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Race to the Bottom update: Phillies are losing ground

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After a hot stretch, the Phillies are now in second place in the Race to the Bottom and could fall as far as fourth (or even further) by year’s end.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

There was a time about a month ago, when it seemed like the most exciting part of the run-out of the season for the Phillies would be watching where the team would fall in the standings. In mid-August, the Phillies had a somewhat comfortable 2.5 game lead for the worst record in baseball. By early September, that lead had narrowed to just a one-game lead.

Sounds exciting, right? After all, a lot is at stake. With the worst record in baseball, the Phillies would get the #1 draft pick next year. With the fourth or fifth, they’d have to wait for several other teams to draft. If you’re not watching the wild-card standings, then these “standings” seemed like a good substitute.

But, that was in August and early September. Now, things are looking a little different for the Phillies. They just won 3 out of 4 from the best-record-in-baseball Dodgers, and came really close to sweeping them. Rhys Hoskins has brought record-breaking power numbers to the team, but other youngsters are stepping up as well — J.P. Crawford, Aaron Altherr, Nick Williams, and Jorge Alfaro are providing an offensive spark to complement seemingly-veteran youngsters Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco. We are watching the offense of the future, and it’s been the most fun that we Phillies fans have had in years.

So we can safely forget about the Race to the Bottom, right? Well, maybe it’s no longer at the front of our mind, but it still matters. The Phillies’ timeline for being competitive still looks more like 2019 or 2020 than 2018, so stockpiling talent is important. And, with the only current MLB pitcher producing the same level of excitement as the hitters listed above being Aaron Nola, a high-first-round pick who made it to the majors just over a year after he was drafted, there is possibly a need for a top-notch pitching prospect who can come to the majors quickly and dominate, as Nola has shown flashes of doing. (I’ll leave it to my prospect-guru colleagues to fill in whether such a creature looks like he exists for next year’s draft.)

Which means we have to pay attention to the Race to the Bottom still. If you’ve been doing that amidst the Phillies’ winning, you’ll have noticed that the team is “slipping” in the standings, both because of the Phils’ success but also because other teams have been faltering in big ways.

Here’s where things stand with the six worst teams in baseball and only 9 or 10 games remaining:

The column that best explains what’s going on here is the last one. The Phillies are 7-3 over the past 10 games while all of the other teams are .500 at best. The two worst teams over the last 10 games, the Tigers and Mets, weren’t really in the conversation a few weeks ago, but their 2-8 record for the past 10 games has put them near the Phils. In particular, the Tigers are just 1 game behind the Phillies.

So let’s look at what’s left for the four teams at the “top” of this chart:

Giants: Dodgers (3), Diamondbacks (3), Padres (3).

Phillies: Braves (3), Nationals (3), Mets (3).

White Sox: Royals (3), Angels (4), Indians (3).

Tigers: Twins (3), Royals (3), Twins (3).

As I’ve been saying since I started looking at this, the Phillies have the worst schedule for the Race to the Bottom. They play two teams with terrible records — the Braves and Mets. The Giants are the only other team to play a bottom-feeder team (against the Padres), but they also play two of the best teams in the NL in their other 6 games. The Tigers play two teams that are hovering around .500, and the White Sox play two teams hovering around .500 but then the hottest-team-in-baseball Indians as well.

In other words, the Giants, White Sox, and Tigers have much tougher schedules than the Phillies over the remaining games of the season. Combine that with the Phillies’ hot play thanks to their exciting young offense, and it’s hard to imagine the Phillies finishing the season with the worst record in baseball, but easy to imagine them “falling” to fourth place on this list.

But, at this point, with the excitement the team is finally generating on the field, I’m not sure if I care too much anymore. Do you?

Poll

What are you rooting for in the remaining games?

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    Wins in September don’t matter. Give me that #1 draft pick!
    (123 votes)
  • 41%
    Let’s see the excitement continue, but not too much. I’ll be happy with #1 through #3.
    (198 votes)
  • 32%
    I don’t care about next June. Give me wins now. Wherever we fall in the draft is fine with me.
    (158 votes)
479 votes total Vote Now