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Phillies Have Everything at Stake in Final Week

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With just six games remaining and no playoff hopes, the Phillies still have reason, besides contractual obligation, to play the games.

Like this bat, the Phillies season still hangs in the balance.
Like this bat, the Phillies season still hangs in the balance.
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

As we settle into the final week of the MLB regular season, there remain many intriguing and important games still to be played across the league. The battle for the AL Wild Card is still unsettled as is order of the finish in the NL Central and the NL Wild Card. With the Cardinals and Pirates currently playing a series with implications for the NL Central title and the Angels and Rangers scheduled to play a series later this week with potential division and wild card implications, asking you to watch the Phillies play three games each against the Mets and Marlins may be a tough sell.

However, although the Phillies sit an unfathomable 30 games behind the Mets and 32 games out of the second NL Wild Card spot, there are still many things worth caring about that remain unresolved with regard to the Phillies. Moreover, these unresolved issues will very likely become resolved over the course of the team playing their next six baseball games.

The Race to the Bottom

On Twitter and in the comments to game recaps, schmenkman has done the lord's work by providing up-to-the-minute updates on the Phillies battle with the Braves (and sort of the Reds) for the #1 overall pick in next June's draft. The Phillies currently have a three game cushion on the Braves (4 on the Reds) for that pick. With only six games to play, that lead seems pretty safe. But not so fast! The Phillies play the Mets and Marlins while the Braves play the Nationals and Cardinals. The Cardinals are arguably the best team in baseball and, despite the past two months of Natisuckitude, I can't seem to write off the Nationals entirely.

The Braves also now have a worse run differential than the Phillies on the season (-199 v. -190). So, although FanGraphs projects the current three-game differential to hold up, there is still a sense, at least on the part of this author, that this race is not yet fully settled.

Will the Phillies lose 100 games?

The short answer to this is that they will probably go 3-3 or worse in their final six games and lose 100 or more games on the season for the first time since 1961. The long answer is that with the Marlins being the Marlins and the Mets potentially resting players for the playoff run, the Phillies odds of going 4-2 or better over this final week are better than they might appear at first glance. If you're a betting sort of person, you should probably bet on the Phillies to lose 100 or more games this season, but I don't think it's as sure a thing as everyone tossing it around would have you believe.

Will September be the worst month of the season?

Interesting questions we ask when a team that has given up 190 more runs than it has scored is about to end the season. As it currently stands, the Phillies are 7-17 (.292) in September, which just beats out their 8-19 (.296) June for worst month of the season, record-wise. They would have to only win one of their remaining six games to cement September as worst month of the season, so I would say it is unlikely.

Additionally, the Phillies' September run differential currently sits at -26. They have had 4 months worse than that, but with May at -27 and August at -29, the Phillies are on-pace to make September the third-worst month of the season based on run differential. Barring six consecutive blowouts, the Phillies are unlikely to surpass their -46 April run differential or their -54 June run differential.

In short, June and not September will likely go down as the worst month of the season.

Can the Phillies continue to "dominate" the Marlins?

There are only three teams the Phillies have played four or more times against whom they possess both a winning record and a positive run differential. Those teams are the San Diego Padres (5-1, +7 RD), Chicago Cubs (5-2, +10), and Miami Marlins (9-7, +3). With three games remaining against the Marlins, that +3 run differential is certainly not safe. Will the list of teams against whom the Phillies have winning records in both the first and second order be cut down to two? You'll just have to tune in to find out, as they say.

Uh, how bad can the Phillies do against the Mets?

The Phillies are 2-14 against the Mets, which means that they could end the season 2-17 against the Mets. That is not good. In fact, it is very bad. Even more bad is their -41 run differential against the Mets in those 16 games. That means they are losing each game against the Mets by an average of over 2.5 runs. To emphasize their badness against the Mets yet another way, the Phillies -41 run differential in 16 games against the Mets, accounts for over 20% of the Phillies -190 run differential while the 16 games accounts for just over 10% of their games played.

Regardless of how the Phillies perform against the Mets this week, they will have performed badly against them on the season. Whether they can muster the ability to perform less badly in the next three games than they have thus far, however, remains an unanswered question.

With nearly 900 words now devoted to these burning questions, I have no doubt that you are fired up with intellectual curiosity to watch the Phillies play their six remaining games. If you are not, well, as I mentioned at the outset, there is other baseball being played that will likely appeal to your cliche tastes.