The Phillies are coming off a 2 to 1 series win over the Marlins in Florida and now are going into Atlanta with a 3 game lead on the Marlins and a 4 and a half game lead on the Braves. The Phillies have built their lead on solid pitching both from their starters and their relievers but success has recently come from unexpected sources. In the Phillies most recent 6 game stretch, the Phillies big 4 minus 1 of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels (Roy Oswalt is currently on the disabled list) went a combined 0 and 3 while the Phillies got 2 wins from Kyle Kendrick and a win from Joe Blanton.
Through 36 games in 2011, the Phillies are 24 and 12. That’s one game better than they were last year after 36 games when they were 23 and 13 and were 4 games ahead of the second place Marlins. Interestingly, even though in 2010 they had won 1 less game, the Phillies had scored a total of 200 runs through the team’s first 36 games. That’s 44 more runs than the Phillies have in 2011 through the same number of games.
I mention these statistics to emphasize that we are still very early in the season and a lot can happen. Though the Phillies had 200 runs through 36 games last year, it took them another 49 games to reach 400 runs on July 9. In those 49 games, the Phillies went 22 and 27 and dropped to third place, 5 and a half games behind the Braves. Since the game that they scored their 400th run in 2010, the Phillies are a combined 76 and 37, a .673 winning percentage. In case you were wondering, it took the Phillies another 47 games to get to 600 runs scored in 2010, but they went 29 and 18 in those games.
The year 2010 was the year the Phillies transitioned from being a great hitting team that had a little pitching, to a great pitching team that has a few hitters. But what about those Braves you ask? As you may recall, the Phillies caught those misnamed Braves in September coming from 3 back on September 1 to win the division by 6 games as the Braves went 14 and 16 from September 1st to the end of the season.
But that was last year you say. This is a new Braves team that is ready to live up to its name. Dan Uggla was brought in during the offseason to shore up the second base position both at bat and in the field. This after the debacle in the first round of the 2010 playoffs when Braves second baseman Brooks Conrad practically handed game three to the Giants by making 3 errors at second base. But speaking of 3 errors in a game at second, who can forget the 3 errors Dan Uggla made in the 2008 All Star game, not to mention striking out with the bases loaded. It will be interesting to see how Uggla handles the pressures of a playoff series if the Braves make it to one.
That there is a good possibility of a Dan Uggla choke in the playoffs is good for Phillies fans to contemplate, but let’s not get too excited. The Braves are almost within striking distance of the Phillies and they have a lot of time to make up the ground. This weekend series in Atlanta will be a good test for both teams.
Though the Phillies have been the more consistent team through the first month and a half of the season, a closer look at the numbers makes this Phillies fan a little nervous. I’ve heard it said that the true measure of a team is how that team does in blowout games. Simply put, great teams have good records in blowout games. While a good record in 1 and 2-run games can be a mark of a team with a good bullpen, it can also be the mark of a lucky team that’s luck could turn at any moment. The cause for concern is that the Phillies are 5 and 3 in 1-run games and 5 and 1 in 2-run games. On the flip side, the Phillies are only a decent 3 and 2 in games won by greater than 5 runs.
The Braves are only 4 and 6 in 1-run games after beating the Nationals tonight and 2 and 5 in 2-run games. On the flip side, the Braves are 5 and 1 in games decided by 5 runs or more. These are ominous statistics for Phillies fans as we look forward to the rest of the 2011 season.