Phillies Surmount 500-to-1 Odds Against — UPDATED

You read right. 500-to-1. They were that much an underdog on September 12, seven games behind the New York Mets in the National League East (Baseball Prospectus goes over some of the biggest collapses here, and mentions this year’s playoff hunt).

Today, on October 1, the Mets are officially out of the playoffs (the second-worst collapse in baseball history, after the 1964 Phillies and the worst since divisional play began in 1969), while the Phillies are officially in for the first time since 1993.

I’ve mentioned in other articles of mine the vicious rash of injuries the team has endured. I have also mentioned the insane luck against them when they lost to the Braves on September 5. And I have mentioned how many games the bullpen has blown.

And hell, even I was disheartened at one point. But I’m a fan of the Phillies — can you blame me?

The 500-to-1 odds really undershoots what the Phillies did, though.

  • They lost to cancer the one man most emblematic of the Phillies franchise — John Vukovich — on March 8 and wore “VUK” on their sleeves all season.
  • Jayson Werth thought his baseball career might have been over before he signed with the Phillies.
  • Before the season started, Jimmy Rollins declared that the Phillies were “the team to beat” and they started off 4-11.
  • Manager Charlie Manuel berated “journalist” Howard Eskin and was on the “hot seat” until about mid-season.
  • The coaching staff acted rashly and moved their then-ace Brett Myers to the bullpen to pitch the 8th inning (when Tom Gordon went down with an injury, Myers moved to closer).
  • Ryan Howard, the reigning NL MVP, had a horrible April (.390 SLG) and then missed two weeks from May 10 to 24.
  • Pat Burrell had a mind-bogglingly awful first-half of the season (.408 SLG).
  • They started the season with six starting pitchers (Garcia, Lieber, Hamels, Eaton, Myers, Moyer). By season’s end, only one of them would not spend a day on the disabled list — the 44-year-old, who ended up pitching Sunday’s game, the biggest Phillies game in 14 years. In addition, the Phillies set a club record for most pitchers used in a season (28).
  • More than a month after moving Myers to the bullpen, he got injured closing out a game in Florida and missed the next two months. By season’s end, nine Phillies have recorded saves (Myers, Alfonseca Gordon, Condrey, Madson, Mesa, Rosario, Durbin, Ennis).
  • Wes Helms showed himself to be a free agent bust, and saw his playing time significantly reduced in the last two months in favor of the offense of Greg Dobbs and defense of Abraham Nunez.
  • The franchise reached 10,000 losses on July 15.

And despite ALL of that…

  • The Phillies won the most games in a season (89) since 1993 (97).
  • Jimmy Rollins, en route to a possible and likely NL MVP award, recorded the fourth 20 2B/20 3B/20 HR/20 SB season in baseball history, joining Curtis Granderson (also achieved this year), Willie Mays, and Frank Schulte. In addition, he played in all 162 games, and set records in at-bats and plate appearances, surpassing Willie Wilson and Lenny Dykstra, respectively.
  • Pat Burrell followed up his awful first half with an amazing second half (1.016 OPS) and finished the season with at least 30 HR for the third time in his eight-year career.
  • Ryan Howard followed up his awful first half with an amazing second half (1.016 OPS) and finished the season with 47 HR and led the National League with 136 RBI.
  • The Phillies overcame the one-month loss of then-MVP candidate Chase Utley to a hand injury when Pat Gillick made a quick acquisition of Tadahito Iguchi, who instantly took to the red pinstripes.
  • The Phillies overcame the three-week loss (and light use following his return) of Shane Victorino, and the six-week loss of Michael Bourn (both lost in the same game in Chicago) with the help of Jayson Werth (.950 second-half OPS), who at one point hit safely in nine straight at-bats, breaking Pete Rose’s mark of 8 at-bats.
  • The starting rotation changed from Hamels, Moyer, Lieber, Garcia, and Eaton at the start of the season to Hamels, Moyer, Kendrick, Lohse, and Eaton by season’s end. Kendrick is a solid candidate for some third-place Rookie of the Year votes.
  • J.C. Romero put up an insane 369 ERA+. A 100 ERA+ is considered league-average.
  • The Phillies led the league in humanitarian efforts.
  • In their campaign against the Mets, the Phillies beat them in eight consecutive games, including sweeps of a four-game series in Philadelphia and a three-game series in New York.
  • 44-year-old Jamie Moyer, born in Sellersville, PA, pitched the biggest game for his hometown team since 1993. He went 5 and one-third innings, giving up only one unearned run on five hits and no walks, striking out six.

There were far too many great storylines for this year’s Philadelphia Phillies, and far too much going against them. Yet they persevered. It couldn’t have happened to a more likable group of guys or a more deserving group of fans.

Advantage: Phillies

The San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies play a one-game playoff to determine the Wild Card winner at Coors Field tonight. The Padres will send Cy Young candidate Jake Peavy (176 ERA+) to the mound to face Rockies starter Josh Fogg (99 ERA+).

This is beneficial for the Phillies for a few reasons.

  • Both teams will be at the disadvantage of having played an extra game, adding to the risk of injury, and adding to the already high level of fatigue in most of the players.
  • If the Padres win, they will have burned their “ace in the hole” in Peavy until at least Game 3 of the NLDS. It’s even more beneficial when you consider that the Padres’ starting rotation hasn’t been great. Chris Young, for example, has a 5.96 ERA since returning from his injury. Meanwhile, the Phillies will have their ace, Cole Hamels, pitching Game 1 and likely Game 4.
  • While not a long flight, the Padres are at another disadvantage for having to go on the road. The Phillies get to rest until Wednesday.

Give ‘em Credit

The Phillies’ 2007 run at the post-season will forever be linked to the biggest divisional collapse in baseball history by the New York Mets. Due to this fact, the Phillies will likely not be given much credit for winning themselves so much as winning by default because of the Mets’ inadequacies.

The Phillies played .623 baseball in August and September, and, as mentioned, beat the Mets in eight consecutive games. Not only was this due to the Phillies’ league-best offense, but the settling down of the pitching staff. They had their occasional bad games, but nothing like the first half when it was commonplace. Since September 13, the Phillies have given up 68 total runs in those 17 games, an average of exactly 4 runs per game, more than a full run better than their seasonal average of 5.07 runs per game.

While the Mets definitely were in a position to cinch the deal in the NL East, let’s give credit where credit is due — to the Philadelphia Phillies.

When Words Aren’t Enough

Yahoo! has some great pictures from the Associated Press, Reuters, and Getty Images.

The Phillies website has some great video footage.

When Words Are Enough

The blogosphere’s reaction to the Phillies and the Mets, looking towards the post-season:

When Words Are Too Much

From SI.com:

[…]Hall of Fame announcer Harry Kalas sang “High Hopes” over the public address system.

You have to have seen and heard it to appreciate it. Kalas won’t be on American Idol any time soon, but it was a moment where every one of his off-key notes sounded infinitely harmonic.

Please advise me if a video of this is posted on the Internets!

CrashburnAlley [at] Gmail [dot] com.

UPDATE: Thanks to an E-Mailer, here is the Harry Kalas video!

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3 comments

  1. DMtShooter

    October 01, 2007 02:09 PM

    It’s a nice story and all, but please don’t go so far as to call them a terribly likable bunch of guys. If Rollins was a Met, his team to beat stuff would be rubbed in his nose right now, and the next person who calls Brett Myers likable can have the first three letters of r-e-t-a-r-d spotted for him in a game of Idiot Hangman.

    They’re a fun team that fought like hell; thanks to the Padres-Rockies wild-card game and the NL being a blanket of 85 to 90 win teams, they are genuinely dangerous. Let’s not go further than that, please.

  2. mark mumford

    October 02, 2007 11:33 AM

    one of my most vivid memories as a yon teen evolving in north philadelphia was taking the subway down broad, then walking back into the neighborhood to catch the phillies at connie mack stadium during the legendary skid of ’64.

    there were plenty of seats dead behind beams, but they were prime. we were sitting on the stone steps between the sections of seats. the joint was jumpin…

    i witnessed two of the 10 lost in a gut wrenching row. check this out! one of those, we watched the phillies lose 1-0 when a dude from the giants stole home.

    the vibe of that season feels as real and fresh today, to me, as it did 43 years ago. the warning light is always just the briefest of gaps from illuminating in the back of my mind whenever any team i am rooting for, and there have been many, from baseball to volleyball, lots of volleyball, appears to be closing in on “sure victory”. the’64 phillies were the master zen teachers of the “no sure” philosophy of competition.

    at any rate, getting back to this millenium, the 2007 phillies are among my favorites. they seem to be way under the league minimum for a-holes, and they seem to actually appreciate and enjoy pulling down some serious dough, while playing some baseball.

    this should be a great series with the rockies. two teams that appear to be on missions. tell that dude down at the shore who harvests that secret mud that they rub up the balls with to get out there and start scooping 24/7, because balls will be launching on an o’hare-like schedule at the bank and at coors.

    peace…phillyaztec

  3. billbaer

    October 02, 2007 02:37 PM

    DMT, Rollins is one of the most popular guys in basball, both on the field and off. But you are right about Myers, he isn’t the most popular guy outside of Philadelphia to say the least.

    Mark, thanks for sharing. The left-handers of the Rockies scare me a bit, so Burrell and Rowand become very important in this series.

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