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August 09, 2021

Phillies could (realistically) win NL East, have NL Cy Young and MVP winners

The Phillies have been really good at not being good. 

In the nine full seasons since the Phillies last appeared in the playoffs, they have won just 45.4 percent of their games (616-740). They have allowed a nauseating 622 more runs then they have scored, and finished in last or second to last in the NL East six times.

Playoff races that seemed possible over the last few years ended in collapse, and with very little turnover over the last few seasons, the bullpen not withstanding. 

Many were dubious when the Phillies elected to be buyers at the trade deadline back in July as they hovered at the .500 mark.

Eight wins in a row later, things are looking a bit different.

More people were at the ballpark Sunday afternoon than at any point in recent memory as the team completed a bombastic sweep of the Mets. And fans were living and dying with every pitch. It's a change, and something is clearly different for the 2021 Phillies — who are currently favored anywhere from +110 to -140 to win the NL East, according to Pickswise.

The statistical analysis mavens at would agree, awarding the Phils with a 54% chance of making the postseason, to the Mets' 14% and Braves' 36%.

“That’s the thing about this game,” manager Joe Girardi said Sunday. “You have to stay in it for the long haul. You can have bad weeks; we had a bad couple of weeks at one point during the season. But it’s a long season. You’ve just got to keep doing your work and grinding things out. Different people stepping up at different times.”

Two of those different people stepping up, in undeniable fashion, are Bryce Harper and Zack Wheeler, guys who could bring home the first MVP since Jimmy Rollins in 2007, and Cy Young since Roy Halladay in 2010.

Let's start with the $330 million man. Is it possible that Harper is still the most underrated player in baseball?

Passed over for an All-Star selection in each of his three season in Philly, Harper has been absolutely, positively smoking hot this summer. He has hit .395 with five homers, seven doubles and an insane .544 on base percentage over the last two weeks. And it's propelled him to the second best odds to win MVP (ranging from +270 to +400), according to Pickswise.

Here are his stats, compared to the other contenders for the NL MVP award:

CategoryStatNL Rank
Offensive WAR4.04th
Batting average.3027th
On base %.4132nd
Slugging %.5704th
Runs created805th

It's worth mentioning that he's done this all while missing 19 games due to a plethora of injuries. With 20 homers and 45 RBI, he may not have the flashy kind of MVP numbers that San Diego's Fernando Tatis Jr. does — with 31 HR and 70 RBI — but if Harper stays this red hot and carries the Phillies offense to an NL East title, he deserves to be seriously considered.

While Harper is a sleeper MVP pick, Wheeler is probably the front-runner for Cy Young.

CategoryStatNL Rank
Pitching WAR6.01st
Innings pitched1561st
Complete games31st

With Jacob deGrom sidelined with injury issues, Wheeler and his 10-6 record have stifled NL lineups and according to ESPN's Cy ladder, Wheeler trails only Los Angeles' Walker Buehler (12-2, 2.13 ERA) as the likely recipient of the hardware. Sportsbooks conquer, with Wheeler actually the odds on favorite (at +200), according to Pickswise.

There is a lot of season left for the Phillies, but for the first time since Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins were turning Cole Hamels grounders into double plays, there is an abundance of hope in South Philly. 

It could be a red October.

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