We are back with another 97.3 ESPN Phillies Mailbag.  The Phillies are set to begin the 2024 season!  We take your questions each week all season long and answer them on The Sports Bash with Mike Gill.  Tune in each Tuesday afternoon to hear your questions answered on the air.

If the Phillies are going to be successful this season, how many games do Wheeler and Nola need to win?
~Post 224 Baseball

The Phillies go into 2024 with perhaps the best 1-2 punch in all of baseball.  Both players would be the number one pitcher on many, if not most teams in all of baseball.  That said, I would not worry so much about their win totals.

Zack Wheeler has been the model of consistency in the last four seasons, after signing a five-year contract in late 2019.  Yet, he has not won 15 games in a season each of those four seasons. Aaron Nola has won more than 12 games just once in his career.

Win totals can be decieving.

What matters:  Are they consistently pitching?  Are they going deep into games?  Even when they don't take the victory, does their team win?   In an era of pitch counts, pitchers do not get something in the win column after pitching seven scoreless innings and depart with a tied score.  That's pretty good.

I think that if both pitchers are healthy, the team will win more of their starts than they lose.  And that could be enough for the Phillies to win the National League East.  If not that, a Wild Card is well in reach.

And we have seen how they can do if they head to the playoffs anchoring a playoff rotation.

Could the Phillies take a look at Trevor Bauer? He's willing to play for minimum deal with incentives and he's been cleared and his suspension is over.

I do not believe that the Phillies are interested in Trevor Bauer.  It's very true that Bauer was involved in a legal proceeding.  As he notes in this statement, he was never arrested or charged with a crime.   I think that if we even forget this particular incident altogether, the Phillies might not be interested.

Nonetheless, Bauer at least admits to "mistakes" as he attempted to clear his reputation and entice a team to take him into their organization.  So far, no team has taken the opportunity.

My guess is that it's not so much the allegations levied against him in that particular case, so much as how things went with his former teams.  You might remember that in his 10-year career, Bauer played for four teams.  I tend to think that if the experience any of those four organizations had with Bauer was a good one, they would welcome him back with open arms.

Let's also remember that Phillies pitching coach Caleb Cotham was assistant pitching coach for the Cincinnati Reds during Bauer's time in Cincinnati.  He would know better than anyone.  Cotham worked with Bauer during the truncated 2020 season in which Bauer earned the National League Cy Young Award.

I tend to think that if Cotham was really convinced that Bauer could help the Phillies, they might take a shot.

I read that the Phillies Bullpen was ranked #1 in MLB. Is that legit or will going into the season with no defined closers come back to haunt this team later this year.

It is true: the baseball website Fangraphs has completed their projections for players for the 2024 season.  When it comes to fWAR, the Phillies are projected to have the highest total of any team.  That should not be too much of a surprise, seeing how the Phillies have performed the last couple seasons.

It is also true the Phillies do not have a "closer" per se.  They did not to open the 2023 season, either.  And then back in 2022, it was Corey Knebel who was officially the closer at the start of the season.    The Phillies had a good amount of success these two seasons, and the bullpen was just fine.

I think that the end of the 2022 season really would be what the Phillies are hoping for.  Serathony Dominguez to close the game out against tough right-handed bats.  Jose Alvarado to close out the game against tough left-handed bats.  When both are available on any given day, the eighth and ninth innings will be set up accordingly.

For me the only big question will be what the Phillies have in young arms Orion Kerkering and Connor Brogdon.   With Kerkering on the injured list to start the season, Brogdon will get the first opportunity on the roster.  It may be unclear what they will get from Brogdon, if anything.

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