly Phaithful. Last year, the Phillies went 6-2 at home with the only two losses coming in the World Series. They clearly had an advantage at home with the raucous crowd cheering on their every move. The energy in Philadelphia is contagious, and the players surely feed off it. This year, they have unfinished business, and the fans are coming back better than ever. They will make Citizens Bank Park a nightmare for opposing teams.
The experience is another key factor in this year's postseason run. Last year, many guys on the Phillies were experiencing the playoffs for the first time. Stott, Bohm, Realmuto, Segura, Marsh, Nola, Wheeler, Dominguez, Alvarado and the list goes on. Others had made the playoffs but didn’t go very far, like Harper. The postseason is a different game; every pitch is of high importance, and every at-bat comes with a gravitas that you can’t replicate in the regular season. After the deep run in 2022, this team is more equipped to make another run, but this time finish the job.
As Rob Thomson said after they clinched their playoff berth, this team is built for October. It takes more than just three reasons why a team wins the World Series, but with Wheeler leading the pitching staff, the heart of the lineup coming through and the energy from the fans coupled with the experience from last year, these factors will carry this team deep into the postseason and to a parade down Broad Street.