Do the Philadelphia Phillies Have a Chance at the Second Wild Card in the National League?

By Bryn Swartz

With just 12 games remaining in the 2012 season, the Philadelphia Phillies’ streak of five straight postseason appearances is in serious jeopardy. The Phillies trail the St. Louis Cardinals by four games for the second wild-card spot.

Four games back, and 12 games to play.

It’s difficult. But this is a team that overcame a seven game deficit in the final 17 games to win the 2007 National League East. Do they have another run in them to win the wild-card? It’s theoretically possible. ESPN gives the Phillies a 1.5 percent chance at reaching the postseason.

But it’s not going to happen. There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s not going to happen.

When the Phillies cut their deficit to three games with 18 to play, I thought it was about a 40 percent chance that the season would end in a playoff berth (although ESPN’s odds had us around six percent). But they’ve made no ground over the last six games. In fact, they lost a game.

The Phillies essentially ended their season when they lost three out of four games to the last-place Houston Astros over the weekend. Last place is actually a generous way to describe the Astros, who are one of the worst baseball teams I have ever seen.

To make the playoffs, the best case scenario for the Phillies would be to force a one-game playoff with another team, with the winner earning the fifth wild-card spot, and the right to play another one-game playoff.

They would probably need to go 11-1 for that to happen. 10-2 is possible. Anything less wouldn’t be good enough.

But the problem for the Phillies is that they’re not just chasing one team. The Milwaukee Brewers are 2.5 games back (1.5 games ahead of the Phillies), and they’re the hottest team in baseball right now, winning their last five games. The Los Angeles Dodgers are 3 games back (1 game ahead of the Phillies).

The Phillies’ final 12 games are against the Atlanta Braves (3 games), Washington Nationals (6 games), and Miami Marlins (3 games). That’s nine games against teams that will be in the playoffs, and three games against a division rival who would like nothing more than to play the spoiler role. It actually could help the Phillies playing the Nationals and Braves, who will likely have the number one and four seeds clinched, but it probably won’t even matter.

The point is that the Phillies have been playing very well in the second half of the season but they likely dug themselves too big of a hole to overcome by losing three out of four to the worst team in the major leagues.

I think the Phillies are a good bet to finish the season with at least six, seven, eight, or even nine wins in their final dozen games, which would clinch a tenth consecutive winning season for the franchise.

But I don’t expect 10 or 11 wins, and a sixth straight postseason berth. They’re too inconsistent. How do you lose three out of four to the Astros and then sweep the New York Mets, ending with a 16-1 drubbing?

The playoffs are possible, yeah.

There’s a 1.5 percent chance.

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