We now know where the Phillies will be on February 18. The pitchers and catchers, at least, will be reporting to camp in Clearwater, with the rest of the team joining them by the 23rd. This is a day or so ahead of most of the other teams (most other pitchers and catchers head to Florida or Arizona on the 19th or 20th), giving the Phillies a 24-hour head start on the season. Matt Klentak has really thought of everything.
By May, when the Nationals are struggling to understand how the Phillies are prepared for their every move, they'll think back to mid-February, when instead of relaxing with a fancy drink at an extravagant party, the Phillies were busing their way down to Clearwater in a coach powered by grit and determination.
Surely, this clear advantage has been detected by the pulsating baseball hivemind at Fangraphs, which churned out the 2016 projected standings, and have the Phillies in... last place in the entire of the sport.
You'd think finally ridding themselves of Cole Hamels would earn the Phillies some good will from the folks at Fangraphs, but they remain non-believers. FG puts the Phillies at 66-96, which is actually three games better than they finished last year, meaning this is a franchise on the rise. The Braves, meanwhile, who are ranked second worst, will finish the year at 67-95 - the same putrid record with which they miserably completed their terrible 2015 season. Sad.
The other thing to mention about the information retrieved from the future by Fangraph's time travel agents is that the Phillies' run differential is -139. Last year, they finished at -183. Again, improvement! And -183 wasn't even 2015's most humiliating differential; that belonged to, of course, the Braves, who were buried at -187.
The Phillies and Braves are the only teams predicted to miss the 4.00 RS/G threshold, scoring 3.73 and 3.77 runs per game, respectively. Meanwhile, the Nationals are once again supposed to emerge sparkling and glorious from the sloppy NL East scrum, winning the division with an unimpressive 89 victories, a run differential in the positives (+68), and allowing, on average, just under 4.00 runs per game. FG has obviously not factored in Jonathan Papelbon braining Bryce Harper with a chair in mid-May because he forgot to use a coaster. They do clearly see, however, that the NL East is full of teams content with not improving the Nationals' +68 differential is the same as it was in 2015, when they missed the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Phillies will be sneakily improving with a roster full of rookies all looking for their big chance. Just look at them, already familiarizing themselves with the city.
What's the best place to get a cheesesteak in Philly ?
— Nicky† (@NickWilliams409) January 11, 2016
Now, if everyone can just form a line before they start screaming their favorite cheese steak place at Nick Williams, that would be great. You hipsters can sort of huddle in a disorganized mess over there, as if you're all sharing a cigarette outside a show. If one of you wants to shout at Nick about the pizza place on Girard that only makes like 20 pies a day and takes two hours to make each one, go for it. Very good. And if everyone in the line could wait to - oh, I see you've already all turned on each other and several physical altercations have broken out over a food nobody even eats that regularly around here.
Fantastic. Can't wait for baseball!