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Phillies On the Road Again: Ugh

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The Phillies are the anti-Willie Nelson this year - they are not at all excited about getting on the road again.

The Phillies head to Great American Ball Park tonight.
The Phillies head to Great American Ball Park tonight.
David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, the Phillies start an 8-game road trip that will take them to Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore.  They're coming off a 3-6 home stand, so in normal years, you might think they needed to hit the road to work out the kinks.

But this isn't a normal year.

The Phillies have been a mediocre team at home this year.  With yesterday's win, they are playing just under .500 ball at home - winning 15 and losing 16.  Given what we expected from this team this year, most of us would be very happy with a record just under .500.

On the road, however, it's an entirely different story.  So far this year, the Phillies have a historically bad road record.  Through 1/3 of the season, they have won just 7 games, losing 20.  That's a .259 winning percentage on the road.  To put this in perspective, their recent home stand, where they had an abysmal .333 winning percentage, was better than their road record this year.

How bad is a .259 winning percentage on the road?  Really really bad.  Since 1962, when Major League Baseball went to the 162 game schedule it currently has, no Phillies team has had a worse road record.  Here are the Phils' worst 10 years on the road:

Year Wins Losses Win %
2015 7 20 0.259
1988 27 54 0.333
1989 29 53 0.354
1992 29 52 0.358
1994 20 35 0.364
1997 30 51 0.370
2013 30 51 0.370
2000 31 50 0.383
1991 31 48 0.392
1996 32 49 0.395

What about compared to other teams?  The worst road records of all time belong to the 1963 Mets and 2010 Pirates.  Both went 17-64 for a .210 win percentage.  There are fourteen teams since 1962 that have finished the season with a .259 win percentage (where the Phils are now) or below.  Here they are, ranked from worst to "best":

Team Year Wins Losses Win %
PIT 2010 17 64 0.210
NYM 1963 17 64 0.210
NYM 1962 18 62 0.225
CHC 1981 11 35 0.239
TBD 2006 20 61 0.247
NYM 1964 20 61 0.247
HOU 2012 20 61 0.247
DET 2003 20 61 0.247
BAL 1988 20 61 0.247
TOR 1979 21 60 0.259
NYM 1965 21 60 0.259
DET 1989 21 60 0.259
COL 2014 21 60 0.259
ATL 1977 21 60 0.259

Is there a silver lining here?  If you look really hard, there is, but the problem is, if you look even a little harder than that, it crumbles.  The Phillies' run differential on the road is -51, as they've scored 82 and allowed 133.  Basic Pythagorean math (with all its glory and limitations) tells us the Phillies should have a .292 win percentage on the road.  Over the course of the year, that changes a 21 road win season into a 24 road win season.  It's not much, but we'll take it.

The problem is that fancy math for the goose must also be applied to the gander, and the Phils' mediocre home record looks less mediocre with the help of Pythagoras.  At home, the Phillies have scored 104 runs and allowed 127.  That's a -23 differential, which works out to an expected win percentage of .410.  So, over the course of a full season, instead of 40 wins at home, that works out to about 33.

Of course, Pythagoras isn't perfect, and the formula is not about predicting the future, but the Phils' road woes so far this year are real, and if they keep this up, they'll have a road season for the ages.  And not in a good way.