As their celebratory postgame song loosely describes, the Philadelphia Phillies are ‘dancing on their own’ with the National League pennant. And their run to the World Series was as improbable as they come.
Despite being the last Wild Card team to clinch their postseason ticket, losing 9 of their last 15 to end the regular season, and firing their manager Joe Girardi midseason, the financial breakdown of the team is the most logical aspect of the NLCS champ.
According to Spotrac, the Phillies have the 4th-highest payroll, trailing the Mets by about $27 million.
More importantly, under the aggressive leadership of Dave Dombrowski, they actually lead the Astros by over $60 million.
One example of the difference in their roster makeup is their top 12 players in Baseball Reference WAR, where just 7 of which are homegrown talent, and their collective AAV this year is $137.7 million.
The Astros on the other hand were led by homegrown prospects outside of Justin Verlander and Ryne Stanek, totaling a collective $92.4 million.
But, money doesn’t always buy wins, which can certainly be told by the other members at the top of the team payroll charts. So how has the Phillies’ financial breakdown able to get them to this point?
It’s no secret that the biggest strength of this team is their hitting, but on a league-wide spectrum, their lineup never surmounted third place in the National League during the regular season.
As a team, they produced a .739 OPS (5th in NL), .253 BA (4th), 1,363 Ks (7th), and 205 HRs (4th).
While a significant factor of this was due to the reigning MVP Bryce Harper only playing in 99 games, this is the fear that comes with a power-based lineup: inconsistencies.
And these inconsistencies were apparent to the biggest free agent acquisition of the offseason for Philadelphia: Nick Castetllanos.
Castellanos (earning $20 million this season) and rookie shortstop Bryson Stott were the only 2 players to receive over 350 plate appearances and have an OPS+ under 100, which was out of character for the career .475 slugger.
But, if we look at what owners are more interested in potentially returning on their investment, it’s the postseason production, where the top earners have provided their worth.
Bryce Harper (18 for 43, 6 2B, 5 HR), Kyle Schwarber (7 for 35, 3 HR and 9 walks) and Rhys Hoskins (5 homers and 11 RBIs) have earned their paychecks ($54.3 million) for working overtime this season.
If those numbers aren’t advanced enough for you, just look at their championship win probability added in these playoffs alone, they netted a 25.9% difference.
On the flip side of the ball, the Phillies were known for having starting pitching built for the postseason moreso than a full 162.
Led by Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Ranger Suarez, the remaining starter spots were fought for throughout the end of the regular season, and despite Kyle Gibson making 31 starts and Zach Eflin throwing over 75 innings, Bailey Falter and Noah Syndergaard have filled the remaining starts.
This has led to a cost-effective formula, with Falter and Syndergaard combining for less than $8 million AAV, which has worked for three quality appearances for Syndergaard, but not so much for Falter who allowed 4 earned runs without completing an inning.
But the combination of offensive production and the outings put together by their big three made this a moot point, as they combined for a 2.17 ERA in 54 innings.
Plus, the cherry on top for this three-man rotation is the fact that Nola and Suarez being home-grown talent, and Wheeler being completely unlocked since signing with Philadelphia in 2020 has helped escape the conversations about their lack of retaining/tapping into pitching. Especially when it comes to the bullpen.
If an article about the Phillies before the second half of this year featured the word ‘bullpen’, it usually was not a fun read. But all of the sudden, Philadelphia has been able to rely on multiple options in the back end of the ‘pen.
This is thanks mostly to Seranthony Dominguez, Jose Alvarado and Eflin, who all appeared in 6 or more games this postseason and have recorded a save.
With the combination of retooling regular season starters for the bullpen and raising the role of certain members of the bullpen, the team has managed a 3.19 bullpen ERA in the postseason, which may not be the prettiest number, but it has been enough for the explosive offense.
And, as most bullpens are, the cost of these arms is the lowest of the three categories, as the highest contract of any bullpen arm is Brad Hand at $6 million AAV.