The Phillies Somewhat Surprising Finish


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The Philadelphia Phillies have pretty much been the worst team in baseball from the very start of the season. It’s not unfair to refer to 2015 as a “dumpster fire” for the franchise. Here we are though with three games to go and two surprising things have happened- one is that they are only a game ahead for the worst record in baseball, and the other is that they have 62 wins. They just won a series against the NL East’s second place team from Washington, and swept the 2015 NL East Champion Mets. Neither series should be read as a barometer of where the teams are at this point, but they still are somewhat surprising, considering where this team has been this year.

Around the All-Star break, the Phillies were nearly ten games clear for the worst record in all of baseball. They were cruising to last place, and cruising towards a season where 110 losses or more were possible. The team was parading out many old position players still, and the pitching staff was a disaster. A hot streak after the All-Star break helped the Phillies change their trajectory, but even as of last week they were going to cross the 100 loss bar easily. This team basically was able to beat the halfway mark projections by nearly ten games now by infusing a lot of younger players. That young talent certainly played better, and maybe that’s just “effort winning” (meaning they tried harder), but that alone went a pretty long way. With just one more win, they would avoid their first 100 loss season in nearly 50 years.

I would really like to see the Phillies win one more game to avoid 100 losses, but I am nervous about them not finishing with the worst record in baseball. Cincinnati has completely quit trying, and lost 12 straight games to pull within one game of the Phillies. Atlanta is almost as bad, and only sits two ahead. Finishing last is no honor, but it brings with it a number of real advantages. The first of them is having the #1 pick in December’s Rule 5 draft, the same draft which has produced Odubel Herrera this year, and Shane Victorino many years ago. The second advantage is the larger slot money pool for next June’s MLB Draft, and of course the #1 overall pick in that draft. The third major advantage is in the bonus pool available for signing international free agents next July. Who gets the most help under MLB’s financial system will be largely driven by who ends up with the worst record, something the Phillies appeared to have locked up by last week. It is mathematically possible right now that the Phillies could finish not second-to-last, but third from it. This is a surprising, and somewhat worrisome development. For such a lost season, you want your team to reap the benefits after watching it.

It was a pretty tough season for the Phillies, but the final 70 games were certainly better than the first 90 for this team. We’re no longer watching Sean O’Sullivan or Chad Billingsley, and we finally pulled the trigger on sending Hamels, Utley, Papelbon, and Revere away in trades. The roster looks much, much different than it did in the beginning of the season. I guess for how bad the team that started the season was, it should be no surprise that this team is finishing much better. It still is surprising to watch though.

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