Thursday, September 29, 2011
Phillies: So Much For Those "Previews"
The Phils took two of three. The Red Sox aren't in the playoffs after their mighty September collapse, capped off by last night's stunning 9th-inning loss at Baltimore combined with the Tampa Bay Rays' rally from a 7-0 deficit to beat the Yankees in extra innings.
At the end of July, and again in early August, the Phils and San Francisco Giants got together for the first time since last year's NL Championship Series. The matchup was hyped, again, as a "preview" of a possible playoff rematch.
The Phils took 4 of 7, including 3 of 4 out west. The Giants faded badly and finished eight games out of first place. They aren't in the playoffs.
At the beginning of September the Phils welcomed the Atlanta Braves to town
for a three-game set. At the time the NL East race was still not clinched, and the Braves had dreams of a sweep to make it close again. Failing that, Atlanta had a huge lead in the NL Wild Card race, so one more time there was talk of a "preview" of this year's NL Championship Series (teams in the same division do not meet in the first round).
The Phils swept the Braves, roared to their fifth consecutive NL East title and, despite an eight-game losing streak immediately following the division clincher, ended up breaking the franchise record for most wins. The Braves? Like the Red Sox, a massive choke job. A season-ending sweep -- again, at the hands of the Phils -- left them out of the postseason entirely as St. Louis got hot enough late and took the NL Wild Card.
The moral of the story: beware the hype of these "postseason previews."
NL: Arizona at Milwaukee, St. Louis at Philadelphia
AL: Tampa Bay at Texas, Detroit at New York Yankees
How many of you got all eight playoff teams right in your preseason predictions? Not me. I had the Phils winning the NL East, of course, but the only other playoff team I called was the Yankees. And I said they'd be the Wild Card, finishing behind Boston in the AL East. Oops.
I did make one nice call on the Phils, though: "So, barring unforeseen circumstances, I see no reason why they won't win the NL East again. How easy it will be probably depends on Utley. If he gets back in May, 102 wins or more is likely. If it takes until August (or if he's out for the entire season), it'll be closer to 94." Chase Utley's first game? May 23rd. Number of wins? 102. You're welcome.
For what they're worth, Division Series predictions will be coming shortly.