All Phillies fans should be very excited that the team has fought its way through a rough stretch of August offense to be at the top of the Wild Card hunt and in the running to challenge the Braves for the NL East. But, there are some concerns that the Phils' success is a chimera built on a stretch of easy opponents and that the team's fortunes will plummet once it faces tougher NL East opponents for the rest of the year. Is this concern legitimate?
It just might be. Looking at the standings through this past Sunday, when the Phils were 67-58, they had forged their success by beating up on losing teams while struggling mightily against winning teams. Breaking down their results based on opponents' winning percentage produced the following:
Opp. Win % Phils' Win % under .450 0.632 .450-.500 0.683 .500-.550 0.415 over .550 0.417
Basically, the Phils have played better than the St. Louis Cardinals in the 60 games against sub-.500 teams while doing their best imitation of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 65 games they've played against teams over .500. That is a risky recipe for winning a post-season spot and definitely not a recipe for post-season success.
How are the other teams competing with the Phils for the two post-season spots doing in this regard? Much better. Like the Phils, all of them have winning records against both categories of sub-.500 teams, although none has as strong of a record as the Phils do. But, unlike the Phils, the other teams have a winning record in one of the categories of over-.500 teams. Here's a graph with the breakdown:
As you can see from the chart, Atlanta, Flordia, and Houston have winning records against teams with .500-.550 records while Washington has a winning record against teams with records over .550.
With 25 games remaining against NL East opponents (all of whom are over .500) and another 3 against Houston (and only 6 more games against sub-.500 teams), if the Phillies keep up their past trend against teams over .500, they are going to sink quickly in the race for the postseason.