The Philadelphia Phillies entered the 2016 MLB season with low expectations because the team was coming off three consecutive losing seasons, which led the front office to blow up the roster and start the rebuilding process.
One month into the season, the Phillies are one of the biggest surprises in baseball with a 16-11 record.
Over the course of the last two seasons, Philadelphia started getting rid of their aging players with big salaries like Chase Utley and Jonathan Papelbon in an effort to reduce their payroll so they would have money to sign free agents in the future.
After getting rid of most of the players that helped them win five division titles from 2007-2011 and the 2008 World Series, expectations were low in Philadelphia.
The Phillies entered the season with an $85 million payroll, which was significantly less than the $135 million payroll they had on opening day last year. With veteran first baseman Josh Howard’s $25 million coming off the books at the end of the season, the Phillies will have even more money to spend on free agents.
Despite the cost-cutting, the Phillies have managed to put together a roster that appears to be a few good players away from becoming serious contenders.
The Phillies had one of the worst pitching rotations in baseball last season, with their starters finishing the season with a combined 5.23 ERA.
In the offseason, the Phillies tried to remedy the situation and traded closer Ken Giles to the Houston Astros for highly touted prospect Vince Velasquez, who has already been paying dividends.
Velasquez is one of the reasons the Phillies have been successful this season with a 4-1 record, a 1.41 ERA, and 39 strikeouts in five starts.
Second-year pitcher Aaron Nola has also played well so far with a 2-2 record, a 2.93 ERA, and 44 strikeouts in six starts this season.
For the season, the Phillies pitchers have a combined 3.93 ERA, which is significantly better than last season.
Hitting wise, the Phillies still have a lot of work to do. The team is 26th with a .229 batting average; they are also 26th in runs scored with 85. 2nd-year player Odubel Herrera leads the team with a .311 batting average while Josh Howard leads the team with 6 home runs.
Despite their current record, the Phillies aren’t expected to make the playoffs because there are a lot of good teams in the National League. But the fact that they are this competitive in a rebuilding year should give Philly fans hope for the future.