A prevailing thought after the Phillies sweep of the Nationals this weekend* seems to be there is a chance after all of the Phillies making the playoffs. After all they are on a winning streak, they swept the best team in the NL East with authority, and they got rid of soon to be noted clubhouse cancer Shane Victorino.** So as it stands, the Phillies are 9.5 games out of the wild card with over 30 games left. This can be done, right? This is possible. After all, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Tampa Bay Rays did it, right?
**The media would never make Hunter Pence a clubhouse cancer because he is white and he hustles. Poor Shane. He does not deserve this. :(
Unfortunately, that is not the way that it works.
There are numerous differences between the Cardinals and the Rays of 2011 and the Phillies of 2012. Namely, the teams in front of them.
Teams ahead of the Cardinals on August 26, 2011: San Francisco Giants, Atlanta Braves.
Teams ahead of the Rays on August 26, 2011: New York Yankees
Teams ahead of the Phillies on August 26, 2012: Arizona Diamondbacks, Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals.
This is absolutely significant. The more teams ahead of a team, the harder an already 9.5 game deficit becomes because it is not just a matter of chasing one team and hoping one team goes cold while your team gets hot. Even if in this instance the Cardinals got cold, the Dodgers could go on a winning streak, overtake the Cardinals, and that would be it for the Phillies. And say what you will about the Dodgers, but they are improved in the short-term after their mega-trade with the Red Sox. It's not just catching one team. It is gaining 9.5 games on St. Louis, gaining 3.5 games on Arizona, 7.5 games on Pittsburgh, and 8.5 games on the aforementioned Dodgers. Baseball Prospectus puts the Phillies playoff chances at 0%. Cool standings puts the Phillies playoff chances at less than .05%, or less than 1 in 2000.
The Phillies are 24-17 since the All-Star break. That's a .585 winning percentage. If the Phillies continue on that pace, they will end the season with 18 more wins. To just finish the year at .500, the Phillies will need to win 20 more games, an increase to the pace they are currently on. And even then, that only gets them to .500, and there is no historical precedent suggesting .500 will be good enough to get a team 2nd place in the wild card.
I am not telling you there is a chance. I am telling you there is not a chance. The 2012 Phillies season is over. It's been over for over two months now. Instead of getting excited now only to be let down by the inevitable playoff miss, let us get excited about what the Phillies have for 2013. If the Phillies 24-17 post All-Star break were to extend over an entire season, they would most definitely be a playoff team. Assuming Ruben does not do anything bat shit crazy over the off-season, they should be fine in 2013. There is legitimate reason for optimism if you are a Phillies fan. The Golden Age of Phillies Baseball is not dead yet.
But that optimism has nothing to do with making the 2012 Playoffs.
Instead of getting excited over something that is not there to get excited over, sit back, relax, and enjoy the remaining 31 games of Phillies baseball the way baseball was meant to be enjoyed. The Phillies are currently a fun team playing some fun baseball. The shine on Domonic Brown is beginning to return. The shine on Roy Halladay is beginning to return. The shine on Cliff Lee is beginning to return. The shine on Chase Utley has returned. The shine on Ryan Howard may yet return. The bullpen is promising with young arms. Jimmy Rollins is still awesome. Enjoy these games stress-free. For you can't enjoy the past and future highs without the current lows of 2012. These games matter, and they are fun.
Just don't go around thinking there is a chance.