The Philadelphia Phillies have been one of baseball's biggest surprises one month into the season. With a 15-10 record, they have jumped out to a good start in the W-L column despite scoring just 3.3 runs per game and allowing 3.9 runs per game. They are sort of the anti-Cardinals at this point, as the Cardinals are averaging 5.7 runs per game and allowing 4.4 runs per game and enter the series with a losing record. The Phillies should still end up as one of the worst teams in baseball when all is said and done. The Cardinals should destroy them this series.
On offense, only second year player Maikel Franco is projected to hit above average. The only other position player projected to play at an average level is Odubel Herrera, the center fielder the team picked up in the Rule 5 draft before last season. Herrera has gotten off to a great start this season hitting .301/.449/.410 with a 134 wRC+ thus far. His walk rate is an excellent 21.5%.
After Franco and Herrera, the Phillies have five players with more than 50 plate appearances and the highest wRC+ is catcher Cameron Rupp's 85. To put that in perspective, 11 Cardinals have at least 50 plate appearances and nine of those 11 are at least 98 with seven of 11 at least 117 this season. Only Kolten Wong (52) and Randal Grichuk (65) have produced at a rate below average.
Unfortunately for the Phillies, the projections do not look much better, as the team is projected to put up a very poor .299 wOBA and score just 3.7 runs per game the rest of the way. Ryan Howard has lost what once made him MVP and a hero in Philadelphia. Old friend Peter Bourjos has been starting for the Phillies, but has yet to see his bat come alive. Despite their start, FanGraphs gives the Phillies just 0.2% odds to make the playoffs.
On the pitching side, the Phillies do have some promising young starters. The Cardinals are going at it for four games, but will miss the Phillies' most promising starter, Vincent Velazquez. In tonight's game, the Phillies are sending Jeremy Hellickson to the mound. The former Ray and Diamondback has gotten off to a good start this year, striking out more than a batter an inning with a solid walk rate. He's been slightly homer prone, giving up four in the early going, but shut down the Nationals for seven innings in his last start to go along with 8 strikeouts and three walks. Hellickson faces off against Adam Wainwright, who is still searching for his form.
In game two, Aaron Nola goes for the Phillies. Nola has been almost as impressive as Velazquez, striking out 37 against just 6 walks in 33 innings. He turns 23 in June, and is the only starter above average scheduled to appear for Philadelphia in this series. Nola was solid in 13 starts last year, and should be the same again this year. He faces off against Michael Wacha, who has been good so far this season. He pitched well in his last start against Arizona, except for the two home runs, which cost the Cardinals the game when the offense couldn't deliver.
The third game of the season, we will see Adam Morgan against Mike Leake in what is the least enticing pitching matchup of the series. In his only start this season, Morgan went five innings and struck out seven against one walk versus Cleveland. The lefty's strikeout numbers throughout his minor league career have not been very good and his projections have him as close to a replacement-level player. It will be a good opportunity for Mike Leake to try and win some fans against a weak offense.
In the final game of the series on Thursday, Jerad Eickhoff gets the call. He has been the most surprising starter for the Phillies this season with 32 strikeouts and only five walks in 30.1 innings pitched. He has had a bit of bad luck ERA-wise with a 4.15 ERA due mostly to giving up seven runs against the Brewers compared to a 2.84 FIP. The ERA is probably real while the FIP is not. He is likely to get better luck but with more walks and fewer strikeouts. He is just 25, and like the rest of the Phillies pitchers, he features a curve.
Monday through Wednesday, the games start at 7:15 and are on Fox Sports Midwest while Thursday's game starts at 12:45 and can also be seen on MLB Network for those out of market.