Phillies vs Nationals Prediction Today | MLB Odds, Picks for Sunday, August 20
Pictured: Zack Wheeler. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Phillies vs Nationals Odds
Not exactly the most enticing Sunday Night Baseball matchup as the Nationals host the Phillies in our nation's capital.
However, I am excited to watch Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler.
I think Wheeler shoves today, and that's where my best bet for this game lies.
Over the past two weeks, the Phillies boast a 131 wRC+.
It doesn't look like a fluke, either. During this stretch, the Phillies are pulling the ball more (48.2%), barrelling the ball more (11.1%), and hitting more line drives (25.3%). That's a rock-solid batted ball profile.
Trea Turner has been a weak link, but he's finally seen some success in August, slashing .303/.352/.576 for a .928 OPS.
Turner is one of only two Phillies in the regular nine-man lineup with a below-average OPS (Edmundo Sosa), so his positive regression is much needed.
I'm skeptical about crediting the Phillies fans for Turner's resurgence:
Philadelphia fans give Trea Turner a standing ovation to show that they still support him through his tough season pic.twitter.com/fkSb14wRcQ
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) August 4, 2023
But we can't ignore the numbers:
Trea Turner received the famed standing ovation from Phillies fans on August 4th.
A little kindness goes a long way!pic.twitter.com/2VBdhAS6Ke
— MLB Deadline News (@MLBDeadlineNews) August 20, 2023
I'm still waiting for Jose Alvarado to return, as a fully healthy Phillies bullpen is one of the best in baseball. But the Phillies have held their own in that department without him.
The Phillies' pitching has kept them in the pole NL Wildcard position. They've managed to win close games with good pitching in high-leverage situations.
Starting pitcher: Zack Wheeler (RHP)
Wheeler had his early-season struggles, but I always expected him to bounce back. There was nothing in his underlying statistical profile to indicate he had regressed.
Instead, Wheeler's defense was letting him down. His defense has cost him -5 Runs Prevented and -6 Outs Above Average, both bottom-10 marks among qualified starting pitchers.
However, the Phillies have started playing Bryce Harper at first, meaning they can (mercifully) pull Kyle Schwarber from left field, where he was the worst defensive outfielder in MLB. Instead, Jake Cave or Brandon Marsh can play in left field, providing a solid boost to the Phillies defensively.
That helps the Phillies' projections overall, and it really helps Wheeler.
Wheeler boasts a 2.20 ERA and a .555 OPS against over his past five starts. He's struck out 34 batters and allowed only 23 hits and seven walks over those 32 2/3 innings.
Wheeler has also pitched at least six innings in seven consecutive starts, combining his elite stuff with his workhorse potential. He's a great pitcher.
The Nationals are a patient, smart lineup. They also boast a solid top-of-the-order in CJ Abrams, Lane Thomas, Joey Meneses and Stone Garrett.
Unfortunately, these Nats don't hit the ball very hard and are only effective against southpaws. The Nats boast a .300 xwOBA against righties over the past month, putting the ball on the ground far too often.
I think the Nats are a sneaky "good bad" team, but I don't love them in this matchup.
Starting pitcher: Trevor Williams (RHP)
Trevor Williams is a replacement-level arm. He has exactly 0.0 fWAR across 117 2/3 innings pitched this season, boasting an xERA north of 5.50.
I thought Williams had turned a corner mid-season when he started using his slider more, resulting in an uptick in strikeouts and performance.
Alas, those improvements have not sustained themselves. That happens when you carry an 81 Stuff+ rating across your arsenal. Williams simply doesn't have MLB-level stuff, getting by on short stretches due to short-term changes in approach.
Williams has allowed 20 earned runs over his past 19 innings pitched. MLB hitters adjust.
Phillies vs. Nationals
Betting Pick & Prediction
The Phillies have a monster starting pitching advantage behind Wheeler, who has returned to a Cy Young level with a better defense. Meanwhile, Williams could even be construed as overvalued, given he's regressing further.
The Phillies have been crushing the ball with much of their damage coming against right-handed pitching. Meanwhile, the Nationals can't hit right-handed pitching to save their life.
I am not as confident in my full-game projection, given the Nationals bullpen is playing well, and the Phillies are still a tad shorthanded.
However, I am willing to drink a ton of juice with the Phillies in the first half. The offensive, defensive, and pitching advantages for Philly in the first five frames are enormous.