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Phillies, NL East: National Predictions for 2020

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

For the doubting Thomases among the Philadelphia Phillies fan base, these forecasts validate their thinking, and a five-game struggle (not losing streak) by mid-August (22 contests) will have some searching for the exit. Last year, it took two months. 

 

Masked 60:

Since 2012, some Phillies faithful consider the National League East predictions with a shrug. However, Atlanta Braves fans were upset by one 2019 forecast of 79 victories. They finished, though, with 97 triumphs, so one site had dramatically underestimated them.

IN OTHER WORDS:

“Perhaps the safest prediction we can make about the future is that it will surprise us.” - George Leonard

With the rescheduled four games against the New York Yankees, hope temporarily avoided a wound. But it demonstrated the fragility and luck of a 60-contest season amid the pandemic. Now, the MLB is adding new safeguards after one franchise had four positive tests for COVID-19 before the series finale.                   

Besides the normal injuries, players will tweak something due to hurriedly getting ready for ‘20 from a late summer-camp start or will catch the coronavirus itself. Ergo, missing stars can change an organization’s fortunes after Opening Day or during the final two weeks of September.

2020 Predictions:

  • One: FanGraphs
  • Two: Davenport
  • Three: Pecota (Baseball Prospectus)
  • Four:  FiveThirtyEight
  • Avg.1: RotoChamp (Avg. of 1-4)
  • Avg. Wins of 1-5

 

NL East

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR  

AVG. 1  

AVG. WINS

Nationals 

33-27  

33-27  

32.9-27.1  

34-26

33-27

165.9 = 33.2 

Braves

33-27

32-28

30.4-29.6

32-28

32-28

159.4 = 31.9

Mets

33-27

31-29

32.2-27.8

32-28

33-27

161.2 = 32.2

Phillies

30-30

30-30

28.3-31.7

29-31

29-31

146.3 = 29.3

AL East

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

AVG. 1

AVG. WINS

Yankees

34-26

36-24

36.5-23.5

36-24

36-24

178.5 = 35.7

Rays

33-27

33-27

32.4-27.6

33-27

33-27

164.4 = 32.9

Red Sox

30-30

30-30

30.0-30.0   

30-30

31-29

152.0 = 30.4

Blue Jays

28-32

28-32

28.3-31.7

27-33

27-33

137.3 = 27.5

 

Rotations:

Despite a 1-2 record, the red pinstripes’ five-man staff with Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler compares favorably to Atlanta’s and the New York Mets’ hurlers. Basically, Wheeler with a newborn son and Nola looking to better his 2019 stats will likely be extra careful healthwise.     

General manager Matt Klentak had Vince Velasquez and Spencer Howard starting on the same day. Translation: 2-3 poor outings by Velasquez could open the bullpen gate for him to join Nick Pivetta. Meanwhile, Jake Arrieta and Zach Eflin round out the rotation.    

While the Washington Nationals’ staff is the same, Stephen Strasburg had felt hand numbness for weeks during throwing sessions even before camp 2.0. And he will miss his second start also due to tingling in his thumb during light throwing. For now, this leaves the Nats with Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin atop the rotation.   

NL East  Rotations:

  • Nationals: Stephen Strasburg (thumb numbness when pitching).
  • Mets: Noah Syndergaard (out for 2020) and Marcus Stroman (out until early August with a calf muscle tear).
  • Braves: Cole Hamels (45-day IL) and Mike Foltynewicz (DFA).

After Jacob DeGrom, the Metropolitans numerically from ‘19 have Steven Matz (4.21 ERA), Rick Porcello (5.52 ERA) and Michael Wacha (4.76 ERA). Ergo, DeGrom and Stroman are their one-two punch, while the others have only had slightly better campaigns recently: This is who they are now.    

Atop the Braves’ five-man staff, Mike Soroka (35 starts) with a 2.68 ERA and Max Fried (40 starts) with a 4.02 ERA head the five-man staff with those 2019 stats. And the rest of the rotation has minimal experience except for Sean Newcomb (54 starts), unless Jhoulys Chacin, their waiver claim, with a 5.79 ERA slots fourth.

Bullpen:

With 11-12 relievers per team, the quality level of the bottom three or four are middle-relief and mop-up hurlers. But fretting by the locals about the 11th man isn’t necessary: It’s also an issue for the Phillies divisional rivals. And relievers including closers normally have control problems like Velasquez and Pivetta.                                            

For the Phils, Hector Neris will have Adam Morgan, Tommy Hunter, Victor Arano, and Pivetta to set him up. And if they’re healthy, they could be roughly 10th in the majors after being at the midpoint in ‘19 despite eight injured relievers. Plus the best three of the other six will continue unless rosters remain at 30.    

Again, the Nationals will be counting on Sean Doolittle to close if his velocity returns, or Daniel Hudson can duplicate his effectiveness after joining the club at the trading deadline. Plus Will Harris and Tanner Rainey are handling setup duties for Washington, while their other arms work middle relief. Will they be lucky again?                       

NL East  Relievers:

  • Phillies: David Robertson (unknown) and Seranthony Dominguez (out for the year).
  • Nationals: Roenis Elias (45-day IL)
  • Mets: Robert Gsellman (IL due to triceps) and Brad Brach (10-IL through Aug. 3).

At the back of the Mets’ pen, closer Edwin Diaz (5.59 ERA) and Jeurys Familia (5.70 ERA) will try to bounce back from last year, but they haven’t in the early going. And they have Seth Lugo, Justin Wilson, and offseason acquisition Dellin Betances --who couldn’t handle closing-- to set up the seventh and eighth innings.               

In Atlanta, closer Mark Melancon (balky back) made his 2020 debut on July 29, and signed closer Will Smith just came off the COVID-19 IL (injured list). But it’s Melancon’s job to lose: a strong possibility. Ergo, their setup men Luke Jackson and Shane Greene had filled in. 

Offense:

The Phillies nine looks solid: Andrew McCutchen (RH), Rhys Hoskins (RH), Bryce Harper (LH), JT Realmuto (RH), Didi Gregorius (LH), Jean Segura (RH), Jay Bruce (LH), Scott Kingery (RH), and Adam Haseley (LH) or Roman Quinn (SH). Yes, Hoskins --needing coaching-- must do more than accumulate free passes. 

The Fightins have scored five runs per game so far, and they have the starting staff and relief corps to win more than they lose. That stated, staying healthy (McCutchen) and regaining form (Hoskins) could raise their average runs per game to between five and six runs.                     

After having inconsistent coronavirus test results, Juan Soto will return after he receives the city’s clearance. And even though they depend heavily on their pitching, the loss of Anthony Rendon alone is problematic, but Soto has missed summer camp and their first six contests (2-4): a lot to overcome.  

New York (NL) has a solid offense, but they aren’t strong defensively. Basically, first sacker Pete Alonso enters ‘20 with high expectations he may not be able to meet, and he may press to duplicate his 53 bombs from ‘19 or their equivalent of 18 in 60 games: Will Mets fans understand?                            

Returning with little time in camp, Freddie Freeman had struggled until their sixth contest. Eventually, he’ll get enough at-bats and make NL moundsmen pay: later rather than sooner (I hope). But remember, they picked up no one to replace Josh Donaldson’s bat as well.        

To reiterate an earlier comment, pushing back four games against the Yanks after a difficult first series is good fortune for now. And Joe Girardi has reset the rotation beginning in New York: Nola, Wheeler, Arrieta, Eflin and Velasquez.

Providing the Phillies continue with negative testing, they’ll restart their truncated campaign against the Bombers in Gotham. But while the circumstances are less than ideal, what is the one thing you can do now after only three games? Scoreboard watching! 

 

NEXT:

Spencer Howard’s Odds for When

Rsz_1rsz_1bank_good

 

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