Joe Girardi is coming in as the new manager, but will the Philadelphia Phillies immediately meet elevated expectations in 2020?
After an active offseason last offseason, with the signing of Bryce Harper as the centerpiece, expectations were high for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2019. But they fell well short, with an 81-81 record, and Gabe Kapler was fired as manager with a 161-163 record over two seasons.
After a set of experienced candidates were deemed a the top candidates in Philadelphia, the Phillies have settled on Joe Girardi as their new skipper. He comes into a win-now situation, with owner John Middleton surely willing to open the checkbook for more notable additions this offseason.
But Girardi is used to high expectations. He spent 10 seasons managing the New York Yankees, with six playoff appearances and one World Series title viewed as underachievement by some. So any pressure in Philadelphia will pale by that comparison, and the Phillies needed someone with experience to push a veteran-laden roster to the next level and Girardi is the perfect fit.
As late as June 11, the Phillies were leading the NL East this year. But an 11-16 record in June, and a 34-38 record in the second half as the Washington Nationals turned things around and the New York Mets made a run for a while, left them in fourth place and 16 games out at season’s end.
The Phillies finished eight games back of the second Wild Card in the National League, so they were not close to a playoff spot either.
It’s hard to quantify how many wins a manager is worth. A lot of strategy and lineup construction advice comes from the front office now, with the manager as something of a puppet and the face of the plan.
That being said, how will the Phillies do in Girardi’s first season as manager?
This year, it took 89 wins to win the second Wild Card in the National League, and it took 97 wins to win the NL East. Philadelphia had an above .500 record against the division-winning Atlanta Braves (10-9), and they were 12-7 against the Mets, but poor records against the lowly Miami Marlins (9-10) and especially the Nationals (5-14) derailed things dramatically.
Simply avoiding a fade from mid-June on, and beating the Marlins more often than they lose to them, would put the Phillies up toward 90 wins next year. Injuries aside, it feels like Girardi will have answers to keeping a fade at bay that Kapler simply didn’t seem to.
I’m not ready to say the Phillies will win the NL East next year. But I do think they’ll stick in the race right to the end, and be firmly in the mix for a Wild Card spot.
Philadelphia Phillies 2020 Projection: 91-71 record, No. 1 Wild Card spot, lose in the NLDS