I, like all of Philadelpha, was devasted after the loss on Friday night. How could this team lose in the first round after setting the franchise record for wins? How was this possible? This team was built to go to the World Series! Not be content to be bounced out in the first round! Then the devastation turned to anger. Team can't score a freaking run for Halladay?! Are you kidding me? This is the worst lose in Phillies history! Changes are needed! This lineup isn't ever going to take us anywhere! Amaro better get some hitters in here! What a fraud! I don't care how many they won, the goal is to win the world series and they didn't get close! This year was a complete and utter failure!
As I slowly came out of my depression, like a recovering alcoholic, I turned to The Good Phight for support. The sentiment on here seems to be that a disappointing end should not erase six months of the most exciting, fun Phillies baseball we've ever enjoyed. And for that reason, the season is not a failure. Although, I don't disagree, this wasn't the proper closure that I seeked. I live for the playoffs. I needed a deeper meaning. So I searched. I searched and, brothers, I am now found. I have found solace in the 2011 Phillies season. I am at peace and I will share with you why.
The Phillies lost to a Cardinal team who won 90 games. The difference between a 102 win team and a 90 win team across a 162 game season is 1 win every 13.5 games. Assuming the winning percentages are consistent, the odds that a 102 win team with home field beats a 90 win team in a 5 game series is 59%. We completely dominated the league, and the odds of getting out of the first round is only a measly 59%. As a mild betting man, this is not uncommon for postseason favorites in major league baseball my friends. These teams are the top 25% in a league of the top 1% of players in an incredibly tough game and to get much higher is approaching the limit of human ability (additionally, if your laying odds much higher, I wouldn't plan on that money coming back). In the last 17 years since the start of the wildcard era, 3 teams with the best regular season record have gone on to win the world series. 4 wild card winners have won the world series. The team with the most titles in the era is of course the Yankees with 5. They've made the playoffs 16 times in the last 17 years. The secret is volume. In the great crapshoot of the MLB playoffs, the more you play, the greater odds of taking home the prize. The key is not what you do at the game. It's simply getting a seat at the table.
How does this affect the Phils this season? The Phillies' actually are undervalued this year. If every player were to maintain their current level of play next season, we would actually expect them to win 104 games given their run differential and pythagorean winning percentage. Of course, not every player will be able to be retained next season. Here are the significant Phillies that could possibly be lost and their respective 2011 WAR:
Oswalt - 2.5 WAR
Rollins - 3.8 WAR
Lidge - 0.3 WAR
Madson - 1.7 WAR
Howard - 1.6 WAR
Ibanez - Negative WAR
Total: 9.9 WAR
With all things remaining the same, if we replaced these 5 players (not including Ibanez because he actually is worse than replacement) with replacement level players, we would expect the team to win 94 games. In the worst possible case scenario, the Phillies would be expected to win 94 games, still 5 games ahead of the 2nd place Braves from this year. Of course, Amaro will not be replacing these players with replacement level (most will probably be retained). And of course, players will not repeat next year from what they did this year. Some will regress due to age/injury and some will improve due to age or injury from this year. New young players such as Worley, Mayberry, and Dom Brown will be given more opportunities to contribute. But on average, even with minimal personel changes, we should expect this team to be comfortably atop the division next year and headed to its 6th consecutive postseason. How many teams can say that? The answer is not many, including the Cardinals, whose best player may be leaving to free agency. To me that is a successful season. No matter what happens in the offseason, this team is going to be extremely competitive for the world series next year and that's comforting in this time of disappointment. Contrary to popular belief, the window is wide open baby. I can't wait to start the next chapter with this team and don't plan on giving up my season tickets anytime soon. So when do pitchers and catchers report again?