This post was written by Chris from The Sports Geek.
It was a long, long 2015. But as many a baseball purist has opined over the years, it is Spring and hope blooms eternal. Die-hard Phillies fans may be hard pressed to see the bliss in such optimism after one of the worst seasons in franchise history, but is there reason to believe this season can be competitive? Or at least better than the last?
Well, let’s start with the good. The Phils are 12-5 in Spring Training heading into Monday, good for sixth best in all of baseball. Granted, it is just Spring Training, but for a team fresh off a MLB-worst 63-99 campaign, you have to start somewhere. Wins are wins, even when they wins don’t count. Much of the success in the Spring has been predicated upon some promising signs from the young heart of their (projected order). Maikel Franco is hitting .367 with 6 HR and 14 RBI – simply torching Spring Training pitching, and Cesar Hernandez is looking good for second base, hitting .353 with 4 stolen bases. Ryan Howard is still ‘hope and see’ though his .143 BA in 21 plate appearances isn’t exciting. But the rest of their young hopefuls came to Spring swinging some lumber. Odubel Herrera (CF) is hitting .391 and veteran Darrin Ruf is clocking in at an even .300 with 3 HR and 10 RBI.
In this post I’m going to give a season outlook on the Phillies and then my recommendation for one of my favorite MLB wagers that the sports betting sites offer – Team Over or Under Win Totals.
The point is, it is a young offense, and Spring Training pitching isn’t Opening Day big league pitching, but these guys are hitting well early – which is a cause for some optimism.
The big question is whether the young pitching, especially Aaron Nola, are ready to anchor a big league staff. Aaron Nola hasn’t been great this spring in nine brief innings, but certainly has the stuff to be a top of the rotation guy, and Jeremy Hellickson was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2011 and a stud in 2012 before three injury-plagued years of mediocrity. Can he regain his early career promise? If so, not a bad #2. If not… well… that’s how teams lose 90+ games. From there, there are some big question marks as Charlie Morton, Brett Oberholtzer, Jerad Eickhoff, and Vincent Velazquez battle for rotation spots on a rotation that was the second-worst (5.27 ERA) in all of baseball, beating only the thin-air Rockies.
So it wasn’t just “not good”- it was downright awful. It is fair to expect a little more this season, but perhaps overly optimistic to expect MUCH more. Then again, we aren’t aiming for the pennant here, just a winning wager on 67 wins…
Baseball Prospectus has this team listed at 64 wins and FanGraphs predicts they will be the worst team in all of baseball yet again. But I think that pessimism leads to some nice opportunity as I think the youth movement actually picks up a few extra wins this season. Will the complete for a playoff berth? Most certainly not. Can they win 68-72 games? Sure. A big reason is the absolute rebuild of Atlanta, once a constant nemesis, now an opportunity to pick up a few wins.
This team isn’t far away, and 2016 should be the nadir in the graph; better days are coming soon. But not in 2016. I don’t see any way they win more than 70-72 games, but I do think they see a small improvement with Frankel leading a young, energetic lineup. As far as any future wagers, I’d save my coins on a +3300 AL East crown; not with the Mets and Nats around. I’d also not waste any money on anything even more ambitious.
But for an OVER/UNDER pick, I am going to be rosier than my (winning) projection from last year and take the OVER 66.5. I’m basing this pick largely on the fact that Atlanta could very well supplant the Phillies as the worst team in baseball – that’s 19 opportunities for some wins. Hey, it ain’t much, but coming off a 63-99 campaign and still in the midst of a massive youth movement, take the gains where you can find them…
My Pick: Philadelphia Phillies OVER 66.5 WINS
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