It’s back baby! I mean, we hope so. I’m sure if COVID-19 and has its way that could change very quickly. Though no need to be the pessimist, this is about being as positive as we can knowing America’s favorite pastime is back. The negotiations, deliberations, counter proposals and… finger pointing, is finally over. So it’s time to get serious. The marathon that normally is this great game has suddenly become a sprint for players and fans alike. So there is no need to waste any time. Each team has sixty games, and the Phillies have been the picture of mediocrity for the last two years. Is a shortened season just what they need to get over that hump into true contention? Or will they fall flat during this sprint of a baseball season.
So it’s clear who the Phillies will play. The East’s have now become one and that surely brings both good and bad news. Good news, the Orioles are awful! Bad news…. yea, damn Yankees! So can we determine an educated guess on what that means for the Phillies record for the year. You read this far haven’t you? Let’s give it a shot. All teams will play 40 games within their respective “normal” division, with the remaining 20 being inter league games. Unfortunately the Phillies only played 4 games against AL East teams in 2019 and split them 2-2, all against the Red Sox. So first we will use the combined inter league record for the AL East. All five teams combined for a 46-54 record with Toronto coming up with the worst record at 3-17 and Tampa Bay tops at 14-6. The Phillies on the other hand had an 11-9 record which puts them right in the middle of the pack compared to the there American League counterparts. It’s safe to assume the Blue Jays will improve upon there IL play from a season ago and the Yankees, if healthy, will also take a step forward from there injury plagued 2019. The Red Sox took a step back this offseason with the loss of Mookie Betts and David Price, but won’t look at too big of a drop. Tampa Bay slightly exceeded expectations last year so a regression isn’t out of the question and of course the Orioles are terrible. With all that being said it’s relatively reasonable to assume the Phillies end up with about a .500 record give or take a game or two in interleague play.
That brings us to the NL East. They recorded a combined 62-38 record in IL play, with the Mets at the top with 15 wins and the Marlins at the bottom with 9. Most of the NL East improves other then possibly the Nationals with the loss of Rendon, so it’s safe to say they may have a competitive advantage against there American League foes. But of course, that’s only for 20 games, what about the 40 the Phillies have to play against there regular division opponents? Last season the boys in red ended with a 36-40 division record. They had there best results against the Mets at 12-7 and there worst against the Nationals at 5-14. As damaging as that was, the killer for this team was a sub .500 record against the Marlins at 9-10. The worst team in the National League last year for some reason gave the Phillies fits all year long. Though they have improved this offseason by adding some veteran depth, it’s hard to imagine an improved and healthy Phillies squad not making up a few of those games this year against a bad opponent like the fish. The Mets and Braves both slightly improved and the Nationals as we said earlier may have taken a slight step back. It’s reasonable to assume that comparative to last year that we can expect somewhere between 20-25 wins against teams within our traditional division.
Boy that was a lot of info, but we have to look at this rationally and with some actual numbers to back up the theory. The Phillies also improved this offseason, that has to be taken into account. The current roster with Andrew McCutchen back in the lineup and an improvement from a significantly down year from Rhys Hoskins should very easily give them a chance to add a few wins. We also can’t forget that each of the last two years this club has played much better in the first half of the season compared to the second half. I’m not usually one to be overly optimistic, no matter how much I love the team. But after breaking this down in a bit more detail of how the rest of this “new division” is expected to play, as well as the Phillies internally, it shouldn’t be a shock if the boys find a way to win somewhere between 34-38 games. If they can find a way to make it to the higher end of that scale, they could be pushing for a not only a wild card spot, but would be in the mix for the division crown.
Yes, as always a million things could happen. The injury bug could pop up before the season starts. The shortened season may see teams like the Marlins and Orioles competing at a higher level than anticipated. The Yankees and Braves could end up just being too good and leave the rest of the division in the dust. Or, we barely get to see any of it because the dreaded coronavirus puts the season to bed before it even gets started. These are all theories, and nothing about a theory is has to work out to be true, but being optimistic is all we have to do right now under the current circumstances of the world. So let’s get behind our fightin Phils and know that they have a real shot at making a run during an unprecedented type of a season.