The Phillies dropped Sunday’s series finale to the Reds 9-4, sending their run differential down to -30. The only teams with a worse run differential are the Braves (-62), Twins (-57), Athletics (-51), Reds (-50), and Brewers (-38). Their expected record is 15-23. Instead, they sit at 22-16, tied for second place in the NL East.
With last year’s trade of Cole Hamels and the recent winter trade of Ken Giles, the Phillies further committed to their rebuilding process, so their success a month and a half into the season comes as a big surprise. While GM Matt Klentak likes the culture of winning being brought to the clubhouse, he is not about to go to Party City for balloons, streamers, and noise makers.
“We’re not blind to the fact that our run differential is negative by a significant margin,” Klentak said, via Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Indeed, the Phillies have the second-worst offense in baseball, averaging 3.31 runs per game. Only the Braves (3.06) have been worse. The Phillies don’t do much of anything right offensively, with the third-lowest batting average in the majors at .231, the worst on-base percentage at .288, and the second-worst slugging percentage at .364.
Somehow, though, the Phillies are 14-3 in one-run games. Success in one-run games is typically correlated with bullpen strength, but the Phillies’ 4.03 relief ERA is higher than the major league average of 3.82. Furthermore, teams that enjoy lots of success in one-run games in one year haven’t often repeated the success in the following year. So, understandably, there are plenty of skeptics about the Phillies’ shocking start. Even Klentak doesn’t sound convinced. But you have to start somewhere, and maybe this becomes the year the Phillies finish higher than fourth place for the first time since 2012.