Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
The Phils beat the Giants tonight on a Chase Utley pinch-hit grand slam. They are now one game under .500 for the first time since April 22 (8-9). If the Phils sweep the Giants tomorrow, they will have recorded their tenth day at or above .500. They are 11-6 since May 13 and 16-13 since the beginning of May.
Keep in mind that the Phils have not been more than one game over .500 all year. They may be 3.5 games out of first and one game out of third, but they are still in last place and have very little prospects of sustained winning streaks with their sub-par rotation and pen. They haven't won more than three games straight all year.
The Phils will probably pass the Nats once the excitement of escaping their Montreal/San Juan limbo wears off and the Mets aren't world beaters. But the division still comes down to Atlanta and Florida in my opinion.
It did make me wonder, however, whether a fifth-place team had ever finished the season closer than 3.5 games behind the division champ. The answer is yes and no. The 1981 Red Sox finished fifth, just 2.5 games out, but that was a) a strike-shortened year and b) a year in which the standings were split into half-seasons. The Sox finished 4 games out in fifth in the first half, and the Indians finished five out in the second (the Sox were second). The fact that Boston finished 2.5 out overall is irrelevant.
Here are the fifth-place teams that came closest to first all time. The 1988 Yankees were 3.5 games out in fifth:
|Boston Red Sox||1981||AL||E||2.5|
|New York Yankees||1988||AL||E||3.5|
|New York Mutuals||1871||NA||7.5|
|Cincinnati Red Stockings||1884||AA||8|
|Boston Red Sox||1940||AL||8|
|Chicago White Sox||1987||AL||W||8|
|Chicago White Sox||1926||AL||9.5|
|St. Louis Cardinals||1933||NL||9.5|
OK, but those Yankees had two teams behind them in the AL East. The Phils are currently last, and would remain so if the remain in fifth. What's the closest a last-place team has ever come to first?
|San Francisco Giants||1995||NL||W||11|
|San Diego Padres||1994||NL||W||12.5|
|San Diego Padres||1997||NL||W||14|
|Rockford Forest Citys||1871||NA||15.5|
Another strike-shortened season leads the pack. 1994 no AL West team had a winning record.
The Royals, even after winning two straight against the Yankees under new manager Buddy Bell, are 19.5 game out of first, mired in last place in the AL Central. What's the farthest back any last-place team has ever been?
|St. Louis Browns||1939||AL||64.5|
|Boston Red Sox||1932||AL||64|
|St. Louis Browns||1897||NL||63.5|
|St. Louis Browns||1898||NL||63.5|
|New York Mets||1962||NL||60.5|
OK, so how about since divisional play started in 1969?
|Tampa Bay Devil Rays||1998||AL||E||51|
|Toronto Blue Jays||1979||AL||E||50.5|
|Tampa Bay Devil Rays||2002||AL||E||48|
|Toronto Blue Jays||1977||AL||E||45.5|
|San Diego Padres||1993||NL||W||43|
Surprise, a bunch of new expansion teams top the list. The Royals are going to have to work overtime to make that list. Hiring Buddy will eventually help though.
That said, I am looking forward to this homestand and next 40 games to see if they can move at all.
It is what we all knew it would be: Marlins and Braves...I like Florida but betting against the Braves is just stupid.
Please tell me why Utley is not playing every inning of every game?
1) To get Polanco enough playing time to shop him around (and to improve on his poor early season numbers).
2) Because the Phils' brass is about as smart as a plug nickel. They distrust young, inexperienced players, though Utley is hardly young anymore and his inexperience stems from their lack of trust. Idiots. Couldn't count to two without dropping their pants.
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