Down but Certainly Not Out

Losing four in a row to a Houston Astros team that, entering, was 54-69 (.439) is not an achievement that sits well in the minds of Phillies fans. Scoring a total of seven runs in the series sits even worse.

The lack of offense caused the Phillies to go from having a 47% chance of making the playoffs to merely 26% currently, according to CoolStandings.com. Baseball Prospectus is a bit kinder, bumping their chances up to 29%.

Via CoolStandings.com:

DIV – chance of winning the Division
WC – chance of winning the Wild Card
POFF – chance of making the Playoffs

On the other hand, let’s not forget that the Phillies still have three games against the fading Los Angeles Dodgers and the non-contending Milwaukee Brewers, seven against the average Florida Marlins and six against the average New York Mets, and six against the cellar-dwelling Washington Nationals. Most importantly, though, the Phillies still have six games to play against the division-leading Atlanta Braves while only trailing by three games. If the Phillies pick up one game on the Braves in the non-head-to-head match-ups and take four of six from the Braves, they’ll end up in a tie for the division lead.

Seem unlikely? It doesn’t sound like it, especially with the Phillies, who overcame a seven-game deficit with 17 games left in the 2007 season. On September 11, 2008, the Phillies were three games behind with 19 games to play and ended up winning the division by three games — a total swing of six games. With 35 games left to play, the Phils have plenty of time to play catch-up.

Many are starting to count the Phillies out. It’s a bit premature to be doing that.

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17 comments

  1. Ken

    August 27, 2010 09:08 AM

    I consider the schedule secondary in looking ahead. Not irrelavant, mind you. You could have written the piece Sunday, and presented an even rosier scenario by adding Houston to it. What matters more is how a club is playing. The starting pitching is okay, good at the top, offset by relative weakness at the bottom. Maybe Worley gets a start next weekend and outperforms recent Kendrick work. The bullpen is certainly better than it’s been. The concentration level is yuck. Two pickoffs negate rallies, and who’s to say we don’t score in those scenarios and get off this 2 runs in 7 of 8 schneid. If we’re playing better, which ism’t terribly far off, it matters a lot less who we play.

  2. Bill Baer

    August 27, 2010 09:12 AM

    The starting pitching isn’t “okay” — it’s great, Joe Blanton included. Kyle Kendrick is about as good as or slightly better than the average #5 pitcher in the National League.

    I consider the pick-offs of Werth and Francisco to be flukes that aren’t really representative of anything.

  3. JB Allen

    August 27, 2010 10:55 AM

    Eduardo Perez pointed out the Phils’ mediocre record against bad teams this year (21-19, I think), saying that it indicates a lack of focus. Do you agree, or is this too small a sample size to draw any conclusions?

  4. Ted

    August 27, 2010 11:11 AM

    Despite losing the series to the Astros, there are still plenty of positives to take away:

    1) Starting pitching
    Joe Blanton gave up one run, Hamels gave up 2 (all off one mistake pitch), Halladay gave up 3 (he’s not going to pitch a SHO every time but his pitch count was ridiculously low and could have gotten the CG under 100 pitches), and KK did what 5th starters do, give up 4 runs in 6 innings.

    2) Bullpen pitching
    A lot of people might like to point to Madson giving up the lead in the 8th during the first game, but the truth is a bad call and bad luck played a part the runs scored against Madson. Madson got the strikeout with runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out and then got unlucky with a broken bat blooper into shallow left field. Other than both Madson and Lidge have been pitching extremely effectively recently. Does this mean they won’t give up runs in the future? Absolutely not, it would be foolish to think so, but the back-end of the bullpen is certainly carrying their weight.

    3) Chase Utley is slowly progressing back. While he isn’t quite performing up to his normal standards he seems to be getting some of his timing back, which hopefully eventually means power. Additionally, he’s started to get some hits off lefties and has resumed taking his share of walks which is definitely a good thing.

    Some not so positives:

    1) Ryan Howard
    Remember when we were angry at Howard earlier for not striking out and always hitting singles? LoL miss that much? He’s striking out a ton, can’t pick up offspeed pitches, has zero power, and can’t even begin to hit lefties let alone right handers.

    2) Shane Victorino
    To be honest, I don’t know how Charlie can keep marching Shane out there day in and day out against right handers. Shane is hitting a disgusting .222 against right handers this season. Over his past ten games he has two hits off right handers, both singles and one was an infield single. On the other hand, he has completely destroyed lefties hitting well over .300. I know this might sound dumb, but Charlie should really consider a platoon of Victorino and Brown. Brown might be a rookie, but anything is better than watching Shane vs right handers. Victorino vs righties always ends with them pitching him inside and a popup on the infield or shallow outfield.

  5. Scott G

    August 27, 2010 12:18 PM

    Bill,

    I’m sure you’ve read “The Book” by Tom Tango. I think you remember seeing you reference it on here. He sites that the most important spots in the lineup are 2 & 4, followed closely by 1, then 3 & 5. I think it’s inexcusable for Charlie to keep Jimmy and Shane at the top of the lineup. Utley should bat second, Howard fourth, and either Werth, Polanco, or Ruiz bat first. Yes I’m serious. It’s very important for people to get on base for Utley and Howard and whomever else bats in the major run producing slots. With Utley 2 and Howard 4, it also splits up those two, and would force the opposing manager’s hand in certain instances. So, tell Charlie what’s up.

    People laugh at moving Ruiz that high in the lineup. His discipline is very good, and I don’t care if you don’t keep speed at the very top of the lineup. You very rarely steal with Utley and Howard up anyway for fear of taking the bats out of their hands. Why not keep speed in the bottom of the lineup where the hitters are worse, and it clearly would help “make things happen”?

  6. Joe D

    August 27, 2010 12:23 PM

    I am shocked that we still rank 12th in the NL in Home Runs. This above all things has been our downfall on offense. In days of yore (07, 08, 09) we could have 6 hits but 5 runs because of the long ball. Now it’s 6 hits and 1 run and we are out. Shocking that all 8 position players are below their 09 & 08 pace for HRs.

  7. MikeC

    August 27, 2010 12:32 PM

    @Joe D, home runs are down all around the league. I think it hits home for the Phillies because the HR is so critical for their success. Remember the last couple of years when our big complaint was that they couldn’t score without the HR? Well, I dare say we are now seeing just how bad it could get.

  8. bill

    August 27, 2010 01:37 PM

    Not to continue the “downer” talk but anybody else think Victorino’s swing is screwed up when he’s batting left-handed? As an earlier poster said he’s hitting awful against righties, and his approach just looks all wrong.

  9. Sanj

    August 27, 2010 01:49 PM

    The Phils need to try platooning Werth and Dom, and I DON’T MEAN LEFTY-RIGHTY pitching matchups. Instead, they should allow Werth to bat when the bases are empty, but bring Dom in when men are on base, especially with runners in scoring position. The offense should immediately average double digit runs per game.

  10. Sanj

    August 27, 2010 02:00 PM

    I know there are a lot of stat guys on this blog, so let me clarify my comment. The run production will increase significantly as Dom Brown gets more at bats and is more involved in the everyday lineup. At the rate at which he is going, he will likely hit 20-25 upper deck HRs each year and break the arms of every ACE pitcher in the division. That should add roughly 8-10 wins.

  11. CH Phan

    August 27, 2010 02:16 PM

    Thanks for the upbeat post, Bill. Seems most of what I’ve read today has not been like this. I’m no rosy optimist and I’m not much for the word “faith” (I hear blindness in it somehow). But I believe in realistically allowing professionals to do their jobs. Leave them alone, they’ll work it out. They want to probably even more than we want them to.

    That 4 series loss was…tough to watch, tough to take. But I felt as though the Astros were playing their own personal WS & the Phillies somehow just wanted to get it overwith and toward the big stuff. Not a good feeling by any means, but I didn’t feel or read as much into the losses as it seems so many bloggers did.

    I’m not sure I understand the desire to use Domonic Brown more, especially not right now. Used recently he hasn’t been incredibly effective either at the plate or on defense: Avg .229; AB 48; G 22; H 11; HR 2; RBI 12; SB 1; CS 1. He needs practice (in play & in judgement) and I don’t know that now is the time to give it to him.

    I understand that it isn’t terribly fair to judge him on the small number of ABs in the pressured situation into which he’s been thrown. But hey – welcome to the Big Leagues in Phila, PA, bud. That’s why you get the big paycheck (in the neighborhood of $950,000).

    In any case, I guess Charlie will make that decision and we’ll see.

  12. CH Phan

    August 27, 2010 02:44 PM

    One thing more about Brown: I may live to eat my words but I doubt that Domonic Brown is the savior so many want him to be. The astronomical numbers expected and amazing attributes wanted are I guess based on minor league numbers and a synthesis of superhero phenomena not of this world, let alone a rookie, 22 yr old.

    If there’s anything reality should’ve taught fans by now it’s that the Big Leagues are not the minors, and nobody can live up to the kind of expectations so many Phillies fans have for Brown.

    Injuries have claimed some rookies this season, including Strasburg who may be down for the count. But there are a boatload of other rookies who have been really good: Mike Leake, Buster Posey, Jaimie Garcia, Mike Stanton, Brennan Boesch, Mitch Talbot, Neftali Feliz, and even after the heinous hype Jason Heyward hasn’t been bad. If he can do what some of them have, we’ll be able to count ourselves among the lucky.

  13. Bill Baer

    August 27, 2010 03:02 PM

    To be fair, Domonic Brown has only logged 52 PA with a triple-slash line of .229/.231/.396 (.627 OPS).

    Chase Utley, in his first 52 MLB plate appearances, had a triple-slash line of .255/.308/.383 (.691 OPS).

  14. Scott G

    August 27, 2010 04:15 PM

    No opinions about the batting order not being optimized? Using logic alone, you want high OBP guys in front of sluggers. Rollins and Victorino are not high OBP guys.

  15. Duane

    August 28, 2010 01:22 AM

    Oh man….. what is that Sanj guy talking about? Dom Brown breaking peoples arms and hitting double deck homeruns? Automatically worth an extra 8-10 wins? Where is the evidence to back that up? He’s a great potential talent, but he needs work in the field and at the plate. He’d lose us some of those 8-10 games you are assuming in errors made on the field.

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