Doctor Strangeglove: On the Dangers of Expecting Victory – Phillies Nation
Analysis

Doctor Strangeglove: On the Dangers of Expecting Victory

Like most of you, I suspect, I follow more than one sport, so this week brings heightened importance for me not only as the Phillies’ season descends into the depths of June, but the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the most prestigious men’s soccer tournament in North America, kicked off this week. It ought to be fun, watching the U.S. national team together in its strongest configuration for the first time in nearly a year, with Donovan, Dempsey, Howard, Bradley, etc., playing in a tournament of the utmost importance. But it’s not. You see, there is much at stake in this tournament–two more years of bragging rights over archrivals Mexico, the sense of continued progress of American soccer, and a berth in the 2013 Confederations Cup, and the Americans are overwhelming favorites, particularly considering the tournament is being played in the United States. The U.S. hasn’t finished worse than third since 1985, and has won three times in the past five installments.

So, an important competition, played on home soil, with our team favored to win ought to be fun, right? Well, it’s not. It’s terrifying, more than anything else, because anything but a victory, and a convincing victory at that, would be considered a disappointment. I can’t speak for the American soccer public as a whole, but I, for one, am looking forward to giving Mexico another black eye, another crack at Spain and Brazil in 2013, and the continued evolution of the most popular game on Earth in the the greatest nation on Earth. None of that happens if the Yanks lose this month, and so the expectation of greatness dilutes the enjoyment of same when it comes, and anticipation is counterbalanced by fear of losing what you never had in the first place.

I think you can see where I’m going with this.

I’ve been fascinated all season with the perception that this Phillies team is any less great, or formidable, than the four playoff teams that preceded it. I don’t believe that it’s true, at least not through the end of June 9. Consider the following: 2011: 37-26, 1st place by 2 games; 2010: 31-26, 2nd place by 2 games; 2009: 33-23, 1st place by 2 games; 2008: 39-26, 1st place by 3 1/2 games; 2007: 32-30, 3rd place, down 5 games. Not a whole lot of difference, right? Where there is a difference is in run scoring and run prevention. In 2007, the Phillies scored 892 runs, a phenomenal total. In 2008 and 2009 that number dropped to 799 and 820, and in 2010 to 772. In 2011, the Phillies are on pace to score less than 650. But on the other hand, the Phillies allowed 821 runs in 2007, 680 in 2008, 709 in 2009, and only 640 in 2010. In 2011, that number is on pace to fall to about 550.

This is because the resources that once went to Pat Burrell and Jayson Werth are now being allocated to Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Roy Halladay, and Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Ryan Howard, the offensive backbone of the team, are battling age and injury, as mortal men are wont to do. But you know that already, and the records show that the trade has been, more or less, an even one. So why aren’t we having as much fun?

As it turns out the 2011 Phillies are not worse than their predecessors so much as they are different. John Gonzalez of the Inquirer pointed this out more succinctly in a column earlier this week, that a team we always assumed would be built on offense, and has been built on offense as far back as the 1920s, is no longer a juggernaut, but a pitching-and-defense team. It’s sort of jarring, I’ll grant you, when you go to sleep with the 1975 Reds and wake up in the morning with the 1965 Dodgers. We have, in our minds, an image of the Phillies as mashers, winning games 11-5 and 12-8 and staging late-game heroics. Well, those days are long gone, and if a game is 2-0 in the fourth inning, odds are that game will stay 2-0, or close to it by the end. Or so it seems.

Not only is it unfamiliar, it’s decidedly less exciting and dramatic, particularly when you’re treated to so many phenomenal starting pitching performances that they stop being special, as we have. Or if lists like these don’t make your innards tingle: NL SP leaders in K/BB ratio: 1) Roy Halladay 2) Cole Hamels 3) Cliff Lee. NL SP leaders in xFIP-: 1) Roy Halladay 2) Cole Hamels 3) Cliff Lee. NL SP leaders in fWAR: 1) Roy Halladay 2) Cole Hamels 3) Daniel Hudson 4) Cliff Lee. The NL pitching leaderboards have taken on an almost pornographic quality, but that doesn’t really matter, emotionally, when you’re sitting through nine innings of the Phillies being tragically unable to put inferior teams to bed.

Then there’s the original point: when victory is expected and surprise is eliminated from the equation, the inevitable reward is less enjoyable. The 2011 Phillies were seemingly handed the NL pennant the day they signed Cliff Lee. A World Series victory is expected–anything else would be a disappointment. You can see why this wouldn’t exactly be fun. So for those of you who were hoping to recapture the success of 2008, you may be in luck, because these Phillies are quite good. But for those of you hoping to recapture the excitement of 2011, that just may not be in the cards.

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  1. Ryan H.

    June 10, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    we need to take a look in the mirror as fans are realize we are becoming spoiled ingrates. we’re becoming yankees fans. this is disgraceful. its a long season folks. this ain’t football where a bad stretch means you’re out of the race. we are watching what could go down as one of the greatest teams of all time. once howard gets into his midsummer groove and utley gets through his spring training stage the runs will start coming. relax and enjoy the ride.

  2. Marrrk

    June 10, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Exactly why I’ve always thought being a Yankee fan must not be anywhere near as much fun as they pretend. There is absolutely no substitute for the exhilaration that comes from years and years of waiting. No substitue for the satisfaction that comes from years and years of being thrilled with the smallest little victories.

    This team is, bar none, the most stressful sports team I’ve ever watched.

  3. Lefty

    June 10, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Nice job Michael. As stated (and rebuked) yesterday, I accept them for what they are. Winners.

    I am an almost 50 year fan of this team and have seen a lot of terrible baseball. Trust me, this team is fun to watch, different from past years, yes. They are different from 07, and 08. They are also different from 1972 when they won 59 games, – the whole year.

  4. Pat Gallen

    June 10, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    While Phillies fans are slightly spoiled, you can’t be upset with them as a whole. This team was relative dogshit for about 100 years. Finally, there is something to cheer about. They are spending big money on high priced talent. The money they spend says they should be better than what they are.

    I dont think it’s too much to ask of a team to get one hit between the 4th and 10th inning. That said, they are still the best team in the NL and have the best pitching staff, too. We’re used to winning by jacking home runs, not outpitching someone. It’s a foreign concept really.

  5. Bart Shart

    June 10, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Yes, Pat, the Phils were relative dog poop for a long, long time. And, as a fan for the past 55 years I can tell you that this is the good times for Phils fans. We just don’t want it to end …..ever. Because it is sooooo much harder to be passionate about a stinker. When we see our offense simply bomb, it hurts. It hurts more every time it happens…..like again last night.
    And when Amaro complains and says that we cannot do anything….well, that sucks big time.
    We really don’t care that much about a budget at this point. We just want to win…again and again. We are now gluttons who grew from being starved for a winner.

  6. Andrew From Waldorf

    June 10, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    You have a 175 million pay roll
    You have the 2 best starting pitchers in the world.
    You should expect to win.
    They will win.
    I expect them to win the division.
    There was an epic fail by the offense last year in the NLCS
    Thus far I would say the 2011 phillies offense is an epic fail.

    How long does this have to be what Utley Howard Rollins are?
    5 years from now if they are still around will people still think by september they will be rolling?

    You should be and are expected to be in first.
    You also are expected to just be an average offense.
    Sorry but this isnt even just an average offense.
    If it was theyd be winning at a .650 clip

  7. business review

    June 15, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Chris Christie and Democrat power-ranger George Norcross III share more than a desire to in Camden…Turns out both big guys love their choppers…As fallout over Christies recent state police helicopter ride to his kids baseball game a proposed helipad at Norcrosss insurance company is stirring up opposition in Marlton…The Evesham Township Planning Board is considering a request by of whichNorcross is executive chairman to build the helicopter facility at its South Jersey headquarters near Route 73…Township Mayor Randy Brown who by the way used to be a Democrat and is now a Republican also seems fond of whirlybirds he calls the proposal and lauds Conner Strong as an asset to Evesham…But some township residents are outraged that helicopters will be taking off and landing practically in their backyards Joseph Steinbock who lives at the Country Squires condominium complex says via e-mail…Why Steinbock wonders does an insurance brokerage need a helicopter?..Why indeed?..Well forget the rather staid image conjured up by the words insurance salesman…Life at Conner Strong is apparently packed with action…Our clients require 24-7 on-site response for accident investigations and large-scale commercial claims service throughout the Mid-Atlantic region company president Mike Tiagwad says in a statement…Tiagwad also insists — and Brown agrees that the helipad will also improve public safety in the township…Uh OKMister President…OK Mister Mayor…Overand out…… ……..The folksdesperate to save the Stiffel senior center were handed atough math problem raise 200 000 by June 30th or say goodbye to the multi-cultural mecca at Marshall and Porter..With only 20 000 in hand the South Philly centers supporters decided to pose another question..What do you get when you add three dozens signs and six protest songs to a small army of elderly people then march them for an hour in the noonday sun?.Well the media for one..Which was the idea behind the sit-intoday that turned into an old-fashioned protest march..Just before 11 a.m. Harry Azoff walked into the center and picked out a sign.. Oh this is a good one the 87-year-old retired jeweler said eyeinga smallrectangular banner that read . Were not dead yet. .He turned on his heels and walked out into the sun to join a madding crowd that included Estelle Goldstein 79 whofoughther shaking hands to paint her own sign- a city scene that included the 83-year-old-building and streets paved with dollar signs and the plea open your heart and wallet. .The building is old and broken.The roof andboiler need replacing and could cost 400 000 according to thecenters board.

  8. Christina Carabini

    June 28, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    It was a brilliant idea to start with but it has run its course…He knows that higher-ups such as his good friend Commissioner Bud Selig wont want to hear it but Leyland spoke his mind all the same…Ill probably get chewed out for saying it he said but I think a lot of people feel the same way……Leyland said its ridiculous and totally unfair for an American League club to have to play consecutive series in National League ballparks…And that you can quote me on he said. They ought to look into it…The bigger picture is that he thinks its unfair for A.L. clubs to have to change their style of play for that long meaning no designated hitter…It means teams with productive DHs such as the Tigers with Victor Martinez have to scramble their lineups for six games…Im on the Commissioners committee and Ill probably get a phone call said Leyland but I dont really care.

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