As the Phillies enter their big three-game series against the Dodgers in Los Angeles tonight, they do so with a 33-23 record (.589) that is second-best in the National League. Only L.A.’s 38-19 record (.667) is better.
But just because the Phils have the second best winning percentage in the league, does that mean they are the second-best team? Where do the Phillies stand as we enter the month of June?
It’s clear they are at least the best team in the NL East. They’ve built up a healthy three-game lead on the Atlanta Braves, a six-game lead against the New York Mets and a nine-game lead against the Washington Nationals. But the Phils have also played the best the NL Central has had to offer recently as well, and while it’s clear they stack up well with the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals, can we definitively say the Phils are better than those teams?
It seems clear they are superior to St. Louis, who they beat four out of six times this year with a run differential of +15 against them. And it was how the Phils beat them, both in St. Louis and at home, outclassing them repeatedly.
The Brewers and Cubs are a different story. Milwaukee is the only team the Phils do not have a winning record against this year, having lost three of four in Milwaukee before beating the Brewers two out of three last week in Philadelphia. But the run differential of -14 indicates Milwaukee might be the superior team. They certainly have a better bullpen and the offense is slightly more consistent, although the edge in starting rotation has to go to the Phils, although not by much.
And the Brewers aren’t all that far behind them in the standings either. At 32-25 (.561), they are 1.5 games off the Phils’ pace. The Phillies do have a better run differential overall, thought, +33 to +19.
The Cubs’ record of 31-23 is one game off the Phillies’ pace, and the two teams recently played to a four-game draw at Wrigley Field (although the Phils could argue they probably should have won three out of four). The Cubs outscored the Phillies 22-20 in that series, so no real advantage there, but the overall run differential for Chicago, +51, is 18 runs better than the Phillies.
It’s impossible to say definitively who is better at this stage, but because this is sports and things like this are supposed to be “fun,” here’s where I have the Phils stacked in the NL’s pecking order heading into tonight’s series in L.A.:
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Chicago Cubs
4. Milwaukee Brewers
5. Atlanta Braves
6. St. Louis Cardinals
Make sure to check out our latest Good Phight podcasts.
First, Episode 290 of “Hittin Season” in which I talk to The Athletic’s Meghan Montemurro about where she would rank the Phillies among the NL contenders so far this year, and how much better the Dodgers are than everyone else. Also, a conversation on extending protective netting, Derek Deitrich’s grandfather rolling over in his grave, and a look back at the 30th anniversary of the surprise retirement of Mike Schmidt.
And on Episode 58 of “Continued Success,” Justin Klugh & Allie Foster recap the Phillies’ series against the Cardinals, talk about the Dodgers, Odubel Herrera, J.D. Hammer’s role in the bullpen and where the 2009 Phillies were at this stage of their season.