Forget about the Wild-Card. Forget about the 2nd Wild-Card. The device that was supposed to open up the playoffs to many more baseball cities isn’t going to help the Phillies. But they’re only 5.5 games out! Doesn’t matter. It’s all about who can be caught. The Reds are 53-42. If they play .500 the rest of the way, that puts them at about 87 wins. To win 87 games the Phillies must go 39-27. You might be able to talk yourself into that, but why would Cincinnati suddenly play .500 ball? There’s a better chance they finish near their pace of 90 wins. To get there, the Phillies need to go 42-24. Now, the numbers are getting a bit troublesome.
The Phillies don’t look to me to be a team who is going to win 86-90 games. It took their best stretch of the season just to get back to .500. With all the teams vying for the wild-card, you’d expect at least one or two to get hot and push the needed win total well into the upper 80s–at least. The Phillies won’t sniff that level, but thanks to the worst division in baseball, there is a chance 85 (maybe 84? puke) wins might get a team into the post-season. Could it happen? It’s the Phillies’ only shot.
NL East Tidbits:
- Cumulative (-97) run differential. AL East? +164.
- Home to the Marlins, who win 37% of their games.
- Home to Miami and Washington–the two Worst offenses in the NL
- Home to the Phillies, worst bullpen ERA in the NL (4.39)
- Since starting 13-2, the 1st place Braves are 41-39.
How did we so badly forecast the NL East? The Nationals were supposed to be a juggernaut. The Braves had assembled the youngest, most dynamic outfield in baseball. At least we pundits were right about the Marlins. They do stink, and yet they went the entire month of June being the best team in the division. Will the mediocrity continue? Let’s take a look….
Atlanta: 54-41, 4.36 runs per game, 3.29 Team ERA.
What’s gone right: The Braves bullpen has been predictably dominant, Justin Upton carried them to a hot start, Freddie Freeman has picked up a lot of slack for slumping players and they hit homers.
What’s gone wrong: B.J. Upton (.177) has been a total disaster. His brother has completely cooled off, there’s no true ace on the starting staff and the DL has been a popular landing spot for some big names.
How they finish with 85 wins: It’d take a collapse. They’d finish 31-36 and even after cooling off, the Braves have been better than that. One more arm going to the DL would hurt, but the more likely cause would be the Braves dying the long ball. The Braves have a few guys like Dan Uggla (18 homers) who are contributing despite low batting averages and on-base percentages. If the power numbers dry up, the Braves offense could go right in the tank.
Washington: 48-47, 3.75 runs per game, 3.58 Team ERA.
What’s gone right: Not much. The pitching has still been very good, but not as good as last year, when it was other-worldly. Jordan Zimmermann leads a strong top-3 and Bryce Harper has shown flashes of superstardom when healthy.
What’s gone wrong: Adam LaRoche didn’t back up his career year. Denard Span has been a disappointment in CF, and Dan Haren was a train wreck as the 5th starter.
How they finish with 85 wins: Status quo for the most part. The Nationals are a bit like the 2010-11 Phillies with an even worse offense. Gonzalez, Strasburg and Zimmermann will win their share, but to get to 88-90 wins the Nationals will have to score more runs. I don’t see where the offense will come from.
Philadelphia: 48-48, 3.86 runs per game, 4.03 ERA.
What’s gone right: Cliff Lee, Chase Utley knees have been healthy, Dom Brown emerged as an everyday player and prior to getting hurt, Ben Revere had settled in as a viable CF/leadoff option. Not to mention, the numbers say the Phillies should be at least 3 or 4 games worse off, so perhaps some luck…
What’s gone wrong: Ryan Howard can’t stay on the field (and is mostly ineffective when he does play), Cole Hamels was erratic for the 1st three months, and the injuries continue to mount: Ruiz, Halladay, Revere. Let’s not forget the bullpen–which is terrible.
How they finish with 85 wins: The Phils would have to go 37-29, which isn’t outrageous, but they’d still need some bounces. Primarily, they’d need a return to dominant starting pitching form. Hamels must join Lee as an ace, Lannan and Kendrick must continue to pitch well and they might even need Doc to come back and contribute in Pettibone’s slot for the last month. They’ll also need their bullpen to blow as few games as possible. I just don’t see the offense,with Revere out and other gaping holes, carrying them when the next injury could be right around the corner.
How it plays out:
The Phillies looked dead to me a few weeks ago. I honestly never saw Revere contributing at the level he was, Delmon Young getting hot and Lannan/Pettibone avoiding a weekly shelling. So, they certainly out-performed expectations to get back to 48-48. But, like I said, that hot streak just got them to the outskirts of the race. Will they keep it up? The early schedule isn’t favorable. NY (vs. Wheeler and Harvey) and then St. Louis, Detroit, SF and Atlanta as they come out of the break. That’s 15 games where independent of everything you’d probably take a 8-7 run, but that would leave the Phillies at just 1 game over .500 and suddenly there’s only 50 games left. Not to mention the trade deadline falls in the middle of this stretch.
I don’t think the Phillies will sell, barring a quick 2-7 run here. Like I’ve outlined, the division is just too tantalizing. But, as I predicted at the outset of the season, I don’t think the Phillies quite have enough. I don’t see an answer in the bullpen, I think 3B becomes a problem by September and John Mayberry Jr. won’t cut it as an everyday player. The Nationals are dead in the water, but I think Atlanta can keep it together enough to get close to 90 wins and hold off the Phillies. And, two teams out of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, LA are going to outplay the Phils down the stretch as well.