Why one MLB analyst says Phils have 'win the division' upside originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
The MLB season opens this week, and many don’t know exactly what to make of the Phillies.
They just missed the postseason last year, a 60-game season that didn’t do a great job of showing us which teams were truly superior and inferior. 2021 will be the full 162 games, which will let the cream truly rise to the top.
MLB Network analyst Jayson Stark joined The Mike Missanelli Show on Monday to handicap the Phillies’ October chances, and he was very optimistic about Joe Girardi’s club.
“I think this team has playoff team upside, I think it has ‘win the division’ upside. They got a lineup that’s good enough to win, a top of the rotation that’s good enough to win. You have a bullpen that – I don’t know if it’s good enough to lock down every lead, but it’s good enough to at least not implode like last year.”
New GM Dave Dombrowski did well to turn over and upgrade an awful bullpen that sported a 7.06 ERA, the second-worst in baseball history. Stark cited that the Phils led in 49 of the 60 games they played last season, a rate only topped by the World Champion Dodgers. They lost 21 of those games.
If the pitching held in just ten of the 21 games they turned into losses, they would have had a .633 winning percentage, which works out to a 102-win season over 162 games.
Stark said that the depth of pitching staffs leaguewide will be severely tested, and that an average team can expect to see “12 to 14” different pitchers start games over the course of the season. That will lend to some chaotic situations for teams, particularly the Phillies, who don’t have a ton of big league-ready arms waiting in the wings if things go sideways from an injury front.
As far as the lack of postseason expectations around baseball for the Phillies, he said the low expectations for the Phillies stem from their absence from the postseason over the past nine years.
“I honestly think that of all the teams with big upside, this team is talked about the least. I think it’s because they’ve been off the October radar screen," Stark said.
"It wasn’t just that their bullpen was bad – and they missed the playoffs because of it – I think it alters the whole perception of how good the rest of that team was. Now that they have a bullpen as dramatically better – I’m just looking at what they can be, if things go right."