Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, then you’re certain of one thing -- the Phillies play really, really well in the second half of the season.
For as long as this core of Utley, Rollins and Howard has been around (2005ish), they’ve always seemed to turn it on in the latter months of the season. Be it an easy schedule, or other teams slowing down while the Phillies get their second win, or just their innate ability to win under the pressure of the home stretch of the season, there certainly appears to be something in the Phillies’ water when the season passes the mid-point.
Dating back to 2005, the Phillies are sporting a .518 winning percentage in the first half of the season and a .610 winning percentage in the second half of the season. Although the winning percentages in the first half of the season have improved since 2005, that improvement pales in comparison to their post mid-season numbers, where they haven’t finished the second half with winning percentage under .590 in that span. The high-water in the second half came last season, when they went 50-25 (.666*) to finish the year. In order to best that mark, the Phillies would need to win 35-18 the rest of the way this season.
*In 2010, Roy Halladay pitched a perfect game and a no hitter in his first ever playoff game. The Phillies sort of owned the National League, from wire-to-wire. Despite getting shutout way too many times and not grabbing hold of the division, for good, until September, it was never really close. Then they swept the offensive juggernaut Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS, only to lose to the light-hitting, Cody Ross-emboldened San Francisco Giants in the NLCS. I guess the devil decided to collect on that soul a wee bit early.
The reason I bring this up is because the Phillies appear to be in full-blown second half mode, where they are winning games in every which way, be they blowouts, squeakers, walk-offs at home, or rallies on the road. It’s almost like the team, and by proxy, the fans, is going into each game with the attitude of, “How are they going to win this one?” (Not that they wouldn’t have it in any other game, I mean.)
Want evidence of that? Look no further than the last few games. They rallied against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday -- with the big blows coming from Raul Ibanez -- before taking the first game of the series against the Colorado Rockies, despite being down to their last strike with a two-run deficit staring them in the face. If that wasn’t enough, they even got eight shut out innings from Kyle Kendrick on Tuesday night to take the second game of the series. And when Kendrick is getting it done, you know things are going well. Perhaps, boringly well, sayeth Craig Calcaterra from NBC’s Hardball Talk, on the Phillies’ latest win
“Remember back before the season started when I said that this team would be sort of boringly dominant in that, you wouldn’t necessarily pay attention every night, but then you’d look up in August and they’d have a double-digit lead? Yeah, this is exactly what I was talking about.”
And so it goes. I don’t know that I would call them “boringly dominant,” but he sort of has a point. Because the rest of the division was somewhat close to the team for the first half of the season, every game seemed a whole lot closer than they actually were -- we had a need to scoreboard watch despite the fact that it was May or June or whenever. But now that they’ve got themselves an eight game lead in the division to coincide with their newest bat Hunter Pence and their soon-to-be-returning-fourth-Ace Roy Oswalt, it appears as if though we can stop the hand wringing and nervous pacing and actually enjoy the game with little trepidation as the Phillies open up the engine and speed off towards their fifth straight National League East title.
There is still a ton of time left in the season, and an eight-game lead is far from bulletproof. But with the way this team has been playing, there is no reason whatsoever that the Phillie faithful can’t enjoy some second half baseball, boring or otherwise. It's a good problem to have.