phillies-improve-record-to-36-14,-mlb’s-best-50-game-start-since-2001-mariners

Phillies improve record to 36-14, MLB’s best 50-game start since 2001 Mariners

Sports

The Philadelphia Phillies are winning at a pace not seen in 23 years.

The team defeated the Texas Rangers 11-4 on Wednesday to improve their record to 36-14, which isn’t just the best record in MLB. It’s the best record through 50 games the league has seen since the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who went on to win an MLB-record 116 games.

Phillies manager Rob Thomson was quick to note what that actually meant for the team’s goal of winning the World Series, via MLB.com:

“What did they do at the end?” manager Rob Thomson said of that 116-win Mariners club, which lost in the ALCS. “You’ve got to keep going. You just got to keep grinding, keep pushing all the way through.”

Per MLB, only 26 teams have won at least 36 of their first 50 games in the modern era (since 1900). Of those 26, only 11 of them have gone on to win the World Series and only two — the 1984 Detroit Tigers and 1998 New York Yankees — have done so in the divisional era (since 1969). A multi-round playoff remains a crapshoot even for elite teams.

It isn’t hard to see where the Phillies’ success is coming from. They’re hitting well, with Bryce Harper, Alec Bohm, Trea Turner and Bryson Stott all posting an OPS+ of at least 135 (i.e. 35% better than league average when adjusted for park). Kyle Schwarber, J.T. Realmuto and Brandon Marsh are all well above average too.

The rotation has been one of the strongest in MLB, with Ranger Suarez rivaling Chicago Cubs sensation Shota Imanaga for the best numbers in the league. Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola are not far behind him. The only area where they fall behind is the bullpen, which ranks 21st in MLB with a 4.25 ERA.

The Phillies have been historically good against a weak schedule. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

This is a team that changed basically nothing from a 2023 unit that won 90 games and was a Game 7 away from reaching the World Series. So far, they’ve looked even better.

Of course, there remains one major weapon for the team’s detractors.

The Phillies’ strength of schedule is unavoidable, but there’s much more to it

Here is what Yahoo Sports’ Jake Mintz had to say about the Phillies’ schedule on Tuesday:

Entering Tuesday, Philadelphia’s opponents’ combined winning percentage this year was .465, by far the lowest in MLB. The next-easiest schedule belonged to Tampa Bay at .477. No other team had an SOS under .480.

That’s a Charmin ultra-soft schedule. Cozier than Egyptian cotton. Far from a gauntlet. The smoothest possible sailing. But multiple things can be true at once: The schedule has been bad, and the Phillies have been better.

One game later, not much has changed. The Phillies have faced the softest scheduled in MLB, and that doesn’t mean they are very good.

After dropping a three-game series against the Atlanta Braves, it is very conceivable the Phillies will not face a team above. 500 again until June 3, when they face the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers. Of course, some of those teams are .500 or below because they faced the Phillies. Like the Rangers, who were 24-24 when they entered their current series in Philadelphia.

Elite teams should look elite against bad competition and the Phillies have looked elite so far this season. Their +90 run differential is the best in MLB. If they take a step back when they face more of their fellow contenders, they’ll still be a very good team.

For now, Philadelphia can enjoy one of baseball’s most fun teams and a six-game lead on the much-hyped Braves.