Lost in the hand-wringing over Roy Halladay's shoulder, Chad Qualls' gopher-itis, Jimmy Rollins' paternity-leave-gate, and the Phillies being in the basement of the NL East until yesterday is the fact that the Phillies have been playing excellent baseball over the past eighteen games.
Now, as any good baseball fan should know, eighteen games does not make a season. But, remember how much of the fanbase was ready to doom this team to eternal mediocrity (or worse!) long before the eighteenth game of the season.
And, keep in mind that records and stats from the first eighteen games of a season are much easier to isolate than the same from any other subset of eighteen games. After all, the Phillies were 8-10 after 18 games -- we knew that by looking at the standings following that game. They were batting .248 with a .641 team OPS -- something we also could easily determine by looking at the overall team stats after the 18th game. Figuring out how the team has done over the past 18 games once you're well into the season? That takes work!
Well, thankfully, I've done that work for you. And the results are quite pleasing:
Record: 12-6. This record is the second best in baseball over the last 18 games. Both the Dodgers and White Sox are 13-5. The Red Sox are also 12-6. All other teams have a worse record over their last 18 games.
Runs Scored: 86 (or 4.8 per game). The Phillies are third in the NL over the last 18 games, with the Dodgers (90) and Giants (87) scoring more. The Nationals have also scored 86 runs over this period.
Runs Against: 68 (or 3.8 per game). The Phillies are second in the NL over the last 18 games, once again behind the Dodgers (61). The Nationals are tied with the Phillies.
Run Differential: +18. As you should be able to deduce from the information above, the Phillies are second in the NL, behind the Dodgers (+29) and tied with the Nationals.
Hitters' OPS: .782. The team is hitting to the tune of a.281/.350/.432 triple-slash line. I don't have how that compares to other teams over the course of the last 18 games, but that line means the team has hit almost like the Cardinals have hit all year (.282/.347/.466), all of those numbers tops in the NL.
Pitchers' OBP against: .283. The pitchers are not allowing runners on base, as their mark over the past 18 games matches the best in baseball over the course of the season (the Nationals). It's a very good thing that the Phillies are not allowing runners on base because they are allowing a lot of extra base hits, as opponents' isolated power over the last 18 games is a whopping .197 (which would be the worst in the majors this season).
The Phillies have been playing excellent baseball recently. Of course, they've been doing it completely without their best hitter (Chase Utley) and their biggest power threat (Ryan Howard). They've also been doing it with very little contribution from their star leadoff hitter (.588 OPS for Jimmy Rollins over this stretch) and a decidedly mediocre performance from their best pitcher (14 earned runs over 27 innings for Roy Halladay and a 1-3 team record in games he pitched).
The thing is, if you look just at the standings or decided how good this team is solely based on its early season results, you might not have noticed.