Little known fact: there's a professional baseball team that plays for the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They're called the Phillies. Remember them?
It's kind of hard to right now. The team is on a seven game West Coast trip, with six games in a row starting at 10pm Eastern time. The other game, Sunday night, is an 8pm game. All seven of the games go up against the Olympics, which, thanks to the greatest Olympian ever, are getting record viewership. Add in the team's four game losing streak and miserable offensive performance over the past two months, and it's really quite easy to forget about Philadelphia baseball.
But maybe we shouldn't. As poorly as the Phillies seem to have been playing recently, they're only a game out of first place. That's three games better than they were at the same time last year, when they were in third place and four games behind the Mets. They've scored 71 fewer runs than last year through the same number of games, but they've let up 80 fewer.
What seems to be the big problem this year has been the team's second half offensive performance, and the numbers bear that out. Before the all-star break, the team had a .257/.335/.442 line (AVG, OBP, SLG). Since the all-star break, the team's triple-slash line is .240/.320/.421 - a decline in all three categories. They scored 5.01 runs per game before the all-star break, but have managed only 4.32 since the break. To put that in perspective, that's the difference between the Chicago White Sox offense and the Cincinnati Reds offense.
Things look even worse for the offense when you consider the collapse since mid-June. On June 17, I wrote how the Phillies had re-gained their rightful place atop the NL runs scored chart. They were coming off an 8-2 win over the Red Sox. They were in first place over the Marlins by 3 games and the Mets and Braves by 6.5 games.
Their offense has flailed since June 17. Before that date, they were hitting .265/.344/.456. Since then, they've drastically suffered in all three categories: .237/.314/.409. Their offense scored 5.40 runs per game before June 17. From that date forward, they've scored 4.08 runs per game. A run and a third difference on offense is huge. And the Phillies' record has paid for it. In the two months since then, the team has been 22-27, going from 12 games above .500 to 7 and from first place to second place.
I know it's stating the obvious, but without the Phillies' offense performing as it did before June 17 and as we all have come to expect it to over the past several years, it'll be easy to forget about the Phillies much longer than this current West Coast trip that overlaps with the Olympics.