A Losing Month! The Absurd Expectations of The Philadelphia Phillies Fanbase

We are a spoiled fanbase.

The Phillies just finished the month of April one game under .500 - 11 wins against 12 losses. That record puts the Phils 3.5 games behind the NL East leading Washington Nationals and 5 games behind the NL leading Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Phillies have played just-under .500 ball without their best hitter (Chase Utley), without their best power threat (Ryan Howard), and with one of their ace starting pitchers injured for half the month (Cliff Lee). On top of that, their hitters have slumped all at one time. However, the offense has improved of late, averaging 4.7 runs per game for the last 7 games (a full 2 runs more than the 2.7 runs per game average over the first 16 games).

In other words, despite having a massive offensive slump, the team didn't dig itself a huge hole in the standings while it brought itself much closer to the return of its three big contributors -- Howard, Utley, and Lee. That's a good April given the circumstances.

But if you go by much of the fanbase, whether it's columns in most newspapers, rantings on the radio, absurdities in the blogosphere, or even the mood at the ballpark, this team is dead in the water, and there's no use caring much at this point.

In some ways, this is understandable. After all, this fanbase isn't used to losing. (It still amazes me to write that about the Philadelphia Phillies.) And now, the team is losing (albeit not at all proportionate to the attitude of the fanbase). Thus, people are disconsolate.

There's really no reason to be, though. As noted above, this team is not at all out of the "race" for the NL East crown, as it's just 3.5 games back. Impact players are returning. Even without them, the team is showing signs of awakening from its offensive slumber.

And, most importantly, good teams have losing months. We aren't used to this, as the Phillies haven't had a losing month since June 2009. That's 15 straight winning months for the franchise (counting March and April as one, as well as September and October as one). Going back to the start of the 2007 season, before this past month, the Phillies have had only three losing months -- April 2007, June 2008, and June 2009. That's 27 winning months out of 30, an incredible record over the past 5 years. So it's understandable that the fanbase is upset to see a losing month -- it's not used to them.

But there's just no reason for alarm. Winning teams have losing months. If you have any memory of the Phillies' recent successes, you'll note that their two most recent losing months came in the years they went to the World Series - 2008 and 2009. A losing record for a month does not doom a team to October tee times.

In fact, of the last 8 World Series teams, all but one had at least one losing month (month record in parentheses):

2008 Rays: September (13-14)
2008 Phillies: June (12-14)
2009 Yankees: none
2009 Phillies: June (11-15)
2010 Rangers: April (11-12), August, (13-15)
2010 Giants: June (13-14), August (13-15)
2011 Rangers: May (13-15)
2011 Cardinals: June (11-15)

In fact, the 2010 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants not only had two losing months but also another month in which they played .500 baseball, as they went 14-14 in May of that year.

There's no denying that the 2012 Phillies have been difficult to watch at times. But let's not doom the team to futility just yet. They had a losing month . . . by 1 game . . . without two and a half of their most impactful players . . . with the rest of their offense slumping most of the time . . . and they're only 3.5 games back.

In that light, I think I'll consider this a really successful month.

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