Some Reason for Optimism
It’s May 24 and the Phillies are in last place. They are barely scoring more runs than they allow, their two best hitters are injured, their bullpen is among the worst in the league, and their starting lineups have included spring training cast-offs (Juan Pierre) and other teams’ scrap (Mike Fontenot). It is quite easy to feel pessimistic about the season. Please, allow me the opportunity to turn your frown upside-down.
The Phillies are .500 and only 4.5 games behind the division leader while in last place. Other teams in last place include the Red Sox at 5.5 GB (in a similar situation as the Phillies), the Angels at 7 GB, the Cubs and Twins at 10 GB, and the Padres are 14.5 games out. On this date last year, the division leaders included only three teams that went on to clinch their division. The Brewers were in third place at 3.5 games out on May 24 last year, and went on to win the NL Central.
Due to many reasons, the Phillies have traditionally been a second-half team. We need only go back to the 2007 and ’08 seasons when the Phillies surged in September to overtake the then-division-leading New York Mets. In ’07, they were seven games out of first place on September 12, but went 13-4 the rest of the way to clinch the NL East on the last day of the season. Likewise in ’08, the Phillies were 3.5 games behind on September 10, but finished the season 13-3 to win the division by three games.
Here’s a look at how the Phillies fared through 45 games, and how they performed afterwards from 2006 through last year.
|First 45 Games||Rest of Season|
|Year||Win %||Run Diff||Win %||Run Diff|
The Phillies never outscored the opposition by more than 60 runs through 45 games. In fact, they were +30 or better in only two seasons. Meanwhile, they outscored their opponents by 100 runs or more in the final 117 games in five of the previous six seasons.
Does this mean the 2012 Phillies are definitely going to continue the trend? No, not at all. But the potential is there and the division is, as they say, “very winnable”. The Phillies have plenty of opportunities for upward momentum when Chase Utley and Ryan Howard come back, when Jimmy Rollins finds his swing, and when the bullpen regresses up to its mean. Who knows, maybe Ruben Amaro acquires a star player at the deadline for a fourth consecutive year and that helps spur the Phillies to another successful second half. With May almost over, the Phillies’ season-to-date may have been disappointing, but it is far too early to abandon ship.