The Numbers Tell an Interesting Story

Baseball is a numbers game and if you disect some of this season's numbers, they tell an interesting story. With the Phillies now officially in first place in the National League East, it's a worthwhile project to see how they stack up against other teams and try to project how it may all turn out. It's a story that is told best by the numbers...

The Phillies offense has been downright explosive since their return from the road. The numbers? How about 44 runs in four games against Montreal? That's the most amount of runs that the Phillies have scored in a four-game series since they scored 49 in a four-game set against Pittsburgh in 1932. Keep in mind too, that in the third game of the series, the Phillies plated just three runs. That makes 41 runs in three of the games.

Overall, the Phillies have outscored their opponents by 37 runs (410-373). It's a nice ratio, but it's not the best. The Cubs have outscored their opponents by 59 (375-316) and St.Louis leads their opponents by a hearty 71 runs (406-335) on the season. Houston has a 36 run advantage (357-321), but you have to figure that could increase with the addition of Carlos Beltran. In the American League, Oakland has a 45 run advantage (383-338), Texas 51 (416-365), Boston 50 (413-363) and the Yankees 59 (420-361). The granddaddy of outscoring their opponents are the Chicago White Sox who have scored 75 more runs (433-358) than their opponents. Yes, they're the same White Sox who upgraded their pitching staff with the recent acquisition of Freddy Garcia from Seattle.

It's hard to imagine that the Phillies offense will get too much better. If Jason Michaels continues to play everyday and Mike Lieberthal pulls out of his relatively low numbers game, the offense could be some better though. Certainly, the offense, which leads the National League in runs scored hasn't been the real issue. The big change will likely be in the pitching. With Randy Wolf and Vicente Padilla both spending some time on the DL and a bullpen shuffle necessitated by the injuries to Roberto Hernandez and Billy Wagner, the pitching should be better. Of course, Padilla is still possibly as much as a month or more away from returning. That's like the groundhog coming out of its hole and seeing four more weeks of Paul Abbott. Insert the usual whining about Gavin Floyd not being called up here!

By the way, isn't the NL East great? If the Phillies were in either of the other two divisions in the league, we wouldn't be talking about the division leading Phillies. The Phillies (41-36) would be two games behind San Francisco (44-35) in the West and a full 4 1/2 games behind St.Louis in the Central. At least in the West, the Phillies would be in second. In the Central, they would be no closer than fifth. Before we get too full of ourselves over leading the division, keep in mind that the Cubs (43-35), Milwaukee (41-34) and even the Reds (42-36) would all be ahead of the Phillies. Luckily, the Phillies aren't in the American League East, where those Damn Yankees (50-26) would have a 9 1/2 game lead over the third place Phillies.

Another number kind of jumps out (21-17). That's the Phillies home record after winning three out of four against Montreal. It's better than the 18-16 record that the Phillies started the homestand with, but still not great. Again, when you look at the numbers though, there are few teams that have a true home field advantage. Cincinnati (23-14) and San Francisco (24-15) are both nine games over .500 at home with the best home percentages in the league. The Dodgers (23-16), Cubs (22-16) and the Mets (21-16) are the other NL clubs more games over .500 at home than the Phillies. The Padres, the other club with a new stadium this season are 20-17 three games over .500 at home.

The real story of the National League East comes in the final column of the standings. It's the "L10" column, giving teams records in their last ten games. Going down the list, you see 5-5, 4-6, 5-5, 6-4, 4-6. Mediocrity. Parity. Equality. Whatever you want to call it, nobody in the division is burning up the league. Those numbers ring true not just for the "L10" column, but for the season. The division is there for the taking. Todd Pratt's challenge for the Phillies to be ten games over the .500 mark could be a key number if in fact, they can reach it. Actually, if no rain outs hit, the Phillies would have 87 games under their belt at the break, meaning that to hit Pratt's number, they would have to be 49-38. That means they must go 8-2 in their remaining ten games before the break. Not an easy number to hit, but it would be very significant since a good part of that record would come against the Mets and Braves, who the Phillies play in their final seven games leading up to the break.

It's all right there in the numbers.

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