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National 2021 Predictions: Phillies, NL East

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

The usual ritual at March’s end is the upcoming season’s forecast, and the Philadelphia Phillies are currently in the most competitive division. However, every contender is one major injury away from an endless summer and unhappy fans, who don’t want to wait until next year. Get a real GM! 


Forecast One:

When some Phillies faithful point to their rivals’ strengths and the Fightins’ shortcomings, victory becomes virtually impossible. Translation: Their foes’ personnel will live up to expectations, while the local nine will regress to career disappointments. But each campaign has surprises, injuries and rough patches.  


“I'm going to make a prediction - it could go either way.” - Ron Atkinson

Frequently, some national predictions will change during the 162 because of injuries, unexpected disappointments, surprises, and July acquisitions. Plus forecasting involves number crunching, and there is no formula for the human element: The Atlanta Braves.          

Some head-shaking moves have explanations below the surface. To illustrate, the Phils assigned JoJo Romero to their minor league camp because he had frequently fallen behind in counts. And Tony Watson’s $3 million deal had called for earning a spot in camp, not his track record: He had to pitch like it counted.            

General rule: Deep-pocketed organizations prefer to be close to but not over the CBT (competitive-balance threshold) of $210 million AAV (average annual value). And Watson would have put the Fightins over said amount. Therefore, he, Brandon Kinzler and Matt Joyce had to produce.

Current CBT of $210 million AAV:




22 players


$202 million

+ Brandon Kintzler

$3 million

$205 million

+ Matt Joyce

$1.5 million

$206.5  million

+ Sam Coonrod

$0.6 million*

$207.1 million

+ Connor Brogdon

$0.6 million*

$207.7  million

* My estimate.

Phillies 26-Man Roster:

  • Rotation (5): Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Zach Eflin, Matt Moore and Chase Anderson.
  • Bullpen (8): Hector Neris, Archie Bradley, Jose Alvarado, Brandon Kintzler, Vince Velasquez, David Hale, Connor Brogdon and Sam Coonrod. 
  • Lineup (9): LF Andrew McCutchen, 1B Rhys Hoskins, RF Bryce Harper, C JT Realmuto, SS Didi Gregorius, 3B Alec Bohm, 2B Jean Segura, CFs Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn.
  • Bench (4): INF/OF Brad Miller, C Andrew Knapp, OF Matt Joyce and INF Ronald Torreyes.

Pitch counts for ‘21 require management’s input, and adding 100 innings to the previous season is the belief of two clubs. After last summer, one team expects 100 innings from a hurler who tossed four frames, and another anticipates 140 innings from a starter who worked 40 frames.            

Phillies with Six-Inning Starts:



+ 100



Aaron Nola

71 ⅓ Inns.

171 ⅓ Inns.

187-191 Inns.

31-32 Starts

Zack Wheeler

71 Inns.

171 Inns.

171-185 Inns.

29-31 Starts

Zach Eflin

59 Inns.

159 Inns.

151-169 Inns.

25-28 Starts

Matt Moore

78 Inns.*

178 Inns.

118-126 Inns.

20-21 Starts

Chase Anderson

33 ⅔ Inns.

133 ⅔ Inns.

65-115 Inns.

11-19 Starts

*In Japan.

During 2020’s downtime, Aaron Nola worked simulated games for arm strength and endurance. Watching spring training contests, you may have noticed a starter going to the bullpen to throw 15 more pitches. Basically, he didn’t reach the planned number during the exhibition game.                     

Estimators expect less innings from Matt Moore due to stronger competition, and they’re anticipating Chase Anderson to miss time based on average frames per 162. Ergo, David Hale and Vince Velasquez are on the active 26 for multiple innings, and Spencer Howard reportedly will work in relief after a call-up.       

The relief corps has three categories: closer, setup men and middle relievers. But while Hector Neris begins as the closer on a short leash, he might --might-- bounce back due to adding a slider. For now, though, Archie Bradley and Jose Alvarado, who needs improved control, are in setup  roles.     

Although the lineup is similar, Andrew McCutchen is healthier, Jean Segura’s hustling is noticeable; and Roman Quinn being a switch-hitter won’t just face occasional left-handed starters. Meanwhile, the red pinstripes want Scott Kingery to regain his confidence and force a call-up.      

Divisional Rivals:

The shiny, new object is a change in ownership and approach by the New York Mets, but will it help their recent fortunes? Meanwhile, the numbers don’t favor Atlanta, but they have a clubhouse atmosphere going back to Chipper Jones’ days: Disappointing teammates isn’t acceptable even with 2020’s injuries.  

2021 Predictions:

  • 1: FanGraphs
  • 2: Davenport
  • 3: Pecota (Baseball Prospectus)
  • 4: RotoChamp (Avg. of 1-3)












365.8 = 91.45






348 = 87






337.4 = 84.35






327.5 = 81.88






282.1 = 70.53

The Braves batting order is strong, but third sacker Austin Riley will hit home runs with a low average. Unfortunately, the lack of a universal DH will be a defensive problem for left fielder Marcell Ozuna. And keep in mind, they also have a habit of coming from behind more frequently than most.             

When Mike Soroka returns in late April, they will have a solid front three, a rookie and ex-Phillies starter Drew Smyly. Remember Smyly? And will Will Smith be the dominant closer he was in 2019 this somewhat normal campaign? Or was ‘19 a career year for the southpaw?   

The Mets rotation will be stronger when Carlos Carrasco returns near May’s end, and they have two portside youngsters on the five-man staff for now. Moreover, Noah Syndergaard will rejoin the squad in the second half; however, he will be a free agent in the offseason. But, again, their pen is questionable.        

The Metropolitan’s bats are formidable and costly. Next season, Robinson Cano will add another $20.25 million AAV, and how will negotiations turn out for Michael Conforto and Scott Boras? As for defense, left field and the hot corner are current shortcomings.                   

Beginning with multiple roster decisions, the Washington Nationals have three COVID-19 positive players, two isolated teammates and concerns for their active roster. Rotation-wise, their front three will again be solid, but their bullpen is questionable beyond Brad Hand and Tanner Rainey.      

Improving their offense, the Nats added first baseman Josh Bell and left fielder Kyle Schwarber and will score more runs at their defense’s expense. So the plan is to have their front three work seven frames each and minimize their pen usage. Meanwhile, their hitters could plate more runs than they allow.

After locals bemoaned losing Sixto Sanchez and Jorge Alfaro for a free agent, the Miami Marlins are looking for another catcher. And so-called ace Sanchez --out until April’s end-- isn’t better than Cole Hamels or Tim Lincecum, has control problems; plus clubs he had dominated had no difficulty with him the second time around.   

Sanchez, 22.5:

  • First starts:  6 Gms., 37 Inn., 12 R, 12 ER, 3-1, a 2.92 ERA with 35 SO and 7 BB.
  • Other starts: 3 Gms., 10 Inn., 13 R, 13 ER, 0-2, an 11.70 ERA with 6 SO and 9 BB.: 


  • Vs. Braves: 6 Inn., 0 ER, 6 SO, 1 BB and 1-0.
  • 2nd Game: 3 Inn., 4 ER, 2 SO, 4 BB and 0-0.
  • Total: 9 Inn., 4 ER, 8 SO, 5 BB and 1-0 with a 4.00 ERA.


  • Vs. Nationals: 5 Inn., 3 ER, 4 SO, 0 BB and 1-0.
  • 2nd Game: 4 Inn., 5 ER, 2 SO, 2 BB and 0-1.
  • Total: 9 Inn., 8 ER, 6 SO, 2 BB and 1-1 with an 8.00 ERA.

Rookie Campaigns:

  • Cole Hamels’ 2006: 23 Gms., 132 ⅓ Inn., 9-8, a 4.08 ERA and a 2.6 fWAR.
  • Tim Lincecum’s 2007: 24 Gms., 146 ⅓ Inn., 7-5, a 4.00 ERA and a 3.0 fWAR.

After bottling lightning in ‘20, the Fish are still a cost-conscious organization with youngsters who will face more opportunities for peaks and valleys during a full 162 than a 60-game schedule. Therefore, a hot April probably won’t be sustainable.      

While some locals will find plenty to gripe about besides Neris’ first blown save and every inning that’s not 1-2-3 thereafter, they will also point out the team’s every wart frequently. Basically, if the Fightins are hot in September and have a realistic playoff shot, what would be the hardest thing for fans to believe? October Phillies baseball!     



2021’s Decision Time





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