We should have seen this coming. After Jimmy Rollins declared the Phillies the "team to beat" last off-season and then the
Mets monumentally collapsed and lost the NL East Phillies won the NL East, is it any surprise that the Philadelphia media is starting to tout Jimmy's November prediction that that Phillies will win 100 games this upcoming season?
But how realistic is 100 wins? Last year, the Phillies rode their incredible, NL-best offensive production to an 89-73 record. They outperformed their Pythagorean record by only 1 win, meaning they were almost spot-on in terms of expected performance based on runs scored (892) and runs allowed (821).
So what would it take to transform last year's performance into a 100 win performance? Let's look at three different scenarios below (compared to 2007, the first line in this table):
|Improving hitting||1036||821||RS +144|
|Improved pitching||892||706||RA -115|
|Improved both||956||757||RS +64, RA -64|
Winning 100 games is not going to be easy for this team. Keeping its pitching the same as last year, the Phillies would have to score another 144 runs this year. With a full year of health from Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, they can expect more production from the right side of their infield, but they are living on hope that Shane Victorino can replace Aaron Rowand's production (best VORP for an NL center fielder last year), that Rollins can repeat his MVP performance, and that the platoon of Geoff Jenkins and Jason Werth works. Plus, there's the tiny problem that there have been only 16 1000+ run seasons in the history of baseball, and only 1 since 1950 (the 1999 Indians). Let's put this one to rest: the Phillies are not going to improve their offense by 144 runs this year.
How about improved pitching? If the Phillies get the same offensive production as last year, with full years from Howard and Ultey balancing out the loss of Rowand, can they improve their runs allowed by 115 runs? With Bret Myers getting more innings as a starter, Brad Lidge in the bullpen, another year of experience for Cole Hamels, and the (hopefully) inevitable "dead cat bounce" from Adam Eaton, the Phillies should have improved pitching. But, there's no way it's 115 runs improved. Giving up only 706 runs would have been the 6th best pitching staff in baseball last year, 3rd best in the NL (behind only San Diego and Chicago). With Jamie Moyer a year older, J.C. Romero scheduled to meet his worst enemy, regression to the mean, and the entire pitching staff subject to the weak medical support the Phillies seem to be getting recently, the 2008 staff is not going to be in the top echelon of pitching staffs.
So can they take the middle road to 100 wins by improving both their hitting and pitching? That's the most realistic route, but it's still phenomenally unlikely. Improving both by 64 runs would be a big stretch. It would require scoring 956 runs, which would be the 37th best offensive season ever in the history of baseball. Without improving at third base, the team is not going to get into that realm. And, it would require the pitching staff to vault into the top half to third of staffs in the majors. With only Lidge being added to a staff that pitches half of its games at CBP, giving up only 757 runs is not going to happen.
Let's face it. 100 wins is a pipe dream. It's extremely difficult to imagine a scenario in which lightning strikes in two successive years.