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August 10, 2010

Expanded Horizons

The Benefits of Roy Oswalt

by Tommy Bennett

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On the morning of July 22, Baseball Prospectus' playoff odds for the Phillies hovered just above 10 percent; now, with mid-August approaching, the odds are a little over 46 percent.

The Phillies are 1½ games back of the Braves in the NL East and on the heels of the Giants in the wild-card race.

The 2009 Phillies won Baseball Prospectus' Dick Martin Award for the healthiest team in baseball; the story of the 2010 edition has been the exact opposite: Philadelphia currently has stars Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Shane Victorino on the disabled list.

With just over 50 games to play, the question remains: Can the Phillies get Roy Halladay to the postseason for the first time and make their run at the Big Red Machine in terms of three consecutive NL pennants?

Their luck may be turning a corner. Not only are the Phillies 14-3 since July 22, but Victorino (strained abdomen) may return by the weekend. Howard (sprained left ankle) is eligible to return Aug. 17 and will likely be in the lineup before September. Utley, out with a thumb injury since late June, will likely return in early September. Each of those players has been above average offensively this year. Utley ranks second on the team in True Average at .305, and Howard follows closely behind at .302. Victorino, in addition to his fine defense in center field, ranks as one of the 10 most valuable baserunners in the game. With all three back in the lineup for a pennant race, the Phillies stand to improve as a team.

The Phillies' rotation is also solid. Cole Hamels is pitching very well, Halladay is a stud, and Roy Oswalt essentially replaces Jamie Moyer (out for the season with an elbow injury). Before his departure, Moyer posted a SIERA of 4.42. By contrast, Oswalt's mark was nearly a full run lower, at 3.46. With about 10 more starts to go, the difference between Oswalt and Moyer should net the Phillies about one extra win.

The Phillies' schedule also provides relief. The team will play a majority (57 percent) of its remaining games at home, where it is 36-19 (compared to 26-30 on the road). The Phillies' remaining opponents collectively play slightly below average offense for the league (by TAv); their opponents also have a slightly below average pitchers' strikeout rate and a worse than average unintentional walk rate. That doesn't mean the schedule is a cakewalk—the Phillies play 24 games in 23 days in one stretch—but it gives them a good chance at hunting down the Braves and Giants (they have three left versus the Giants and six left versus the Braves, with those six being split—three home and three away; the season ends with three games between the Braves and Phillies).

The most heartening thing is this: since 2007, the Phillies are 52-35 (.598 winning percentage) in September and October. With three All-Stars set to return from the DL, a new ace in the fold and relatively soft schedule, the Phillies should have the wind at their backs from here on in.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Related Content:  Phillies

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Premium Article Expanded Horizons: Mar... (08/17)
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Checking the Numbers: ... (08/10)

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