What rebuilding year?
Don’t look now, but the upstart Phillies are 47-37, a season-high 10 games over .500 — the first time they’ve been there since 2011, which is the last time they made the playoffs.
The Phils are also just 1½ games behind NL East leader Atlanta as they enter an 11-game road trip that will take them all the way to the All-Star break.
They’ll visit the Pirates, Mets, Orioles and Marlins in the upcoming stretch. All four teams are below .500, but a winning road trip will still make the Phils look even more like a postseason contender.
The Phillies also swept Pittsburgh in a four-game series earlier this season.
If you need more evidence that the Phils have made a progression from a rebuilder to a contender, check out the latest bold predictions from data journalism site FiveThirtyEight.com.
Using Elo ratings — or a system designed to measure team strength based on head-to-head results, margin of victory and quality of opponent — FiveThirtyEight says the Phillies now have a 51 percent chance of making the playoffs.
That’s a 16 percent jump from early May, when the Phillies were 22-15. FiveThirtyEight believes they’ll finish the season 87-75, or 12 games over .500.
Not only are the Phils’ postseason odds significantly higher, their odds of winning the NL East have also increased to 33 percent (up from 21 percent in May).
More stats to consider
►Only four teams in the National League (Atlanta, Milwaukee, Chicago and Arizona) have more wins than the Phillies at this point. The Phillies have the best home record in the league (30-16).
►The Phillies have swept six teams so far this season, matching their total from the entire 2017 season. It’s the most sweeps the Phillies have had in the first half since 2009.
►Pitching has been the team’s greatest strength. The Phillies have recorded seven shutouts, one above the average of six across all of Major League Baseball. They’ve gotten 48 quality starts from the rotation, and no one has been better than Aaron Nola. He’s 11-2 on the season and 8-0 at home.
►Nola has 10 starts this year allowing four or fewer hits. That’s tied for the most in franchise history at this point in a season. His 2.41 ERA is fifth-lowest by a Phillies starter at this point in a season (with at least 75 innings pitched) in 50 years. The last starter with a lower ERA at the same juncture was Roy Halladay, who held a 2.33 ERA in 2010.
But there’s plenty of room for improvement...
►Philadelphia’s offense remains rather anemic at this point and has scored 365 runs, 11 below the NL average. The team batting average is just .233 percent, also below the league average of .245.
►The defense has also struggled, committing 61 errors in 84 games.
►The Phils have been hurt by NL East opponents who are not the Nationals, going 5-7 against the Braves, 1-3 against the Mets, and only 3-3 against the Marlins thus far. They’re 6-4 against Washington.
►The teams currently chasing the Phillies for the second NL Wild Card spot are hot on their heels. The surging Dodgers are 47-39 and just a game back. St. Louis is 3½ back and San Francisco is four back. The Phillies host the Dodgers (and Chase Utley) for a three-game series the week after the All-Star break. They’re 2-2 against them this season.