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The Race to the Bottom: Can the Phillies stay on top?

Once again, the Phillies aren't making the playoffs this year. On the flip side, they are leading the race to the bottom. However, they have a steep climb to finish the season in the same position.

Denis Poroy/Getty Images

For the sixth year in a row, the Phillies aren't going to make the playoffs. Even if they win each of their next 43 games (something the Dodgers probably couldn't even do this year), they'd only finish with an 86-76 record. That .531 win percentage would still be short of the two current Wild Card leaders (the Rockies and the Diamondbacks), who are on pace to win 90 games. In other words, even in our wildest dreams, the Phillies are playing golf in October.

So that means we spend the last several weeks of the season doing what has become routine for us this time of year -- watching prospects join the big league team in September and watching the bottom of the standings to see where the Phillies are going to draft next year.

We'll of course cover the September call-ups when they happen, but now's as good a time as any to start looking at the bottom of the standings to see where the Phillies fall. And here, with the usual caveat that we're talking about the issue of just how bad a team is, we've got some good news: The Phillies currently sit atop the race to the bottom.

Here are the worst teams in baseball as of last night's games:

The Phillies currently have a 2.5 game lead for the worst record in baseball, and a 4 game lead for the worst record in the NL. Interestingly, with 3 games remaining in their 4-game series against the Giants, the Phillies can do a lot to change their position in this race over the weekend. If they sweep the Giants, they'll be only 1 game up on them. If they get swept, they'll be 7 games up on them. A lot is at stake here. Thankfully (and I use that word from the position of this current issue - leading the race to the bottom), the Phillies have already used their best pitcher and their best hitter is hobbled. So, the chances of them beating the Giants in each of the remaining games is not high.

With all of the teams on this list having about 40 games to play, it would be hard for the Phillies to fall out of the top 4 here. With the team's dismal year, improving 9 games compared to the Athletics, Tigers, Padres, Mets, and Braves seems far-fetched.

But, among the teams worth paying attention to in the remaining weeks -- the White Sox, Giants, and Reds -- the Phillies might have a tough time in staying on top. Here's a quick look at how the four teams stack up in the coming weeks:

Phillies: The Phillies are 4-12 since August 1 when they traded away their best reliever, one of their starting pitchers, and a decent-but-oft-injured hitter. Their remaining games feature 3 games against the Giants, 11 against the Marlins, 3 against the Cubs, 6 against the Braves, 6 against the Mets, 7 against the Nationals, 4 against the Athletics, and 4 against the Dodgers. That's a pretty easy schedule, as it features only 14 games against winning teams but 19 against teams on this list of bottom-dwellers.

White Sox: The White Sox are 4-11 since August 1, an almost equally bad record as the Phils. They have a much harder schedule coming up though, the toughest of this bunch. They play 3 games against the Rangers, 8 against the Twins, 7 against the Tigers, 3 against the Rays, 7 against the Indians, 3 against the Giants, 6 against the Royals, 3 against the Astros, and 4 against the Angels. That's 31 games against teams with a .500 or better winning percentage, and only 10 games against teams among the worst teams in baseball.

Giants: The Giants are 9-7 since August 1, the best record among these four teams. Like the White Sox, they play a harder schedule than the Phillies in their remaining games. They play 3 games against the Phillies, 3 against the Brewers, 9 against the Diamondbacks, 6 against the Padres, 4 against the Cardinals, 5 against the Rockies, 3 against the White Sox, and 6 against the Dodgers.  That's 27 games against winning teams, and only 12 against the terrible ones.

Reds: The Reds are just behind the Giants, at 9-8 since August 1. They don't have as hard a schedule as the Giants or White Sox, but not as easy as the Phillies either. They play 3 games against the Braves, 6 against the Cubs, 9 against the Pirates, 7 against the Mets, 6 against the Brewers, 6 against the Cardinals, and 3 against the Red Sox. That's 21 games against winning teams, and only 10 against the worst teams in baseball.

If you like charts better than narratives, here's this information in chart form:

Even though the Phillies have the worst record in baseball right now and are playing the worst baseball among this group, they have the easiest schedule going forward . . . by a lot. In other words, if the Phillies want to stay atop their perch and draft at #1 for the second year in the last three, they're going to need to play at a new level of horribleness and lose over and over again to the other worst teams in baseball.

Given how this season has gone, I'm probably not alone in thinking that this team can meet this challenge.