The Phillies schedule isn’t helping them at the moment


A factoid from Buster Olney’s column this morning:

The Phillies had one of the easiest schedules in the majors in their first 30 games, playing only seven games against teams that had records over .500 — and they did a great job taking advantage, starting 21-9. Since their schedule got more difficult, they have struggled, winning four of 11.

That kind of stat, at least this time of year, is potentially misleading, inasmuch as with relatively few games having been played, one of the major reasons those teams have losing records is because they played, in this case, the Phillies, whose victories over them helped make them losing teams.

But it is the case that the schedule is simply brutal for Philly right now. This bad stretch has come against Atlanta, Florida (who they actually beat two of three) and St. Louis, each of whom has taken a turn as “the hottest team in the NL” at some point in the past couple of weeks.  They’re coming home today to face a Rockies team that seems to be rebounding from an early-May swoon. And then they host the Reds and the Rangers.

So I guess what I’m saying is that while the current stretch is depressing the heck out of Phillies fans, the combination of the schedule, the injuries and the offensive swoon could very well mean that this is a low point, not some indicator of a new reality.

Pretty soon the Mets and Pirates will be on the schedule. Pretty soon Chase Utley will be back.  Pretty soon Domonic Brown — who went 1 for 2 with a couple of RBI last night — will be in the outfield every day.  Like every other otherwise strong team that hits the doldrums, it’s just a matter of holding out until the wind picks up again.

Ryan Zimmerman’s spring training has been . . . weird

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Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman has played in exactly one Grapefruit league game this year, and that was way back on March 2. Since then he has been totally absent from the Nats’ big league spring games, playing instead on the back fields in sim games and in minor league contests.

While that’s not an unusual course of action for an injured or rehabbing player, both Zimmerman and the Nationals insist that there is nothing wrong with him. Per this report from MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, they’re saying that Zimmerman “simply prefers to get his work done in the more controlled environment of minor league games, where the rules are lax.” He doesn’t have to dive for balls, he can lead off every inning, etc. Manager Dave Martinez says Zimmerman simply doesn’t like the usual spring training grind and that this is working for him so he’s fine with it too.

Are you buyin’ that? Not sure I’m buyin’ that.

I suppose weirder things have happened. The Minnesota Twins once let Jack Morris go back to his farm in between starts rather than stay with the club. Other accommodations have been made for veterans, especially in spring training. But this is way more in keeping with a team hiding an injury. Though I have no idea why the Nats would choose to hide an injury to Zimmerman. They’ve talked at length about Daniel Murphy‘s knees and Adam Eaton‘s seemingly never-ending rehab. If Zimmerman has some aches and pains, you’d think they’d talk about it.

On the other hand, if this is a legit story and it is simply an accommodation for a veteran who doesn’t like the normal spring training grind, look for Zimmerman to be a trailblazer, because there are a LOT of dudes who hate spring training too and would love to change things up like this.