Which Philadelphia Phillies pitchers’ stock is up/down after first month of the MLB season


The Phillies won 19 of their first 30 games, a feat accomplished by the franchise 12 times since 1900. It doesn’t happen often. And, in 2024, much of the fast 30-game start was thanks to a pitching staff that topped the National League in ERA.

Stock Up

Aaron Nola

He’s pitched into the eighth inning in each of his past three starts, which is even more impressive considering one MLB pitcher — Nathan Eovaldi — did that in all of 2023. The last Phillies pitcher to do it? Cole Hamels in 2015.

So, the Phillies wanted Nola to have extra time before his next start. It’s the reason they kept Spencer Turnbull in the rotation for one more start before sliding him to the bullpen for the time being. Nola would have had one added day because the Phillies do not play Thursday. He’s better on five days’ rest as opposed to the standard four days’ rest. This time, he’ll have six days between outings.

The Phillies signed Nola to a massive contract because of his innings. They are paying him to do exactly what he’s done this season since a rough first start — pitch quality innings and pitch a lot of them. He has a 2.06 ERA in his last 35 innings.

One trend to watch: Nola is throwing more sinkers than he has in years. He has yet to allow an extra-base hit on a sinker. He has often commanded it better than the four-seam fastball. Now, Nola has almost identical usage with his four-seamer and sinker. Maybe that’s a path forward for him.

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Matt Strahm

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Matt Strahm has a 1.64 ERA in 11 innings. (Rafael Suanes / USA Today)

No one has benefitted from the Phillies’ improved April pitching situation more than Strahm. The lefty saved them in April 2023 by throwing 23 1/3 innings and posting a 2.31 ERA. But, by early June, Strahm felt the effects of a bigger workload. The Phillies pulled back on his usage in the summer, then rode Strahm down the stretch.

They entered this year knowing they could distribute the innings a bit more evenly. Strahm entered this week having pitched only 10 innings in April. He allowed two runs on Opening Day, then none in his next nine outings. He’s had a five-day break and a weeklong break. It’s the luxury of having a rotation that has pitched deep into games.

Strahm will be needed — and leaned upon — during different stretches this season. He probably will not need to throw 87 2/3 innings like he did in 2023. That’s fine, so long as the innings he logs in 2024 are quality. And, so far, they’ve been that. Strahm has the sixth-best strikeout rate among all MLB relievers. He’s something of a blank slate in 2024 because the inherent constraints of needing to start Strahm, then manage his innings afterward, are gone. Maybe he’ll return to a multi-inning fireman role the Phillies envisioned when they signed him.

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Stock Down

Seranthony Domínguez

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Seranthony Domínguez’s struggles have pushed him down the bullpen pecking order. (Eric Hartline / USA Today)

There are 422 pitchers who have faced at least 25 batters this season. Domínguez ranks 404th among them in first-strike percentage. Every diagnosis of what has derailed Domínguez has to begin with this: He has thrown a first-pitch strike to less than half of the hitters he’s seen in 2024.

He’s pitched 12 times this season. His first pitch in seven of those outings has been a ball. Here is the weird part: He has not allowed a homer in two weeks and, despite the lack of early strikes, he’s walked only three batters all season. Hitters haven’t let it reach that point. They have punished Domínguez’s mistakes. He’s allowed a .758 slugging percentage on pitches in the strike zone. That figure was .478 a season ago and .374 in 2022.

Often, the Phillies tell their pitchers (especially their relievers) to trust their stuff. Throw it down the middle. Don’t aim. Let the natural movement of the pitches work. It’s understandable if Domínguez doesn’t trust that method right now. A cascading effect comes from always being behind in the count.

A hard reset isn’t simple. Domínguez has more than five years of big-league service time and can reject an optional assignment to the minors. It’s not as if Domínguez has looked unsalvageable. There has been some good to pick among all of the bad. But it’s difficult to see how the Phillies can use him in an important late-game situation for the next week or two.

Cristopher Sánchez

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Cristopher Sánchez lacked a feel for his go-to pitch, the changeup, at times in April. (Katie Stratman / USA Today)

Maybe this is an example of overthinking it. Sánchez, last season, surprised everyone with a sinker-changeup combination that was often precise. He dialed back his stuff to gain more command. It made him an intriguing pitcher who looked like he could make another jump in 2024.

So, the Phillies asked Sánchez to see how far he could push it. He came to spring training even stronger. He threw harder. He added a cutter as another weapon for righty hitters. That could help him navigate an opposing lineup three times in a start.

There have been unintended consequences: The cutter bled into the moneymaker changeup, and he’s lacked a feel for that pitch in April. He did not have it in Monday night’s start against the Angels; it made Sánchez a two-pitch pitcher and he deserves credit for grinding through five innings on that. It’s not as if the changeup was missing all month. He registered at least four strikeouts on the changeup in three of his starts earlier in April.

But batters have swung-and-missed at only four Sánchez pitches in his past two starts. Everything hinges on the changeup, which is a feel pitch. It’ll be fun to see if Sánchez can make the proper adjustment and continue on a track to being a reliable back-of-the-rotation pitcher.

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(Top photo of Aaron Nola: Matt Slocum / Associated Press)





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