September 21, 2020
It's really easy for Phillies fans to get lost in a cul de sac of depressing news, as the truncated baseball season reaches its final home stretch.
Injuries, yep, there are few. Well, more than a few, as Bryce Harper's back stiffness in Sunday's loss was just the latest on a laundry list of players with questionable fates heading toward the postseason — like Rhys Hoskins, Jake Arrieta, Spencer Howard and J.T. Realmuto.
The starting pitchers? Well, the ones that are left fall into two categories: the haves (Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola) and the have nots (Vince Velasquez, Zack Eflin, everyone else who tries to start).
The bullpen, oh man. We won't waste your time on the bullpen. It's pretty much the worst in baseball history.
And yet, the Phillies control their own fate with just seven games let to play. At 27-26, the Phillies' magic number to clinch a playoff spot stands at seven — meaning any combination of wins and losses from teams below them in the hunt could clinch them a berth.
The expanded playoff field will include eight teams in the NL and eight in the AL. Each will play a best of three series at the higher seed's home park next week before the remaining eight teams head to bubbles in Texas and California to play the next three rounds and the World Series.
There are two ways the Phillies can land a playoff spot and join the fall frenzy.
It seems to defy logic, but the Phillies are 3-6 against the team that not only was expected to finish last in the NL East before the season started, but also the team that was most ravaged by a coronavirus outbreak back in July/Early August.
The new playoff rules grant each of the three NL divisions two guaranteed slots, and the Phillies are one game behind the Marlins for that No. 2 spot (and four behind the Braves, who are close to clinching). The Phillies obviously do not hold the tie-breaker with Miami, as they've lost the season series, but if they can eclipse their win total over the next week, they'll be dancing into the postseason.
The Phillies have four games against the Nationals (against whom they've been dominant) before three in Tampa against the second best team in baseball. Perhaps the Rays will rest some key players to give Philly a chance, as the season's final three games will be much more consequential for the Phils.
If the season ended today, Philadelphia would be the No. 7 seed and face the second-seeded Padres in San Diego to start the postseason. They control their own fate, but it's tight.
The Mets (24-29) and and Rockies (23-29) are both also technically still alive in the race for the final spot. Scoreboard watching could make it feel like it really is baseball season in September, as the Phillies can also find their way into the playoffs if at least two of the above four teams play worse or the same as Philly does over the season's final weeks.
If the Phils can make the postseason — and if they can have some semblance of health in their lineup — they might actually be able to make a run. According to FanDuel odds compiled at TheLines.com, the Phillies actually hold the fifth best odds of winning the National League pennant despite having the seventh best record, at +1700. That is, however, substantially behind the fourth-ranked Cubs at +800.
According to Baseball Reference, the Phillies have a solid 70.8% chance of making the playoffs, with a 35.7% chance of winning at least their opening series. FiveThirtyEight.com similarly projects the Phillies will make the playoffs, with a 78% chance of getting a wild card spot. They expect Philly to finish at 30-30.
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