06 April 2007

2007 Philadelphia Phillies Preview

Jimmy Rollins says that the Philadelphia Phillies are the team to beat in the National League’s Eastern division. Is he right? Well, sure. But then, the Mets, Marlins, Nationals and the Braves are also the teams to beat, since they all have the same record before official play begins on Sunday night. That, of course, is not what Rollins meant. He meant that the Phillies would in fact be the front-runners in 2007, that at least on paper (or, in electrons, since you’re reading this on the Internet), they Phightin’ Phils had the best shot of the bunch. I would argue that the Mets, coming off a 97-win season, probably deserve that title more that anyone else, and that with a dozen straight division titles before the 2006 season, the Braves and their history probably give them a more appropriate claim to being the “team to beat” if the Mets should falter.

History is not on the Phillies’ side, or at least it wasn’t in the 1900’s. It was once famously said about the Chicago Cubs, “Any team can have a bad century”, but when you look at the numbers, this is much more true of the Philadelphias than it is of Chicago. Baseball-reference.com’s schedule breaker-outer shows that, of the teams that played the whole century (i.e. not the expansion franchises of the ’70s or the ’90s, the Phillies had the worst record by far. Their 8379 losses in the 1900’s were about 300 more than the next closest team, the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins, and the Cubs were actually (slightly) above average, winning 50.5% of their games. Percentage-wise, they were just ahead of Seattle and Florida, and slightly behind the Padres, who all played considerably fewer games with comparable levels of ineptitude. But this century, the Phillies are actually doing OK, and I mean that in the strictest sense of the word: Their .526 winning percentage from 2001-2006 was 13th among the 30 MLB teams, coincidentally, just between Seattle and Florida. They’ve won at least 80 but no more than 88 games every season this century, continually frustrating their fans as they seem perennially poised to take ove the NL East and yet, frequently at the last minute, somehow managing to wrest defeat from the jaws of otherwise certain victory.

But that’s all in the past now, and as I write this, the Phillies are tied for first place, just like every other team in MLB. So what happens from here?

Read more about the Phighitn' Phils' chances in '07 on my MVN.com blog...

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