For a while there, it seemed like the Phillies were never going to lose again – or at the very least – not at Citizens Bank Park.

Then they did, 5-3 to the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday, snapping an 11-game home winning streak.

And while it wasn’t their best game – the offense seemed befuddled by Chris Bassitt, who seems to keep the Phillies off-balance every time he faces them with his five-pitch mix that includes a curveball that wouldn’t get ticketed for speeding on City Ave, and Aaron Nola missed a couple of pitches in the sixth inning, that branded his record with his second loss of the season in what otherwise was a decent start – the Phillies go into an off day sitting atop the sport with the best record at 26-12.

It’s been such an impressive start that even the ESPN Power rankings that always seem to reserve the top spots for the L.A. Dodgers, Atlanta Braves, and New York Yankees have recognized the Phillies are an elite team and popped them up to second behind Team Mookie-Shohei:

What does it mean in the grand scheme of things? After all, the MLB season hasn’t quite reached the quarter pole. The Phillies will get there after a weekend series in Miami where the attendance will give them flashbacks to the 2020 pandemic season when only cardboard cutouts were in the stands.

There’s still a lot of baseball to be played, but enough historical data about a start this good that it could provide a glimpse of what to expect for this Phillies team going forward.

To take a really good glance at it, I did some research.

OK. That’s a lie. I didn’t do all the research. Major props go out to Conestoga High School senior Aidan Gregory – who, for his final requirement before graduation, for some reason chose to spend a month being my personal intern. He did all the digging and created this amazing, color-coded spreadsheet. I just crunched some late-night numbers that he sent me to put it together. But seriously, great work by the kid.

The Phillies are just the 112th team in the World Series era (since 1903) to win at least 26 of their first 38 games. Now, in a vacuum, that doesn’t sound very exclusive, does it? I mean, if something happens a handful of times, then yes, it’s a wow. But 112 times, is a bit more meh, right?

Except when you contextualize it, it’s starts to get more and more impressive.

Consider that it’s the 112th time in 122 major league seasons – which means it happens less than once a year. Even more telling is that in those 122 years of the MLB, there have been 2,644 individual team seasons. That means that 112 of them is just 4.2% of every season ever played by every team.

That looks a little better, right? Oh, but wait, there’s more.

Of those previous 111 teams to be as prolific as the Phillies have been so far this season, 41 of them (36.9%) have gone on to win 100 or more games in a season. that’s a pretty good number. But do you know what the most eye-popping number of them all is?

How about 56?

Know what that is? Go ahead. Take a guess. I’ll wait.

No, it has nothing to do with Joe DiMaggio’s hitting steak, or Joe Blanton’s uniform.

It is the number of these fast start teams who have reached the World Series a little more than five months later. That’s more than half of them (50.4%).

A pretty good rate, yeah?

Of those 56, a total of 33 of them won the World Series. The most recent was the 2020 Dodgers.

You’re right, but that season doesn’t count because it was only 60 games long and played almost entirely in empty ballparks.

O.K. That means the most recent in a real season was the 2017 Houston Astros.

Um…. They cheated, and everyone knows it. Throw them out, too.

O.K. then the last legitimate team to get off to this fast a start who won a World Series was the 2016 Chicago Cubs. Any quibbles there?

(crickets chirping)


As for the last time it happened where a team reached the World Series but lost, it was the 2020 Tampa Bay Rays.


Fine. The 2003 New York Yankees, who were upset in the Fall Classic by the Florida Marlins.

The point is, that if past is prologue, there is a really good chance that these Phillies at least reach the World Series, if not actually win the whole shebang.

I mean, ask yourself, if five weeks ago – which was the last time the Phillies lost a series and were 2-4 after six games – if you would take these historical percentages on reaching and/or winning the World Series as a comparator for how the Phils were playing. Admit it, you’d be over the moon answering yourself with a certifiable yes.

That’s how good the Phillies have been – to get you to this point.

But it should not be overlooked that nearly half the teams who got off to this good a start also did NOT make the World Series. Here are some numbers:

  • 9 lost in the League Championship Series (8.1%)
  • 8 lost in the League Division Series (7.2%)
  • 2 lost in the Wild Card Series (1.8%)
  • 1 didn’t have a chance to play in the playoffs because the season was cancelled (1994 N.Y. Yankees)
  • 35 missed the playoffs entirely (31.5%)

Woah. That last one is a big number. Can teams really collapse that badly? 

Well, yeah. Anything is possible – and for a variety of reasons, but it should be noted that only five of these teams have missed the playoffs in the wild card era, and they were all back when there was only one wild card team in each league. There are now three.

And those five teams all would have been in the playoffs in those years had there been three wild cards:

  • 1996 Montreal Expos (88-74)
  • 2000 Arizona Diamondbacks (85-77)*
  • 2001 Minnesota Twins (85-77)
  • 2002 Boston Red Sox (93-69)
  • 2002 Seattle Mariners (93-69)

(The Diamondbacks would have been tied with Cincinnati for the No. 6 seed. How that tie would have been broken is unknown because there wasn’t a balanced schedule then, so head-to-head would have been unlikely. It probably would have resulted in a one-game playoff to see who got in.)

I point all this out to show that there is no indication whatsoever that a team starting this well would miss the playoffs entirely in a season where six teams from each league make it.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though. The other 30 teams who missed the playoffs did so before there was a wild card, so they were simply caught in the divisional race, or pre-1969, the league standings, by another team. But there were three epic collapses where not only did the team that got off to such a great start miss the playoffs, but they fell apart enough to not even finish with a winning record.

Believe it or not, all three times it was the same franchise:

  • 1905 Cleveland Indians – started 26-12, finished 76-78
  • 1941 Cleveland Indians – started 26-12, finished 75-79
  • 1966 Cleveland Indians – started 27-11, finished 81-81

No wonder it sucks to be a Cleveland sports fan. Even in the years they don’t make the playoffs there’s a chance at heartbreak.

Anyway, back to the 2024 Phillies. A quick glance at their upcoming schedule for the next 30 days, and you’ll see there’s a chance for this record to get even more crazy good:

  • 3 at Miami (10-29)
  • 2 at N.Y. Mets and then 2 home vs. the Mets (18-18)
  • 3 vs. Washington (18-18)
  • 3 vs. Texas (22-17)
  • 3 at Colorado (8-28)
  • 3 at San Francsico (17-21)
  • 3 vs. St. Louis (15-21)
  • 3 vs. Milwaukee (21-15)
  • 2 vs. N.Y. Mets (in London, England) (18-18)

That’s right, just six games – all at home – against teams with winning records in the next 27 contests.

Something tells me we’ll be doing more historical comparisons with this team in the not-too-distant future. Speaking of history, I’ll leave you with one last look at the past.

This happened 31 years ago today: