The Best Team Never to Win 90 Games

Looking at the Phillies’ records from present back to 2001 is interesting: not once have they won 90 or more games, but they’ve been in contention down to the very end in just about every season. They won 89 last season, and they’re at 89 now with five games left. Even better, the Phils have won 85 or more games every season since 2003. Could they be the best team never to win 90 games in a six- or eight-year span? They’d have to be up there especially if you add another qualifier — “never to win a post-season game.” Before last season, that qualifier would have been “never to make the playoffs.”

How much better is this year’s team compared to last year?

2008: 4.92 runs per game
2007: 5.51 runs per game (+0.59)

2008: 4.20 runs allowed per game
2007: 5.07 runs allowed per game (+0.87)

2008: 0.72 run differential
2007: 0.44 run differential (-0.28)

In the National League this season, only the Cubs are better in that respect.

How about a more in-depth look at the pitching?

2008: 4.26 starters’ ERA
2007: 4.91 starters’ ERA (+0.65)

2008: 3.29 relievers’ ERA
2007: 4.50 relievers’ ERA (+1.21)

Obviously, the biggest reason for the bullpen’s success is Brad Lidge, who has a 1.87 ERA and leads all relievers in WPA by far. Many are talking about Francisco Rodriguez as a viable candidate for the AL MVP, which is laughable, but if you’re going to include K-Rod, why not Brad Lidge? He’s certainly a much better candidate for MVP than Ryan “120 OPS+ compared to Albert Pujols’ 184 OPS+” Howard.

Is the post-season rotation improved over last season’s quintuplet of Hamels, Kendrick/Lohse (both in Game 2), and Moyer? The only difference is that Brett Myers will get Game 2 and, aside from his last start against the Marlins, has been immaculate since being called up from his demotion to the Minor Leagues.

The Phillies, as likely winners of the division, will end up playing the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round of the NL Division Series. In his only start against the Dodgers this season, Myers scattered 9 hits over 7 shut-out innings while walking 3 and striking out 8.

Hamels pitched against the Dodgers twice this season with eerily similar results. He pitched 7 innings in both, gave up 5 hits in both, and allowed two runs in both. The only differences were in walks and strikeouts: 2 BB, 7 K in the first one, 0 BB, 5 K in the second.

The Dodgers haven’t seen Jamie Moyer this year.

Lastly, one more item to look at as it relates to the playoffs: the Phillies, with five games left, have one more turn through the rotation before the NLDS starts on October 1. Hamels on the 23rd, Myers on the 24th, Blanton on the 26th, Moyer on the 27th, and Happ on the 28th. That means that Hamels and Myers will have plenty of rest in-between starts, at 7 days apiece.

Things are looking pretty good. Right now, the pressing questions are, “Who is going to be on the mound when the Phillies clinch?” and “How can they celebrate better than Brett Myers did last season?”

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