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Phillies Should Go 'All-In' on Pitching As They Did Hitting

By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

The Philadelphia Phillies are off to a hot start to the 2019 season under second-year manager Gabe Kapler.

Through their first five games, the Phillies offense has produced a MLB fifth-best .269 batting average, a tied for second-best .388 on-base percentage, a second-best .527 slugging percentage, and third-best .915 OPS.

Not to mention, they have logged the fourth-most runs (39), despite playing in as many as three fewer games than the higher scoring teams, as well as the fourth-most RBI (38), tied for fourth in walks (31), and tied for sixth in home runs (10), 

Every bit of the reason why the Philadelphia Phillies have won four of their first five games reflects their offseason hitting acquisitions.

Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura both hold the team lead in runs scored (6), Bryce Harper and Segura lead in hits (8), and Harper tied with Maikel Franco in home runs (3). Also, Harper leads the team in batting average (.500), on-base percentage (.652), slugging percentage (1.188) and OPS (1.840).

The Phillies have spent $507.75 million on seven free agents in the past two offseasons, notes The Athletic's Meghan Montemurro. While Harper's $330 million contract reflects most of that figure, they additionally took on Segura's $60.4 million remaining contract from the Mariners, among others, as well. Philly.com's Scott Lauber estimates the Phillies spent $440 million among their additions of Harper, McCutchen, David Robertson, Segura, Juan Nicasio, J.T. Realmuto, and the subtractions of Carlos Santana and J.P. Crawford.

While the Phillies' lineup has proved thus far to be a juggernaut, from top to bottom, their starting pitching and bullpen has been anything but. The Phillies have gone "all in" to improve their offense this past offseason, but not so much pitching.

No additions were made to the starting rotation, only bullpen, including once-New York Yankees World Series champion Robertson. The Phillies thought he would complement Seranthony Dominguez nicely, but the veteran right-hander has struggled through his first three appearances. In two innings, Robertson has surrendered four runs, five hits, five walks and a home run, raising his ERA to 18.00 and his WHIP to 5.00.

Robertson failed to record an out, allowing a single and three consecutive walks against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday in the bottom of the ninth, en route to the Phillies' first loss of 2019.

Phillies starting pitching has been shaky, too, through the first five contests. Aaron Nola yielded a career-worst three home runs and last just as many innings on Wednesday, raising his season ERA to 7.00. Nick Pivetta allowed four runs through 4 2/3 frames against the Atlanta Braves for a 7.71 ERA. While Jake Arrieta limited Atlanta to just one run during the "Sunday Night Baseball" nationally televised game, he walked six batters in as many innings.

Zach Eflin shined on Tuesday against the Nationals, tossing five scoreless frames with just three hits and one walk allowed. Yet, that is not enough for the Phillies' All-Star-caliber lineup.

Southpaw starter Dallas Keuchel and closer Craig Kimbrel still remain free agents. They are not the only options out there, of course, as the Phillies could pursue other free agents, or acquire talent via trade at some point later this season. You have to wonder, however, not if the Phillies will look to improve their pitching, but when.

Phillies broadcaster Tom McCarthy joined the SportsRadio 94 WIP Morning Show on Wednesday, and said, "if there’s a piece this team needs to go out and get, they’re going to go out and get it.”

“If our starting pitching holds up, I think you can dream as big as you want with this team," McCarthy added.

As MLB.com's Todd Zolecki put after the club's Wednesday defeat, "last year the Phillies might have hoped to win. This year they expect it."

The stands are full again at Citizens Bank Park. It no longer is just a nice added benefit to see the team win when they attend games; they expect to see a win.

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