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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Are the Phillies really on a “hot” streak?

The favorite refrain of most Phillies fans this season seems to be an exclamation-point-filled, “They’re back!” After Sunday’s action, in which the team completed a run of 13-3, the post-game show on PHL 17 was filled with talk of all the home games they have left, getting everybody back healthy, and at least a sense that Charlie Manuel could massage the closer situation well enough to get them into the playoffs.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I thought this season was over when Chase Utley went down with a broken bone in his hand. When Ryan Howard recently began what feels like his “turn” on the injury list considering the number of injuries the Phillies have had this year, few people would have given any argument against the idea that the team wasn’t going to be playing deep into October – and might not be seeing any fall baseball beyond the regular season.

Even the acquisition of Roy Oswalt did little to excite me – again, for this season. It was another very solid move by Phils GM Ruben Amaro, and having three guys on the pitching staff who most teams would consider their ace is an incredible luxury.

Of course, it would have been super keen had Amaro and/or the Phillies’ owners figured that out before trading away Cliff Lee to “restock the farm system” when they traded for Roy Halladay. Call the issue a dead horse and get excited about “Roy Story 2” headlines all you want. The Phillies have now essentially traded Lee for Oswalt. Is there a general manager in baseball that wouldn’t jump at that deal to acquire Lee? Well, ok, the way former Phils GM Ed Wade has helped stock the Phillies with talent from the same post in Houston, there may be one. But I think the point is still clear – it still isn’t a good swap for Philadelphia.

As Manual might say, though, it is what it is. So, let’s get back to the notion that the Phillies are “back.” Granted, 13-3 is nothing to sneeze at regardless of who they’ve played. But the reality is that fans who are saying they’re “back” aren’t referring to a playoff run. They’re referencing the World Series championship team of 2008. Another reality is that looking at the opponents of a team during a hot streak is the best barometer available for truly judging that team.

Here’s what the Phils have done to go 13-3:

NYM 2-1 (Mets were 55-56 as of Sunday evening)
Florida 3-0 (Marlins were 61-49 as of Sunday evening)
Washington 1-2 (Nats were 49-62 as of Sunday evening)
Arizona 3-0 (Diamondbacks were 43-68 as of Sunday evening)
Colorado 4-0 (Rockies were 58-53 as of Sunday evening)

By my analysis, they beat two solid squads, one bad team, and an improving Nationals team – although, the Nationals are improving from “horrible.” Now, teams can only play the teams on their schedule – I get it.

Go back to the All-Star break, and it gets worse:

St. Louis 1-3 (Cardinals were 61-49 as of Sunday evening)
Chicago Cubs 1-3 (Cubs were 48-64 as of Sunday evening)

The Cubs were absolutely awful in the first half of the season, and should have been a perfect opportunity for the Phillies to start the second half on a strong note. The Cardinals, a definite contender, beat the Phillies 8-4, 7-1, and 5-1, before the Phils won the last game in 11 innings 2-0.

To be fair, we’ll round out July:

Cincinnati 4-0 (Reds were 64-48 as of Sunday evening)
Atlanta 1-2 (Braves were 64-47 as of Sunday evening)
Pittsburgh 1-3 (Pirates were 39-72 as of Sunday evening)

Sweeping Cincinnati seemed to be a huge boost going into the All-Star break, but when three games were decided in extra innings and the other was a 1-0 victory, it may have been fool’s gold.

All told, it can be argued that the Phillies have beaten a total of one really good team in a series since July 1.

A couple of more notes should temper the excitement: the guys who are coming back – and, by the way, Utley could still be weeks away – were part of the unbelievable hitting slump that put the Phillies in catch-up mode (except for Howard), and if being “back” is meant to suggest that the Phillies can win another World Series, someone might want to inform the Yankees that they should be nervous.

I don’t think the Yankees even notice the Phillies at the moment, despite the home team’s “hot” streak.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Let me take a little more of a positive outlook.

1. It is frankly a miracle that the Phils are only 2 out considering their horrendous hitting slump, awful back end of the bullpen (until recently) and a ton of injuries.

2. August and September are typically Howard's best months. Again, the Phils are doing a good job of remaining close while 250 RBI's sit on the DL list. The big problem with Utley in the past has been his propensity for wearing out at the end of the year. He had a great WS after having 5 days off. Obviously, this year he will be fresh. I expect him to have a fantastic September.

3. The starting pitching, with the notable exception of Monday night, has been much better recently. The top 3 for the Phils are as good as any in baseball.

4. Oswalt. Yes, Lee is a better pitcher. For this year, I would rather have Cliff Lee. I still think Amaro made a boneheaded move in trading him for 3 no bodies. Amaro's excuse is that they wanted to have more years of certainty. I could buy that if we acquired Oswalt in the off-season but that was not the case. Anyway, #3 is still valid.

5. Experience - this team knows how to win and is loaded with players who have a ton of experience in pennant races. While Halladay does not have that experience, he certainly has the right mind set.

6. I think it is selective to just look at losses and wins over a given time period and draw any conclusions. 90 to 92 wins will probably get a team in the playoffs. It does not matter if those wins happen against good or bad teams. Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. A very good team generally can lose between 68 and 72 games and still make the playoffs. The Cards lost 79 games and won the WS some years ago. Any team can beat any team over a series. It happens time and time again.

All in all, I think things look amazingly positive for the Phils.

MDefl

Rob said...

"I think it is selective to just look at losses and wins over a given time period and draw any conclusions."

That makes zero sense. Besides that, I was looking at the idea that they were hot over that specific period; if you're not going to look at who they're beating in that time period to do that, then you don't do it at all.

And, while I appreciate comments, lately you seem to be going through every post as if you are evaluating them. If you want to write a blog, write one. Don't do it in the comments of other blogs under some fake name.