Once again, there probably isn’t a need for predicting the Phillies’ final record this season. They’re probably not going to make the playoffs, though we hope they do, and maybe there’s a chance (!), but seriously, we should keep things realistic.
The offense, practically the worst in all of baseball last year, was slightly upgraded on paper. Michael Saunders and Howie Kendrick are an improvement over Peter Bourjos and Cedric Hunter. And a healthy Aaron Altherr is better than 2016 Tyler Goeddel. Plus, one hopes for developmental improvements from Tommy Joseph, Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera. Maybe Cameron Rupp. Maybe Freddy Galvis?
If not, there’s J.P. Crawford, Roman Quinn, Jorge Alfaro and Dylan Cozens waiting nearby.
The starting rotation? Probably the same as last year. But the good news is there’s plenty of room for improvement with Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff and the other arms in triple A. As for the bullpen? Better on paper, but things can go south pretty quickly.
So what, then? Can we baseline the Phillies at last year’s record – 72-90 – and bet that they improve by at least a few games? Or were they actually worse than a 72-win team last year (metrics will tell you that) and plan for a possible 68-72-win season in 2017?
How about this: Since, again, there probably isn’t a need for predicting the final record, let’s go through the season, series by series, until we come up with a record.
Arbitrary. Imaginary. Perfect.
- 3-6 – at Cincinnati – 1-2. Last year they were swept here. They’ll get one back this year. That’ll learn ’em.
- 7-9 – Washington – 1-2. They’ll lose the home opener and Saturday (in which Aaron Nola is shelled and we all worry about his future), but win Sunday on the strength of four hits by Galvis. See? Imaginary.
- 10-12 – New York – 1-2. Sense a pattern. Now we’re calling for Roman Quinn to come up.
- 14-16 – at Washington – 2-1. In a plot twist the Phils take two of three in Washington, and this time Nola subdues the Nats. We exhale.
- 18-20 – at New York – 1-2. Damnit, Mets.
- 21-23 – Atlanta – 2-1. The 2018 World Champion Braves come to town, but Maikel Franco finally gets himself going with three homers in the series. He now leads the team. With three.
- 25-27 – Miami – 2-1. The good times continue with a series win over the Fish. Hector Neris is pitching astoundingly well and picks up a save for a resting Jeanmar Gomez. We wonder when his time will come.
- 28-30 – at Los Angeles – 0-3 – His time comes after Gomez blows two saves in this early season road trip to LA. Chase Utley hits his fourth homer of the year, which would tie for the lead on the Phillies.
April record: 10-14
- 1-4 – at Chicago – 2-2 – The Cubs aren’t quite in Cubs Mode yet, so the Phils steal at least one in Wrigley. In a callback to 2015, Clay Buchholz comes two outs shy of a no-hitter, but Kris Bryant homers and the Phillies lose 1-0.
- 5-7 – Washington – 2-1 – The Phils again take two of three from a scuffling Nationals team that’s watching the 2018 World Champion Braves take a two game lead in the division. All 2,191 Braves fans buy new jerseys, each asking where the Jones jersey is.
- 9-10 – Seattle – 0-2 – Carlos Ruiz returns to Citizens Bank Park and hits a walk-off (edit: game-winning) home run against Neris, his first blown save. Fans are actually happy.
- 12-14 – at Washington – 2-1 – Again the Phils take the Nats out, but before they hit true Panic Mode, Bryce Harper hits three home runs on Mother’s Day and sends his team into a streak that sends them back to first place for good.
- 16-18 – at Texas – 0-3 – The Phils miss Cole Hamels but get hammered in Arlington. Velasquez has walked 30 batters already this season.
- 19-21 – at Pittsburgh – 0-3 – A crappy end to the road trip as the Phils lose their seventh straight. Fans start clamoring for young blood. J.P. Crawford is close … but he’s not called up yet.
- 22-25 – Colorado – 2-2 – The bats break out to break the losing streak as the Phils tie up the Rockies. Galvis hits two homers in the series to subdue Crawford talk for the moment.
- 26-28 – Cincinnati – 3-0 – And suddenly the Phils are on fire with a sweep. Franco ups his homer total to seven, but Tommy Joseph steals the team lead on sweep day with his eighth.
- 29-31 – at Miami – 0-3 – There’s a bad loss in here. Kendrick gets hurt. The fans wonder if it’s Roman Candle time.
May record: 11-17
- 2-4 – San Francisco – 2-1 – Quinn is indeed called up. But not Crawford. Still, Quinn’s speed helps the Phils steal a win from the Giants.
- 5-8 – at Atlanta – 3-1 – Power beats the 2018 World Champion Braves, but at the expense of Velasquez, who goes on the shelf. The Phils call up Jake Thompson.
- 9-11 – at St. Louis – 0-3 – Ugh. The Cardinal series.
- 12-13 – at Boston – 1-1 – Thompson silences the Red Sox offense in one game. In the other, the Sox score 17 runs.
- 14-15 – Boston – 1-1 – Crawford is finally called up as the Phils trade Galvis to Pittsburgh. He gets a standing ovation … and goes 0-for-7 in the series.
- 16-18 – Arizona – 3-0 – Crawford laces a double for his first major league hit, drawing comparisons to Domonic Brown, so you know he’ll be good.
- 20-22 – St. Louis – 2-1 – The Phils are getting on a roll now. Franco hits his 15th homer and raises his average to .259.
- 23-26 – at Arizona – 2-2 – Brock Stassi gets his first at bat of the season.
- 27-30 – at Seattle + at New York – 2-1 – Stassi is sent down for Taylor Featherston.
June record: 16-11
- 1-2 – at New York – 2-0 – As the Mets implode, the Phils are making a run at .500. Crawford is now hitting .380 with a .460 OBP.
- 3-6 – Pittsburgh – 1-3 – But then, of course, they stumble. Good news: Eickhoff has a 3.41 ERA.
- 7-9 – San Diego – 3-0 – Thank goodness for the Padres. The Phils send Herrera (quietly at .309/.387/.496) to the All-Star Game. Franco hits 24 homers to win the Derby, and that’s our highlight for the year.
- 14-16 – at Milwaukee – 1-2 – Eickhoff now has a 3.65 ERA. Velasquez comes back from injury but is moved to the bullpen as Thompson is now 3-1 with a 2.94 ERA.
- 14-19 – at Miami – 1-2 – A really bad loss in this one, as Christian Yelich crushes a three-run, ninth-inning homer sending the Marlins over .500.
- 21-23 – Milwaukee – 2-1 – The Phils right the ship with the annual late-summer Milwaukee series. Velasquez gets a save opportunity. Crawford has settled in as a .270 hitter with a .350 OBP.
- 24-26 – Houston – 2-1 – Walkoff win! Joseph smashes a game winner as the Phils take out the Astros. Buy tickets for this series now.
- 28-31 – Atlanta – 2-2 – As the Phils take out the 2018 World Champion Braves for a series split, they trade Hellickson to Seattle for third baseman Joe Rizzo. Phillies fans want Rizzo on the big league club right away.
July record: 14-11
- 1-3 – at Los Angeles Angels – 1-2 – If you’re counting, the Phils could hit .500 with a win in the first game here. But Mike Trout goes 4-for-5 with two homers and three steals. Phillies fans plot a kidnapping excursion.
- 4-6 – at Colorado – 1-2 – They never do well in this series, right? Eflin makes his first MLB start of the year and surrenders eight runs. He has mad flashbacks.
- 8-9 – at Atlanta – 1-1 – The Phils split with the 2018 World Champion Braves, who are 10 games under .500.
- 10-13 – New York – 3-1 – It’s alumni weekend, and the Phils take it to the Mets. Crawford has his best set of games yet, while Aaron Altherr (hitting .298/.349/.501) hits four homers in the series. Pete Rose says Philadelphia fans “Are the greatest fans in the world. In fact I got $5,000 on it at Sugar House.”
- 14-16 – at San Diego – 1-2 – This time the Padres are saying “Thank goodness for the Phillies.” Nola (7-7, 3.81 ERA) has a minor injury. We exhale.
- 17-20 – at San Francisco – 1-3 – Ugh. This series. Let’s not talk about this series.
- 22-24 – Miami – 1-2 – The Fish are a game out of the last Wild Card spot now. The Phils trade Michael Saunders through waivers and Altherr becomes the regular right fielder.
- 25-27 – Chicago – 0-3 – The Cubs are in Cubs Mode.
- 28-31 – Atlanta + at Miami – 3-1 – But the 2018 World Champion Braves are now 17 under .500.
August record: 12-17
- 1-3 – at Miami – 1-2 – As the Marlins hold on for dear life to the second Wild Card, the Phils call up only Brock Stassi. Why? The IronPigs have won 100 games and are looking to win the International League.
- 4-6 – at New York – 1-2 – The Phils blow the last game of the series; luckily, the Pigs are swept in the IL semifinals.
- 7-10 – at Washington – 2-2 – In comes Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, Dylan Cozens, Nick Pivetta and Mark Appel. Instantly Appel moves to the bullpen, where he and new closer Velasquez become a very, very good combination in the late innings.
- 12-14 – Miami – 3-0 – Miami starts losing ground as the energized Phillies sweep them away. Williams’ first major league hit is a home run. Good times all over the place. Get tickets now.
- 15-17 – Oakland – 1-2 – Good times last only until Buchholz (how is he still here), gives up seven runs in the first. He finishes his season 7-13 with a 4.98 ERA. Pivetta takes his rotation spot the rest of the way.
- 18-20 – Los Angeles – 1-3 – The Dodgers sew up the NL West title at Citizens Bank Park with a 12-3 win over a scuffling Thompson.
- 22-24 – at Altanta – 1-2 – Finally the 2018 World Champion Braves show their stuff with a 20-7 win against Pivetta and the cleanup crew. The Braves finish 67-95.
- 25-27 – Washington – 2-1 – With the division in hand, the Nats step off the gas, allowing the Phils to take two. Franco hits his last homer of the year, finishing with 32.
- 29-Oct. 1 – New York – 3-0 – On the last day of the season, the Phils move past the Mets for third place in the NL East. Yeah, baby.
September/October record: 15-14
FINAL 2017 RECORD: 78-84
So there it is. I’m more optimistic than I thought (though let’s be honest, I’m really undervaluing the Mets). The better plot point is the 2018 Phillies are set up with Alfaro, Joseph, Hernandez, Crawford, Franco, Quinn, Herrera and Altherr, with Williams a strong possibility to unseat one or head out via trade. The pitching staff? A top-level type joins Nola, Eickhoff, Thompson and Pivetta next season, and the bullpen is anchored by, yup, Velasquez and Appel.
It won’t matter anyway, because the Braves will win the World Series in 2018.