Odds are, Phillies won't make the playoffs

Posted: July 12, 2013

THE PHILLIES might be a 20-to-1 shot to make the playoffs as we stand here now, give or take, and there is not enough Kool-Aid in captivity that can change that reality. That is said with the full knowledge that Cliff Lee is healthy and available to pitch every fifth day, and that Cole Hamels appears to have found himself, and that the team has begun to hit.

Twenty-to-1, give or take. That is true, no matter how many times they show on the Phillies' telecast how well the team has done in the National League East standings since April 19. The fact is, the season did not begin on April 19, and everything that happened before April 19 did, indeed, happen. The fact also is that 10 good days cannot possibly erase 90 submediocre days. It just does not work like that.

All of this is being written as Lee is pitching great, except when he is giving up four solo homers on a steamy summer night at the ballpark. It is an evening that began with Phils manager Charlie Manuel saying that trade talk never bothered him as a player, that "I'm just as cool as a river." It is an evening that ended with the Phils completely useless with runners on base in a 5-1 loss to the Nationals.

The last little while has given skeptics pause. With their recent play, last night notwithstanding, the Phillies have earned themselves another 2 weeks to present their evidence. But that is all they have done. April, May and June remain written in ink.

In the last 15 years, 118 major league teams entered their 92nd game in about the same position that the Phillies did last night. That is, they had between 40 and 45 wins; the Phils had 45 going into the game.

How many of those 118 teams made the playoffs? Five.

The bunch of teams was selected arbitrarily but fairly. They are all in the same mediocre neighborhood. Excluded were the no-hope teams that would just make the numbers slant even worse against the Phillies. Instead, this is a group of teams that shares the same leaky boat.

And how many patched the holes?

Five out of 118. That is 4.2 percent. That is a 20-to-1 shot, give or take.

You are going to tell me it is easier to make the playoffs now because of the second wild card, and you would be right. So instead of having a 4.2 percent chance, what do you want to make it? Six percent? Eight percent? Ten percent? Knock yourself out.

Just know that a franchise that makes decisions with an 8 percent chance of cashing a ticket is a doomed franchise. Also know that a franchise that makes decisions based upon chasing a terribly devalued wild-card spot, with its one-game playoff format, likely will be disappointed in hindsight.

This is not like hockey, say, in which teams appropriately do whatever it takes to make the playoffs - because anything can happen. In baseball, a wild-card team has a 50 percent chance of being knocked out on the first night of the postseason - and then, if it survives, has to drag what is likely to be a badly stressed pitching rotation into the next round against a rested team.

You want to make decisions in pursuit of those realities? Really?

Amid all of this, the Phillies continue to weigh their options. You wonder sometimes whether they have a big set of old-fashioned brass scales somewhere in the offices that they adjust every morning and recheck the balance.

"I think they want to see which way it's going," Manuel said. "They want to see a little bit more, because there is still some time before the trade deadline. I definitely think they're watching us play and trying to make up their mind. For them, it's a real important, big-time. It's about longevity and down the road, and what's best for the organization. I'm sure they're sitting there watching."

They are not there yet. To wake up tomorrow morning and try to buy a relief pitcher or two would be premature, to say the least. The next 13 games will take them through July 28, which will be decision time before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline. They have to win about 10 of those 13 to buy with a straight face.

And if they are a longshot, they should sell. To sit tight and do nothing in the face of long odds is to waste an opportunity. One or the other, then.

DN Members Only : Ruben Amaro Jr. says the Phillies are cautious buyers for now.

Email: hofmanr@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @theidlerich

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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