Another Look at the Phillies’ Playoff Chances

With a sweep of both yesterday’s double-header and the series overall with the Colorado Rockies, the Phillies moved to within six games of the second Wild Card in the National League. The 81-60 Atlanta Braves appear to be the presumptive first Wild Card winner, 5.5 games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals in second place. Behind the Cardinals are the Dodgers (1.5 games), Pirates (2.5), Brewers and Phillies (6.0), and Diamondbacks (6.5). In their last 10 games, the Phillies have gone 8-2 when they were previously considered dead in the water. Of the teams ahead of them, the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Pirates have losing records in the same span of time, creating some space for the Phillies to enter the mix.

Baseball Prospectus had the Phillies at 0.2 percent to make the playoffs before yesterday’s double-header (they haven’t yet updated), while Cool Standings puts them at 0.7 percent following the games. While 0.7 percent looks better than 0.0 percent, the difference is not that meaningful — the Phillies still have a long road ahead of them.

In prior looks at the playoff race here, we assumed that 89 wins would be the threshold for the second Wild Card, but as it stands currently, 87 wins would be enough. The Cardinals, currently in the lead, have a .536 winning percentage. In order for the Phillies to win the Wild Card at 87 games, no other team in the mix can win more than 86, obviously. So what is the minimum winning percentage for the Phillies, and what is the maximum winning percentage for the others?

The Phillies have to win at least 18 of their remaining 22 games, an .818 winning percentage. The Cardinals can play no better than .500 baseball at 11-11. The others can, at best, experience only moderate success.

Team W L Wpct
STL 11 11 .500
LAD 12 9 .571
PIT 14 9 .609
MIL 17 5 .773
ARI 17 4 .810
PHI* 18 4 .818

*Minimum winning percentage; others are maximum.

The Phillies’ remaining schedule is as follows:

  • Sept. 10-12 vs. Marlins (.447)
  • Sept. 13-16 @ Astros (.314)
  • Sept. 17-19 @ Mets (.464)
  • Sept. 21-23 vs. Braves (.574)
  • Sept. 25-27 vs. Nationals (.614)
  • Sept. 28-30 @ Marlins (.447)
  • Oct. 1-3 @ Nationals (.614)

Realistically, the Phillies would have to sweep the Marlins in both series, as well as the Astros and Mets, then win at least five of their nine remaining games with the Braves and Nationals. At any rate, finishing out the season at least 18-4 would bring them to 24-6 to close out the season, an .800 winning percentage. If the Phillies were to accomplish this feat, it would be more improbable and more impressive than each of their late-season runs to claim the NL East crown in 2007 and ’08. Even if it’s not likely, it is nice that the Phillies are still playing somewhat meaningful baseball in September after all of the adversity they went through in the previous five months.

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  1. mainlinemac

    September 10, 2012 08:00 AM

    When the obituary for the 2012 season is written, I hope it will be said that the Phillies went down fighting to the last game. Honestly, with as much difficulty as they had through June and early July, I’m just amazed that they’re still playing anywhere near close to contention.

    In the end though, I can’t just give up on this team.

  2. beisbol

    September 10, 2012 08:11 AM

    It should be noted that this analysis paints a bit of a bleaker scenario than the one the Phillies actually face. If their best wild card opponent amasses 86 wins, then the Phillies would need only 86 wins themselves (and not 87) to qualify for the playoffs. The (still quite small) chances of getting 86 rather than 87 wins is probably more than double.

    If 86 is the target, the Phils could get there by playing 6-3 against the Braves and Nationals (and the Nationals should already be playoff qualified by the time they play the Phils), and 11-2 against the Marlins, Mets and Astros.

    I think they’ll need 87, and I don’t think they’ll get there. But if they sweep the Marlins, it will get interesting. The Dodgers host the Cardinals for four games during the period the Phils play the Astros. Root for a 2-2 split, or for the Dodgers to win 3 ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Kunk

    September 10, 2012 08:13 AM

    Not that it helps anything, but all of those early season losses where better devised game management could have given the Phils a better chance to win really sting now.

    The swing of 2 or 3 games would make a huge difference in these numbers right now. Embrace the variance, I guess.

  4. Ryan

    September 10, 2012 08:17 AM

    So you’re saying that there’s a chance!

  5. Mike

    September 10, 2012 08:24 AM

    Bill, do you know if teams with the same record will still play in a one-game playoff, or is there a different tiebreaker now with the added Wild Card team?

  6. nik

    September 10, 2012 09:02 AM

    There are no tiebreakers other than play in games.

  7. Mike W

    September 10, 2012 09:36 AM

    They are just teasing us. The Phils are 8-3 in their last 11 games. In one of those losses the bullpen gave up a 7-1 lead and in another they could only score 2 runs off a no-name Met pitcher. All season long the Phils have been giving away winable games. I have not seen the Phils add an all-star outfielder and set up man so it this pattern is likely to continue. I see them losing 2 or 3 games where they are just outmatched and giving away 3 or 4 that they should not lose. I think 85 wins is the most we can hope for unless the bullpen turns rock solid and the outfielders become studs overnight.

  8. Jim

    September 10, 2012 09:46 AM

    After 140 games in ’07, the deficit was equal to today – 6 games! One big difference in scheduling though – the ’07 team took 3 games from the Mets in mid Sept. (talk about seizing your opportunity) This year, we don’t have anymore games scheduled with the teams in front of us.

  9. EricL

    September 10, 2012 10:22 AM

    Baseball Prospectus has updated their standings and the Phils actually lost ground yesterday because of the Cards win. They’re currently at 0.0% at BP

  10. Michael Baumann

    September 10, 2012 10:39 AM

    Like Bill said, the difference between 0.7 percent and 0.2 (or 0.0) is just arguing over time of death.
    And I don’t think those early losses sting any more. I think they’ll get back over .500, and any pressure they put on the Braves would be a bonus. Let’s not feel worse about how bad they were before because they’re playing better now.

  11. tyler

    September 10, 2012 10:44 AM

    i’m too cautious to ask for anything other than for the phillies to play exciting baseball. they have 9 games against playoff contenders that could really do some damage– they could be in a position to knock the nationals into a wild card spot while playing in a way that makes us excited for 2013.

  12. Donald McMonagle

    September 10, 2012 10:48 AM

    Why be so negative about it? We have twenty two games of Phillies baseball left, why not watch it with a little bit of hope for October.

  13. sjhaack

    September 10, 2012 10:53 AM

    There are people around the internet in usually rational places who have the Phillies in the Wild Card play-in marked down in pen now. They’re going to “make a run”. Nice to see rationality in places I expect it.

    The Phillies are still 2 games under .500 after going 8-2 in their last 10. Over .500 is a realistic goal (14 wins) that they can accomplish without multiple sweeps, and even that is playing .640 baseball.

  14. hk

    September 10, 2012 10:56 AM

    I’m just excited that there’s still a slimmer of hope of seeing Michael Martinez start at 3B or RF in a playoff game.

  15. Chris S

    September 10, 2012 11:42 AM

    This just gives us some hope for next year when the add BJ Upton in CF. ๐Ÿ™‚ Actually the bullpen has been pretty good in August, and so far in September. Too bad they were so bad from May to July.

  16. Bill Baer

    September 10, 2012 11:46 AM

    Depending on the price, I wouldn’t complain if Upton were to be in CF next year.

  17. Chris Z

    September 10, 2012 11:49 AM

    Looks pretty close to what I wrote last night, except I also included how tough everyone else’s schedule was down the stretch. This is made for the phillies for to win. Don’t look at those records of the Phils and their competitors and think it’s not possible. I’d make more of an argument that the Phils have more wiggle room than 4 losses.

  18. Phillie697

    September 10, 2012 12:14 PM

    I think I promised something here if the Phillies make it to the playoffs… I hope it wasn’t anything too egregious. But whatever it was, I’m sure it’s a fair price to pay to see the Phillies make it to the playoffs on the last day of the season while the Nats throw some no-name minor league pitcher out there because they have nothing to play for.

  19. Justin S

    September 10, 2012 01:48 PM

    Would love to see Upton, but I’d REALLY love to see Hamilton in a Phillies uniform. This will be an interesting offseason, regardless.

  20. Phillie697

    September 10, 2012 02:00 PM

    I MAY touch Josh Hamilton with a 20 foot stick if he’s willing to sign for $5M a year. In other words, @Justin S., it’s not going to happen.

  21. hk

    September 10, 2012 02:35 PM

    Upton has been on quite a tear lately with 12 HR’s and 10 SB’s in his 149 August and September PA’s. It looks like he’s going to end the season with ~25 HR’s and ~30 SB’s and ~3.5 fWAR, so Bill’s “depending upon the price” commment is a pretty big qualifying issue where Upton is concerned. Something tells me that Shane Victorino is going to be the Phillies CF next year.

  22. jake

    September 10, 2012 02:51 PM

    Oh heck, why not believe. Sure game management cost them a few games, but so did injury and a terrible bullpen and plain old bad luck.

    Having hope at least gives me a reason to care about the remaining games. It’s been a moribund season since day 1. A little stress would be well appreciated. I don’t think I’ve actually sat on the edge of my seat once this year.

    So really…”why can’t us.”

  23. Chris S

    September 10, 2012 03:37 PM

    Darin Ruf also just got called up, he is probably the best bat in our system right now. Career .300 hitter in the minors and has a career OPS of .900 in the minors as well over 4 seasons. Should we be optimistic about him?

  24. Frank Reynolds

    September 10, 2012 05:22 PM

    Will Mini Mart be the starting 3rd baseman for the phillies in the playoffs?

  25. pedro3131

    September 10, 2012 07:10 PM

    I’m skeptical, I agree injuries and poor performances cost us a lot of games this year, but the distance is simple too far. Think of it this way. Last year’s team was .662 and had 94 wins at this point last year. You’re asking this current team with significantly less talent to play that much better then last years team from hear on out. I don’t see it happening.

    In 2007 at this point while we had the same distance to cover, we were 76-67 with the top offense (utley, howard, Rollins, Burrell, and a career year from Rowan with Shanf starting to come into his own) in the league.

  26. Michael M.

    September 10, 2012 11:50 PM

    We let the Cardinals into the playoffs last year by beating the Braves, maybe we’re due for a some payback/good karma. Making up 7 in 17 games vs. 5 games in 21…its doable if the Phillies win the games they should (Astros, Mets) especially with STL/LAD going head to head and PIT still having ATL and MIL.

  27. Pmonge

    September 11, 2012 11:21 AM

    ryan- “so you’re saying there’s a chance” – i can’t stand you people that think that’s worthy of posting.

  28. Chuck D

    September 12, 2012 06:31 PM

    Bill, Is there any evidence that momentum plays more of a role the later in the season we get? Or does it just seem that way because the games seem more important?

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