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Relax Phillies Fans, All Playoff Teams Have Problems

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According to a nifty new statistic on ESPN.com that regularly updates every MLB team’s Jayson Werth photo: APlikelihood of making the playoffs, the Phillies have an 80% chance of playing in the 2010 postseason.

While I have no idea where those numbers come from, for the purposes of this column, I am putting complete faith in them and assuming that the Phillies will be one of the eight major league teams competing in this year’s playoffs.

The funny thing is, most Phillies fans who have not even seen this all-knowing data would probably also give the Phillies at least an 80% chance of getting to the playoffs as either NL East Champs or the NL Wild Card. And yet, most Phillies fans would also describe this season as one of frustration. A season that will be remembered for injuries, offensive ineptitude, and perseverance through slumps that spanned entire months.

Clearly, the 2010 Phillies season has been much tougher and much less glorious than the 2008 and 2009 seasons that preceded it.

Or has it?

With sixteen games remaining in the regular season, the Phillies record is 85-61. So, just for fun, what if this year’s Phillies were competing with the 2009 and 2008 teams in a mythical division race? The standings through 146 games would look something like this:

 

  TEAM                W  L       GB

1. 2009 Phillies  86 60        --

2. 2010 Phillies  85 61       1.0

3. 2008 Phillies  79 67       7.0

Raise your hand if you would have predicted that order.

In attempting to make sense of our distorted view of the present versus the past, I offer this theory. When it comes to sports, we tend to live and die by the present. The details of the previous season are practically forgotten, but the wins and losses of the current week are monumental. An individual loss in the present is often interpreted as a significant cause for concern. And while that can sometimes be the case, there is a problem with that mindset when it comes to our national pastime.

Baseball teams lose. They lose regularly. They lose by scoring no runs. They lose by blowing saves. They lose when a starting pitcher gets shelled. They lose when a knuckleballer seduces them with mouthwateringly slow pitches that they can’t help but to loft high into an outfielder’s waiting glove. It’s a difficult thing to accept sometimes. The Phillies, despite having the fourth best record in Major League Baseball, have a winning percentage of “only” .582.  And we’re calling these the glory years of the Phillies franchise?

Well, losing 43 games out of every hundred could make a team seem pretty mediocre until one considers that the team with the best record in the majors, the Yankees, loses nearly four (3.87 to be exact) out of every ten games. What this means for Phillies fans is that we have to have two separate gauges for team success. There is the Eagles gauge that tells us a 9-7 record is a decent season that will result in missing the playoffs. Then, there is the Phillies gauge that views nine wins out of every sixteen games as something that will net a team 93 wins and a ticket to the postseason.

The game of baseball will not change, it is the mindset we approach it with that needs to be adjusted. We need to begin viewing our team with an understanding that there are always going to be flaws. The season’s story is told more like a novel than a children’s book. The problems that confront a baseball team are numerous and ever-changing. It is what makes the sport so intriguing. The encouraging thing for Phillies fans is that there will be seven other teams entering the postseason with as many or more questions confronting them as our beloved Fightins.

So, while we panic over Brad Lidge’s  balky elbow and our lack of a reliable lefthander in the bullpen, Yankees fans agonize over the lack of a reliable starter not named C.C. Sabathia.

While we fret over Jayson Werth’s occasional brain cramps, Braves fans wonder if their team is susceptible to an offensive swoon that could eliminate them in a short series. Similar despair can be found over Tim Lincecum’s  second-half flameout in San Francisco  and the Reds lack of starting pitching depth.

So, here is some advice for Philly fans. Eagles season is now underway. When the Eagles lose, it’s okay to panic. But when it comes to the city’s baseball team, a loss here or there needn’t give you grey hair, head and neck pain, or any sort of manic episode.

Unless it occurs in a playoff series……..

Matt Babiarz was born and raised in the Philadelphia area.  He graduated from the University of Alabama, but remained a very close observer of the Philadelphia sports scene.  He recently began covering the Phillies for Philly2Philly.com.   You can also read his work at Bleacherreport.com within the Philadelphia Phillies section. 

Matt can be contacted at mattbabz@comcast.net  

Jayson Werth Photo: AP