The Philadelphia Phillies are a team in the process of rebuilding, with all eyes on the future. As a result, their start to the 2016 season has come as an absolute shock to everyone. Through 33 games, the Phillies are 19-14, and currently have a 1.5-game lead over the Miami Marlins for the final wild-card position in the National League.
There were very little expectations entering the year, but they are exceeding what expectations there were. As a result, the team has been a heavy subject of discussion for Philadelphia Sports Radio stations. A lot of it has been pretty positive, but one caller brought up a great point, albeit somewhat concerning. The Phillies are currently playing a very dangerous game. Fifteen of their 33 games have been decided by one run, and the Phillies own an 12-3 record in those games. In other words, their 19-14 record could look a lot different than it currently does.
To this point, the Phillies offense is averaging an anemic 3.25 runs per game. To put this into perspective, there are only nine teams out of the 30 in Major League Baseball that are averaging less than four runs per game. Philadelphia and Atlanta are the only teams that are averaging less than 3.3 runs per game. That’s not exactly a recipe for consistent success. As a team, their offense has been right on par for what was expected. Yet, the Phillies somehow continue finding ways to score just enough to win. With 15 of their games being decided by one-run, the Phillies are putting up just enough offense to get by, while their surprisingly good starting pitching keeps the score close. That’s obviously a concern, and the major question surrounds how long they can keep that up.
On the flipside, the Phillies rotation has been a pleasant surprise, owning a team ERA of 3.95, good for 15th in baseball. Nobody was exactly sure what to expect from the Phillies rotation this year. They made some moves in the offseason, acquiring Jeremy Hellickson, Charlie Morton, and Vincent Velasquez, who won the final starter job in Spring Training. While Hellickson hasn’t been pitching lights-out, and Morton suffered a season-ending injury, the lack of expectations for the starters seems to be working wonders, as they’ve pitched very well to this point, even if they’re numbers suggest otherwise.
Velasquez has clearly become the standout of the rotation, sporting a cool 4-1 record with a 2.17 ERA. To make his line even more amazing, “Vinny from Philly” currently checks-in with the 10th-highest K/9 ratio at 10.61, compiling 44 strikeouts in 37.1 innings pitched. Placing in the top 10, puts him behind the likes of Jose Fernandez, Noah Syndergaard, Stephen Strasburg, and Clayton Kershaw. Not exactly bad company to be in.
Back to the point at hand, the Phillies are playing with fire. In 2015, they only won 16 one-run games. One year later, they’ve won 12 one-run games, not even two months into the season. Things are obviously breaking their way at this moment, clearly evident in the way things went down against the Marlins this past weekend.
Miami had a chance to put the game to rest, but Justin Bour just couldn’t handle the back-end of a potential double-play. As a result, the Phillies completed their comeback to take a 4-3 lead, a lead that they wouldn’t surrender. This was a prime example of how things have broken the Phillies’ way this season. All it takes is one small hiccup.
To this point, the Phillies have had luck on their side. They’ve also been the recipients of some great production from their pitching staff. While they continue to ride this streak of, well…luck, the games should be relatively entertaining to watch. For how long that lasts, it remains to be seen. You can only play with fire for so long, before you eventually get burned. It would be nice to once again, have meaningful summer baseball back in Philadelphia, though.