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August 17, 2018

5 reasons the Phillies will miss the playoffs

Phillies MLB
0817_Roman_Quinn_USAT Bill Streicher /USA Today Sports

When your centerfielder takes the mound, it's never a good sign.

The Phillies are in the midst of a winnable race for the NL East crown. The team has shown it can hold its own and plays well against good baseball teams (splitting four games with the Red Sox, for example) — but also plays down to bad teams (like losing 24-4 to the Mets).

While the team's pitching continues to be one of the more pleasant surprises in Philadelphia and boasts a legit Cy Young candidate in Aaron Nola, the writing on the wall seems undeniable: they just aren't ready yet.

Here are five reasons why the Phillies are destined to miss the playoffs this October:

1. They can't hit

The Phillies have the second worst team batting average in Major League Baseball, at .236. Their batting order from top to bottom, even with reinforcements from Wilson Ramos (the extra base hit machine) and Justin Bour, is among the worst in the majors in terms of WAR. Their non pitchers combine for a -10.8 WAR, third worst in baseball. Their pitchers WAR is 13.8, the second best in baseball. 

While there are a lot more stats to prove how bad the Phils hitting is — in addition to the eyeball test — (like their mundane +11 run differential) their pitching is the only thing really keeping them in striking distance of the NL East title.

2. They can't play defense

A historic game Thursday afternoon saw the Phillies allow 10 unearned runs in a thrashing loss to the Mets 24-4. Adding those putrid mistakes to their season total gives Philadelphia 93 errors, the second most in MLB. Their fielding percentage is also the bottom of the barrel at .979. When your team can't hit, making nearly an error per game doesn't help.

3. The Braves and Nationals

While neither team is particularly fear inspiring, the Braves seem to be the real deal and have gone 14-6 in their last 20 games. They also had Ronald Acuna's home run streak (which just ended at six). In that same span Philly has gone 10-10 and dropped out of first in the NL East. The Nationals are a healthy eight games behind the Braves, but still have a month and a half to lean on underachieving Bryce Harper and Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer and could be a factor if they find their groove.

4. They can't manufacture runs

The Phillies, one would think, should be one of the game's leaders in small ball thanks to their analytically-minded manager Gabe Kapler. The Phils obviously value on base percentage over batting average — the justification for Carlos Santana being less than a disappointment this season with his .216 batting average. 

But that isn't actually true. The Phillies are a below average base running team and have just 46 stolen bases, putting them in the bottom six of 30 MLB teams. They also have the third fewest sacrifice flies.

5. They're young

Philadelphia has an average age of 27.3, which is the fourth youngest in baseball. Why does this matter? Well, for one, they are woefully inexperienced and by far the youngest by this measure of any contending team. They are playing well above the expectations set by fans and experts at the beginning of the season even though expectations have shifted as the season has progressed.

 Team Average ageGames out of first
Rays 26.5 23.5
Marlins26.921.5 
Padres27.020.0
 White Sox27.025.0 
 Cardinals27.2 5.0 
 PHILLIES27.31.5
Orioles 27.349.5

The Phillies are a good baseball team, don't get us wrong. And their pitching might actually be enough to carry them to a playoff berth. The future is certainly bright, but the present may be a bit murky as the dog days of August give way to the desperate playoff push of September.

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