Phillies Narrowly Avoid Ignominy of Being 2017’s Worst MLB Team

The Philadelphia Phillies, holders of the dubious distinction of being the losingest professional U.S. sports franchise of all time (over 10,700 and counting), narrowly avoided the ignominy of being the worst Major League Baseball franchise in the 2017 season. Finishing at 66-96, the Fighting Phils were two games better than the Giants and the Tigers, and only a few games shy of the Orioles, White Sox, Athletics, Pirates, and Reds.

The Phillies shared the characteristic of this season’s other losing teams in that they couldn’t win away games while posting near-.500 records at home games. Given the tendency of teams to choose their rosters based on their hitting chances in home parks, this statistic isn’t entirely surprising. That is, except for the Tigers, who displayed ineptitude at both away and home games.

What is surprising is that the Phillies run differential, while not great at -92 (which amounts to a 0.57 run shortage per game), pales in comparison with the hitting horror shows at Detroit (-159), New York [Mets] (-128), San Diego (-212), and San Francisco (-137). This implies a certain amount of managerial ineffectiveness, particularly given that the Padres, Reds, Mets, White Sox, Royals, Athletics, Orioles, and Blue Jays were all able to post better winning records with larger or comparable run differentials.

On the flip side, both the Mariners and the Rangers distinguished themselves as being still six games below 0.500 even with almost a break even run differential; -22 and -17, respectively. The Marlins managed to post a similar record with a -44 run differential.

So it looks like the boys in red pinstripes have a lot a work to do to avoid being in 2018 the laughingstock they were in 2017. Rookie phenom Rhys Hoskins offered some hope despite cooling off significantly late in the season, and Aaron Nola’s first full season in rotation showed long term promise as a pitcher. The organization’s recent focus on Latin American players, a recruiting area neglected for decades, has not paid dividends as of yet. And the Phils need a new manager for the 2018 season, letting go Peter Mackanin after three seasons. It should be interesting to watch.

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