Phillies Either Getting Better or Getting Worse in 2017

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The Phillies have to win more games than last years total of 71 wins or else something has gone wrong. Win the same or even less and the rebuild is failing.

The Phillies won 71 games last year, a marked improvement over the 63 they won in the 2015 campaign. Those extra eight wins were indicative of progress. Improvement. A step in the right direction. After all, they are rebuilding.

In the typical rebuilding model you’re building to get better every year.  Teams make moves, players develop and time moves on. The result is supposed to be a steady progression towards competing for a championship. Winning more games every year is how you know you’re getting better, how you know your players are improving. Since you want to win more games, the quicker this process can be completed the better.

Success can’t be measured in a vacuum. You need to compare yourself to not only yourself but your competition as well. Are you better than you previously were? Has someone who was worse than you become better than you? These are the barometers fans and management use to measure a team’s progress.

Currently, BleacherReport.com and Fangraphs.com’s Fan Poll have Philadelphia projected to win 73 games this year, a two win increase over last year. USA Today and BaseballProspectus’ PECOTA projection system have them at 74 wins but BP has them finishing last, behind the 77 win Atlanta Braves. Fangraphs.com has them projected at being stagnant, with the same win/loss record as last year.

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And lastly Vegas isn’t looking to kindly on their season either with most outlets putting their World Series odds at around -15000. Bovada has them at worse odds then the Braves but almost all have them near the bottom of baseball.

So what if the Phillies lose more games this year than they did last year? What if the Braves actually leapfrog the Phillies and have become more competitive in a shorter amount of time?

Would that signify that something has gone wrong? Would that somehow indicate that the rebuild has stumbled?

There are those out there who would answer that question “no.”  They are wrong. The object of this game is to win; the point of rebuilding is to win more than you previously had. The more games you win the better you’re doing. If for some reason the Phillies lose more games this year than they did last year then yes, that’s empirical evidence that they’ve mis-stepped and that something has gone wrong.

This is even more true when you consider the way the current front office has gone about rebuilding this team. They’ve implemented a strict “build from within” formula where they’re developing their own talent through the minors, foregoing any long term contracts with established players, and expecting the homegrown talent to develop into the next championship contending outfit. Many of those projected hallmarks of winning are on the roster right now.

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Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera are projected to be two cornerstones of this franchise going forward and there are heavy expectations on Tommy Joseph as well. Cesar Hernandez and Cameron Rupp had very good seasons last year and are expected to at least repeat the level of production or even do better. These five players are either meant to be part of the future or at the very least fighting to prove they can be.

Then there’s top prospects like J.P. Crawford, Roman Quinn and Nick Williams who have been expected to round out that finished MLB starting lineup in the near future.

The problem is, for the most part their progress has stalled and it’s unclear exactly how much help they’ll actually offer. At this point it’s a fools errand to count on them to help the big league club when they can’t even perform well enough to get there.

As far as pitching goes, the Phillies future is very much now. Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez and Jake Thompson are all expected to be major parts of this team when it contends. The guys directly behind them, Ben Lively, Alec Asher and Zach Eflin, don’t really have similar expectations. Farther down the road, with guys like Franklyn Kilome and Sixto Sanchez, the excitement in future starting pitching doesn’t ramp up again until the lower minors, and that’s years away.

The future of pitching is very much now…the excitement in future starting pitching doesn’t ramp up again until the lower minors, and that’s years away.

So yeah, if the Phillies lose more games this year then they did last year then something’s wrong.

You could wonder if maybe investing in an established player, like a multi-year deal with Dexter Fowler or Jose Bautista, would prevent the increased losing possibility this season while also helping the younger players, like Franco and Joseph, be better ball-players.

However, that was not the path this regime has chosen which is somewhat odd considering the ridiculous amount of payroll flexibility the team has and their immediate need for help in the outfield.

Next: Phillies' Nick Williams Hits The Reset Button

The next six months will tell the tale though. We’ll know a lot more about this team at that point than we do now. Let’s just hope that we’re having the “What a great season” conversation in October and not the “So, the Sixers look good.” one.

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