What about the Dodgers? They have the best record in the National League. Of course, the last NL team to finish the regular season with the league’s best record and make the World Series was the 2004 Cardinals. And the last NL team to finish the regular season with the league’s best record and win the World Series was the 1995 Braves.
Remember the Cubs last year? Best record in the NL, bounced from the playoffs in three games.
But there are reasons to think the Phillies will be tough to beat in the postseason. Maybe even favorites:
The Phillies lead the league in runs (547), home runs (143) and slugging percentage (.445). They rank fourth in on-base percentage (.339) and sixth in average (.260). They are tied for third in stolen bases (79) and first in stolen base percentage (79.8 percent). They are fourth in pitches per plate appearance (3.89), which shows the Phillies know how to work a starter and get into the bullpen. They have grounded into only 61 double plays, which is second fewest in the league. They don’t kill many rallies.
Offensively, few are better. Pitching wins in the postseason, but you’ve got to be able to score, too.
The Phillies are second in the league with a .988 fielding percentage. Their 45 errors are second fewest in the league. A recent SI.com story praised six Phillies for their defense: Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, Jayson Werth, Pedro Feliz and Ryan Howard.
You’ve got to minimize mistakes in the postseason, when every play is huge. The Phillies do that.
This is where it gets tricky.
The Phillies rank 12th in the league with a 4.38 ERA while the Giants, Dodgers and Cardinals are first, second and third, respectively. The Giants and Rockies are tied for the NL wild card, the Dodgers lead the NL West and the Cardinals lead the NL Central. That could be a problem in the postseason.
But the Phillies lead the league with a 3.00 ERA since July 2. That is just one month, but if the Phillies have found their footing for good that bodes well.
Lee certainly helps the rotation. We’ll see what Pedro Martinez does. Brad Lidge remains a concern. He is 0-4 with a 7.11 ERA. That ERA is the worst of any qualifying relief pitcher in baseball. Lidge’s struggles haven’t been an issue lately, but it could be come September and October, when it seems like every game is a one- or two-run game.
So how does the 12th-ranked pitching staff, despite the fact they have pitched better recently — with a closer with the highest ERA in baseball — make the Phillies favorites in the NL?
Lidge’s track record shows he is much better than he has been, and the Phillies also have a slew of relief pitchers on the disabled list: Brett Myers, J.C. Romero, Clay Condrey and Chad Durbin. Myers could be back before the end of the month after recovering from surgery on his right hip. Get those pitchers healthy, and the bullpen looks pretty deep.
“I like our pitching staff when it’s healthy,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “We need to get healthy. I think Brett is going to be back, and I have some optimism about him. He’s throwing and he’s not feeling any problems with his hip. We have a pretty good fighter’s chance we’ll get him back before the end of the season. Who wouldn’t want to have that arm in the back end of the bullpen?”
Cole Hamels had shown signs of improvement before Sunday’s loss to the Giants. Joe Blanton has the eighth-best ERA (2.55) since May. J.A. Happ ranks 14th (2.96). Jamie Moyer‘s ERA is 4.05 in that span, which will win the Phillies plenty of games.