Don’t Let These Phillies Fool You

Cole Hamels takes the hill tonight against the Nats.  (Photo: AP)

Cole Hamels takes the hill tonight against the Nats. (Photo: AP)

It’s easy to get excited when the Phillies play like this.  They take a series from the Pirates in Pittsburgh, a series from the Braves at home, and then their No. 5 starter goes out last night and dominates the team directly above them in the standings.  To top it off, all of this comes against the backdrop of the front office laying down the gauntlet, first essentially dubbing this current homestand the Alamo and then holding a closed-door meeting to ensure the players got the message.  Even some of the Philly media are buying in.

I urge you to proceed with caution.

The Phillies have done this before.  In fact, Monday night marked the fourteenth time this season the Phillies have won consecutive games after a loss.  What they haven’t been able to do is get very far beyond that point.  The Phils have won three in a row only three times and five in a row once.  Do the math and you’ll see the problem; they’re 4-9 in games where they’ve won the last two.

That has to change if the Phillies want to jump back into contention.  Don’t believe me?  Then take it from the immortal Lou Brown:

“We won a game yesterday. If we win one today, that’s two in a row. We win one tomorrow, that’s called a winning streak… It has happened before.”

He’s right, but it hasn’t happened much in 2013 for this group.  On a serious note, if the Phillies continue to navigate through this season without reeling off some sort of hot stretch – 10 in a row, 12 of 13, 15 of 20 or something in that ballpark – they’re going to have to win every remaining series to have a shot at making the playoffs.  And let’s face it, that isn’t happening.

To be precise, let’s pretend that the remaining 72 games are segmented into 24 three-game series.  If the Phils took two-of-three in all of them, they’d finish with 92 wins, and given the strength of the NL Central, that is probably around what it will take to make the playoffs.  Again, that’s just not happening… not for any team, much less this one.  They’re going to have to mix a win streak in here and there, and preferably multiple.

The problem is, the Phillies have been about as good at losing consecutive games as they’ve been at winning them.  It took them until early June to win more than three in a row (they won five), and they turned right around and lost the next five.  They’ve also lost two in a row nine times, usually right after they’d won two or three in a row (this has happened EIGHT times).  The result has been a seesaw of optimism and pessimism for Phils fans in which they look either very good and very bad, and often inside the same week.  After a run like this team had from 2007-11, all mediocre seasons are going to be tough, but if this one seems particularly maddening, that seesaw is undoubtedly why.

So why have the first 90 games played out like this?  As David Murphy noted on Sunday, it is most likely because this is a team without a discernable strength.  Their offense ranks 18th in baseball in runs and their starting pitching ranks 16th in ERA.  And we know about the bullpen (29th in ERA, ahead of only the AAAA Astros).

Those marks are not a recipe for a winning streak (or a good team) and have led to a minus-46 run differential.  From 2005-09, the bats were so dominant, all it took was a good stretch from the starting pitching or bullpen, and the Phillies would get hot.  In 2010-11, their loaded rotation was unbeatable if the lineup was hitting.  Those teams were obviously more talented, but they also had a constant; an identity if you will.  In 2013, a lot has to go right for the Phillies to catch fire and that’s probably why it hasn’t happened yet… and in my opinion, why it never will.

I hope I’m wrong.  The Phillies have, after all, been a second half team over the past decade.

They will get their fourteenth attempt to win three in a row tonight against the Nationals.  They’re at home and they have a decisive edge in the pitching matchup, with Cole Hamels facing a rookie making his third major league start.  If they win, maybe it will be the beginning of a run that puts the Phils back into the playoff mix.  But more likely, it will be just the latest impressive performance that builds up hope, followed by two or three bad ones that remind us all what this ball club ultimately is: mediocre.



  1. Justin McElroy

    July 9, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    “If the Phillies are going to do in 2014 what the Red Sox have done in 2013 and have their own renaissance, it’s going to require a drastic change in organizational thinking — and it’s going to require plenty of cash. If such a change is to happen, moving on from the executive who got the Phillies into this position — and continues to not show an understanding of either the position the Phillies are in or how they arrived there — is a good place to start. If the Howard injury doesn’t give the Phillies a ready-made PR excuse to start selling, something’s rotten in the city of Philadelphia.”

    • johnny walker

      July 11, 2013 at 10:20 pm

      Hamels is a great pitcher,he doesn’t get support from his offense u jacka***es

  2. TheDipsy

    July 9, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    There is NO way the Phillies are making the post season.

    In order for the Phillies to get hot enough to win the games it will take, they will have to win with their offense. That said, without a healthy and 2009 Ryan Howard in the middle of their lineup, that has zero chance of happening. Lets assume though, for a second, that the offense does get hot. It would still not be good enough to outhit:

    1. Their starting pitching on days 4 and 5 with Pettibone and Lannan on the hill;
    2. Their horrible bullpen;
    3. Their even more horrible defense. This team has Brown Ruf that are average fielders, at best, Revere, who is fast but can’t run routes, and DYoung, MYoung, both of whom should not be allowed to play the field at all.

    So, it a nice streak of good offense would be great – but I don’t think it’ll be good enough. And I sure as hell hope if it does happen that RAJ doesn’t delude himself as what this team actually is.

    The Dipsy

  3. Dr. Dave

    July 9, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    No way the Phils make the playoffs. Howard on the DL is a great thing. We will see what Ruf can do in prolonged playing time.

    I have said it B4 and say it again: The Howard contract was a huge mistake. Possibly the worst in Phillies history. Given 2 years B4 his contract was to run out. What was the hurry! Just awful!!!!!

  4. Dave P

    July 9, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    I wanna believe…

  5. bacardipr

    July 9, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    I agree Dipsy it is a long shot. However the Braves and Nat’s are also flawed as well. Not that hoping for the other 2 teams collapse is a way to get in. However this win one lose 1 tempo they been maintaining all season long doesnt leave much room for optimism.

  6. Ken Bland

    July 9, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    Form, flow and well articulated points separate this article, and the negative comments thereafter from classifying it as garbage.

    But in essence, it, and the attitude is. Long ago and far away, the sports world offered crystal clear evidence that the smartest of it’s watchers knew to stay away from absolutes It’s rather entertaining that a keeper of the castle type is so concerned about YOUR precious feelings that he scribes “I urge you to proceed with caution.” Hell, even Charlie “Follow Me to Freedom” drew a laugh when he entertainibgly acted the part of concerned leader on one of the Leader’s better self produced spots, of which there are many good ones. This cat amazingly, seems SERIOUS about concern for others emotional well being.

    But aside from equally emotional rhetoric pointing to the lunacy of the state of the union, only a Sports Jerry type would believe the Phils WILL make the playoffs. Which is the whole point. Many, many have abandoned ship by now. See any of the Gang of 25 doing that? Rotsa ruck if you put your money on a square that says Hemels does another 3-11. You just don’t know. And the perplexity of it, with the inarguable likelihood to the not gonna make it side is contrary to so many’s specific views of trade this guy, or cut that guy is not anywhere nearly as easy as it seems.

    Sometimes the answers seem obvious and they pan out. The sickness of logic and predicating expectations off that is a crusher to sports enjoyment these days. It didn’t stop the ’69 Mets from doing a 16 game flip in 1 month. The Giants, according to Russ Hodges won the pennant like 4 times in a 10 second span after a 13.5 game deficit in mid August. NUMEROUS other examples saturate the game’s history. And rest absolutely assured that by season’s end, in 1 of The Game’s 6 pack of ’13 divisions, there WILL be SOME at least semi miracle story that evolved from earlier seen destitution.

    The premiere example, the Granddaddy of Them All dates back to the Miracle Braves of 99 years ago. Their first 2 game winning streak was recorded in Game 25. That raised thie spectacular record to 6 up, and 18 down. They were 12 down and got back to 10, then fell back to 13 games oif the pace. By July 4, they fell back to 15 off. Their run differential in that ugly H1 was minus 34 in an era where runs were at a premium. Was this a bad team underplaying to set it’s impressive comeback? Hell no. They sucked in 1913, and stunk in 1912. True, a young Rabbit Maranville was there, but who’s to say that young Dom Brown, on a lesser scale isn’t seen as a godsend when this year is over. They barely had 2 terrific starters, and Bill James was more of a 1 hit wonder than Max Frost and The Troopers “Nothing Can Change the Shape of Things to Come..” I’d hate to tell you how many games this ballclub won The League by.

    Proceed with caution? My ass. There is zero wrong with having a little hope. A little life’s been shown, even if it is with mixes of same old, same old. But to think the Phils are running a fool’s gold recruiting effort is noinense. Even if they finish 20 out, and expectantly watch every post season game from home, it’s because of what they do from here on. To this point, they’ve hurt themselves. Not killed themselves.

  7. George

    July 9, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    There are a few differences between the current Phils and the Phils of April, May, and part of June. Revere is hitting, Brown went from “not much” to 2nd in home runs and among the league leaders in RBIs, Lannan is no longer on the DL and has been pitching pretty well, Pettibone has done way more than expected, and way more than Halladay, the man he replaced. Also, Ruiz is back and will probably get closer to normal shortly, and Chad Durbin isn’t lighting up the scoreboard anymore. These differences may not be enough, but they keep me from believing they’re completely finished.

  8. "Big Ed" Delahanty

    July 9, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    When Han Solo was told that the possibility of successfully navigating through an asteroid field were less than nil, he responded by stating, “Never tell me the odds.” With the odds looming large against the Fightins, as long as they dismiss the odds and keep playing well, one never knows what could happen.

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