After last night’s loss to the New York Mets, the Philadelphia Phillies have a 6-8 record. Based on the reputation of the city’s sports fans, you might think this was a cause for anger and panic in Philadelphia. But despite sitting two games under .500, most Phillies fans are happy with how the team has played so far. Welcome to 2016: The Season of Lowered Expectations.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Phillies had their most successful regular season in franchise history. In 2011, the Phillies won 102 games, in what I dubbed “The Season of No Angst.” It was wonderful. They were expected to win just about every night, and at no point during that season did I feel even the slightest concern that they might miss the playoffs.
Those days are over. The team has missed the postseason the past four years, and last year they lost a major league worst 99 games. They are now in the midst of a rebuilding effort, and as a result, they have a young, inexperienced roster which most people predicted would again finish in last place.
The Phillies certainly have a last place worthy offense. They rank at the bottom of the National League in runs scored, and it’s not due to under achievement. There simply aren’t enough good hitters on the Phillies’ roster. Sadly, there’s little reason to expect things to get better any time soon.
On the other hand, the pitching – primarily the starting rotation – has been excellent, and is the main reason fans are feeling optimistic about the team. Heading into the season, the team appeared to have a solid rotation that could be counted on to pitch well most nights. Even better, three of the pitchers were young enough that they could reasonably be projected to improve.
For the most part, the starters have exceeded expectations. They’ve kept the team in most games, and have shown some flashes of greatness. The most thrilling performance was by Vince Velasquez, one of those aforementioned young starters. Last week when facing the San Diego Padres, he delivered one of the finest pitching performances in team history, striking out 13 batters. Admittedly, the Padres are awful offensively, but that’s impressive no matter who you’re facing.
This past weekend’s series against the Nationals was a reflection of the Phillies’ season as a whole. On Friday and Saturday, they were bludgeoned by a combined score of 17-2. Undeterred by that domination, on Sunday, they staged a tenth inning rally to win the game. The victory was even sweeter because it came at the hands of their hated former closer Jonathan Papelbon. Despite the lopsided run totals for the two teams, Phillies fans were still able to come away happy with how the weekend went.
Obviously I would prefer that the Phillies were actual contenders this season. It was much more fun to enter a season wondering if the team would win the World Series rather than wondering if they’d avoid losing 100 games. But at least they’ve already given us some exciting moments and have shown that they won’t be a complete laughingstock.
It isn’t much, but in the season of lowered expectations, it’s really all I can ask for.
This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was P and the topic was “Phillies.”