A Collapse is Unlikely

It’s the 45th anniversary of 1964, and the Phillies recent struggles have some fearing that history will repeat itself. Everybody knows about the 6.5 game lead with 12 to play. Their ten game losing streak gave the division to the Cardinals. However, there is reason to believe that this will not be a re-occuring nightmare.

The 2007 New York Mets ”choke” is compared to 1964. With a seven game lead and 17 to go, the Mets blew their lead to the Phillies on the final day of the season. It is ironic that the Phillies end their 2009 campaign against the Marlins (the team that eliminated the Mets), and the Mets end their season against the Nationals (the team that the Phillies clinched the division against). It is safe to say that the Mets (16.5 GB) don’t have a chance. However, the Florida Marlins (6.5 GB) and Atlanta Braves (8.5 GB) are still lingering.

The Phillies are in a major offensive funk, scoring three runs or less in eight of their last ten games. Still, the Phillies have one of the best offenses in the league ( .257 AVG/ .344 OBP/ .447 SLG / .780 OPS ). They lead the National League in home runs (186), and are third in baseball behind the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers.

Despite their struggles with runners in scoring position, their totals are not much different than their overall stats (.253 AVG/ .356 OBP/ .445 SLG/ .800 OPS). In addition, their RISP numbers are around the league’s average.

The Phillies batting stats are pathetic (.205 AVG/ .277 OBP/ .282 SLG/ .540 OPS) in September. The only team that has been worse is the Los Angeles Angels, another first place team. The stats are poor, but it is only six days into the month. The Phillies offense is very streaky, but when they are hot, they’re on fire. Currently, they are relying on the long ball and most of the players are cold offensively. It is something that has happened before and they will snap out of it.

The offense may be slumping, but the pitching has kept them close. The team has a 3.50 ERA and opponents are batting .228 against them this month. They are tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for best ERA (3.25) in all of baseball since the All Star Break.

It has been a slow start for the month of September, but the Phillies had a similar slump is June, when they went 11-15. The team batted .248, but the difference was that the pitching had a 4.38 ERA. They started July (20-7) with two straight losses and August (16-11) with three.

This Phillies team is too good to collapse. Of course, the same was said about the ‘64 team as World Series tickets were printed. The difference is that Cliff Lee and Joe Blanton will not be pitching every other day like Jim Bunning and Chris Short. If Brad Lidge continues to fail as closer, Brett Myers could take over. And frankly, the Phillies are a better team than the Marlins and Braves. The Marlins don’t have the pitching, and the Braves don’t have the offense. The Phillies proved that they have pitching, offense, and defense. The Phillies have an advantage in that they have recently played in a playoff-type atmosphere.

It’s only the beginning of September. The Phillies are in a slump right now, but they’ve been through slumps before. The Phillies are a streaky team, and once they reach a hot streak, they will be unstoppable. Even though it is toward the end of the season, a slump now with a marginal lead is much better than a slump during the postseason.

The ‘64 collapse didn’t begin until September 20, so unless the lead diminishes dramatically this week or somebody steals home a la Chico Ruiz, a 2009 Philadelphia Phillies collapse is highly unlikely.

Originally featured on Phillies Nation.


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