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February 15, 2021

Phillies not expected to do much in NL East

Playoff format could dictate what Phillies can achieve in 2021

The success of the 2021 Phillies may be dependent on something completely out of their control.

Pitchers and catchers are set to report to spring training sites this week, but we still have no idea how many teams will be participating in the 2021 MLB playoffs.

Prior to last year, five teams from each league made it to the postseason — the three division winners and two wildcard teams. In 2020, with a shortened 60-game season, the league experimented with a 16-team playoff field, like the NBA and NHL typically have.

Neither format has been kind to the Phillies, who haven't appeared in any kind of meaningful October game since 2011, when the field was just four teams per league.

In 2021, the Phillies are expected to be good, not great. Their division, the NL East, could be the toughest to win in all of  baseball this season with the Braves, Mets and Nationals all much-improved, and the Marlins looking to build on their surprise playoff berth a year ago.

It's possible that with two wild card slots, the Phillies could finish third in the NL East and still make the postseason, where any team can get hot and win it all. It's also possible that they are punished for geography. Or, if the playoffs remain expanded, they could float by around .500 for five months and slide in like Miami did in 2020.

With so much about the format unknown, that hasn't stopped so called baseball experts from trying to predict how the Phillies' division would go. And if you believe their expertise, it's not looking good.

USA Today: Baseball writers predict the Phillies go 83-78 and finish in fourth place in the division. The math from their NL standings would have the Phillies tied for seventh in the league. Here's more from Gabe Lacques:

A winter of sound and fury across the division still finds the Braves sitting atop it, rich in pitching – even if Mike Soroka misses several weeks - and with a lineup potentially punishing from 1 to 9 … You might have better luck hitting the trifecta at your local dog track than properly aligning the Mets, Nationals and Phillies. For now, that’s how we see it, subject to significant volatility, most notably the health and performance of several pitchers. Marcus Stroman and Carlos Carrasco, Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer, Zach Eflin – all will figure heavily in how this plays out … We’ll never doubt the Marlins again, but hanging with the aforementioned quartet over 162 games will be a far greater task than last year’s 60-game, COVID-stricken heroics. [USA Today]

Bleacher Report: The writers at B/R projected the NL's playoff teams and picked only one from the NL East, the Braves, in a 10-team playoff field.

Fangraphs: The analytical baseball website, one that projects stats in a variety of ways for both individual players and for teams, thinks the Phillies win 83 games and finish fourth in the NL East — two games behind the Nationals. Their projections would place Philly in solo sixth place in the National League. The website's five beat writers for the NL East had a "roundtable" discussion and at the end, they were asked to rank the teams in order of their expected finish. All five writers, including Phillies scribe Todd Zolecki, picked the Braves to win the division. Three writers picked the Mets to finish second and two picked the Nationals. Four writers have the Phillies slotted in fourth, with Marlins writer Christina De Nicola slotting Philly fifth.

PECOTA: Baseball Prospectus' method of projecting the actual win-loss totals every year for each team is called PECOTA, and it has yielded some surprising results in the NL East. The website thinks the newly re-vamped Mets will run away with the division, and the Phillies will finish third (seventh best record in the league): And finally, we would be remiss if we didn't include a sportsbook here to show how the oddsmakers feel about the NL East. According to Bet MGM, the Phillies are tied with the Nationals with the third best chance:


Looks like a two-team race to me. Interestingly, however, MGM says the Phillies have the sixth best chance at winning the NL Pennant (+1600).

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