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.500—Prepare for Glory!
2007-05-17 09:18
by Mike Carminati

"Phillies! Ready your breakfast and eat hearty... For tonight, we dine in hell! (or at least at Pat's)"

Last Tuesday, a Tony Clark home run helped the Spartans, er, D-Backs felled the Phils, 3-2. The team was suffering through a 3-6 road trip and had fallen to 14-19 on the season. They were closer to the worst team in baseball (5 games ahead of the Nats) than they were to first place in the NL East (6.5 games).

In the last game of the road trip, the Phils road a Ryan Howard pinch-hit grand slam to a 9-3 victory. The Phillies have now won six of seven and with a win tonight, can complete a four-game sweep of the Brewers, who came into the series with the best record in the National League.

During the stretch, Cole Hamels has come into his own as the team ace, winning two games including a perfect game for six innings (which I again mooshed). Hamels now co-leads the NL in wins at 6-1 (with 6-2 Roy Oswalt) and is second in strikeouts (70). He now projects to 23-4 for the season with 270 Ks, which would be the best record for a Phils pitcher 25 years old or younger since Hall-of-Famer Robin Roberts went 28-7 at the age of 25 in 1952.

The Phils have not had a history of success with young pitchers (Pat Combs, anyone?). In fact, there have been only ten seasons in which a Phillie youngster has won at least 15 since the 1950 Whiz Kids:

NameYrAge Pitch WS WL ERA
Kevin Gross198524 13.0 1513 3.41
Larry Christenson197723 11.2 196 4.06
Rick Wise197125 21.4 1714 2.88
Rick Wise196923 14.0 1513 3.23
Art Mahaffey196224 16.6 1914 3.94
Curt Simmons195324 18.8 1613 3.21
Robin Roberts195225 31.8 287 2.59
Robin Roberts195124 27.7 2115 3.03
Robin Roberts195023 25.6 2011 3.02
Curt Simmons195021 16.3 178 3.40

The Phils have had only six pitchers 25 or under who have won twenty games since the turn of the twentieth century:

NameYrAge Pitch WS WL ERA
Robin Roberts195225 31.8 287 2.59
Robin Roberts195124 27.7 2115 3.03
Robin Roberts195023 25.6 2011 3.02
Eppa Rixey191625 23.5 2210 1.85
Erskine Mayer191425 20.7 2119 2.58
Tom Seaton191325 29.3 2712 2.60
Pete Alexander191124 33.9 2813 2.57
George McQuillan190823 32.9 2317 1.53

But I digress…from the headline you can tell that the Phils have reached the previously unattainable magic number of .500. It took them forty games to do it, but they finally have as many losses as wins. Since starting the season with six losses in their first seven games, the Phils did not come within one game of .500 until two days but came within two games of mediocrity seven times.

One quarter of the season is over, and they finally reached mediocrity.

Of course, the Phils never do what you expect them to do. After losing reigning MVP Howard and half the bullpen to injuries, that's when they go on a tear?!? Meanwhile Greg Dobbs channels the ghost Lou Gehrig with a .471 batting average and a 1.236 OPS in Howard's absence. Go figure.

They now become the 49th team in baseball history to reach .500 no earlier than their fortieth game. In the last ten years, just the 2005 Pirates (reaching .500 in game 60 en route to a 67-95 season) and the 2001 Marlins (game 66, 76-86 record) have reached .500 later.

Those teams have averaged an 82-80 record over the course of the season and just two, the 1914 Miracle Braves and the '74 Pirates have made the playoffs and just one (the Braves) have won a Series.

By the way, the 1985 version of the Phils (think John Felske and GlennBo) hold the dubious record of reaching .500 the latest of any team in major-league history, in their 136th game. After reaching 68-68, however, they went 7-19 down the stretch to end up fifth in the NL East. Here are the twelve latest teams to reach .500:

YrTeam.500 GWLPCTPOSDiv WinWC WinLg WinWS Win
1985Philadelphia Phillies1367587.4635N NN
1988San Diego Padres1348378.5163N NN
1996Boston Red Sox1288577.5253NNNN
1980Atlanta Braves1268180.5034N NN
1902Cincinnati Reds1177070.5004 N
1974Pittsburgh Pirates1168874.5431Y NN
1901Philadelphia Athletics977462.5444 N
1940St. Louis Cardinals948469.5493 NN
1917Brooklyn Robins947081.4647 NN
1959St. Louis Cardinals927183.4617 NN
1914Boston Braves919459.6141 YY
1945Cleveland Indians897372.5035 NN

Below are the best records for all teams that reached .500 no earlier than game 40. The best are the '14 Braves who did not reach .500 until their 91st game (45-45-1) unbelievably went 49-14 (.778) thereafter. Don't expect that from the Phils:

YrTeam.500 GWLPCTRankDiv WinWC WinLg WinWS Win
1914Boston Braves919459.6141 YY
1944Detroit Tigers408866.5712 NN
1921St. Louis Cardinals448766.5693 NN
1978Baltimore Orioles509071.5594N NN
1920New York Giants848668.5582 NN
1950New York Giants568668.5583 NN
1940St. Louis Cardinals948469.5493 NN
1873New York Mutuals402924.5474 N
1901Philadelphia Athletics977462.5444 N
1974Pittsburgh Pirates1168874.5431Y NN
1940Chicago White Sox838272.5324 NN
1956Detroit Tigers428272.5325 NN
1962Milwaukee Braves788676.5315 NN
1913Boston Red Sox517971.5274 NN
1996Boston Red Sox1288577.5253NNNN
1983Houston Astros628577.5253N NN
1993Baltimore Orioles608577.5253N NN

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