As many of you know, I was riding by the seat of my pants betting Phillies OVER 78.5 wins in 2018. After looking like the bet was a mortal lock at the end of July, the Phils skidded their way through the end of the season and didn’t get win #79 until game #161. It wouldn’t be gambling without a near heart attack I guess. Well, Vegas has released the MLB Win Over/Unders for 2019 and here’s what we’re looking at:
I’ll write a blog later for the rest of the league but let’s look at our Phightins. The Phillies come right in the middle of the pack with 83 as the bar to hit this year, 4th-best in the NL East. With both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper leading the list of players yet-to-be-signed, there is a lot still up in the air. While there are a lot of rumors flying around about the Phillies getting either player, or possibly both, and potentially tomorrow, it’s quickly becoming time to decide on pulling the trigger or not. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of 83 wins:
2019 Interleague Schedule: vs. MIN (3 gms), vs. DET (2), @ KC (3), @ DET (2), vs. CWS (3), @ BOS (2), vs. BOS (2), @ CLE (3)
Playing the AL Central helps the Phillies a bit but the Machado sweepstakes could change things if Manny goes to the White Sox. The final seven interleague games against the Red Sox and Indians could spell trouble, however. The away series at Fenway is in mid-August (after the non-waiver deadline) and both of the remaining series are in September (after the waiver deadline) meaning both teams should have geared up by adding key players while trying to win a pennant chase. We’ll know a lot more about each of these teams two months from now during Spring Training and even more by the time the pennant chases are in full swing.
Using the Current Lineup:
The Phillies’ additions of Jean Segura at shortstop, Andrew McCutchen in the outfield, and David Robertson in the bullpen certainly improve two glaring weaknesses from the 2018 squad: poor defense and shaky late-inning pitching. Starting pitching becomes the x-factor for the team. Aaron Nola has proven he can be dominant enough but we’ll need a lot from Arrieta as a #2 and better second halves from Nick Pivetta and Zach Eflin. What the Phils decide to do with Vince Velasquez could greatly affect things as well. Moving him to the bullpen in favor of letting Jerad Eickhoff return to the rotation after a year lost to injuries.
Offensively, the Phils will need to be more consistent than last year. Segura becomes the lead-off hitter the team desperately leads and depending on what combination of outfielders the Phillies trot out, the lineup can be built in different, more dynamic ways. The infield should look more consistent with Rhys Hoskins moving back to his natural position of first base and having Segura and Cesar Hernandez up the middle. It’s not completely crazy to think the lineup can still produce for power while raising the teams’ batting average. Another year of experience will also help the teams’ ability to hit with runners in scoring position, another glaringly low stat from 2018.
The Verdict: If the Phillies weren’t to make any other acquisitions before Opening Day, the team should be better than last season’s 80 wins. The starting pitching would be the biggest question mark but could surprise people. The defense should be more reliable and the hitting should be more consistent. It’ll be close to a four-game improvement, but I’m taking the over and hoping for the best. Especially because I don’t have to just assume the team won’t make any other deals. Let’s look at the situation where they do sign more FAs…
IF The Phillies Sign Additional Free Agents:
Bet the house. If the Phillies get Machado or Harper, their offense improves by leaps and bounds. Harper’s numbers at Citizens Bank Park speak for themselves and he’d bring a swagger into right field that hasn’t been seen since Jayson Werth. Machado adds a consistent bat that can hit for power as well and his defensive prowess is unrivaled. The Phillies would need to convince him to play third base but enough greenbacks might be the tipping point in that argument. The real question becomes what does the O/U number become if the Phils get one (or both) of those guys. The odds for 83 would get incredibly skewed so it’s not out of the question to think Vegas would adjust. We’d need to reopen the case in that situation. I still think the Phils will likely need another starter to be successful in 2019, but gambling-wise, 83 is a juicy number to bet the over.Follow @geordo9