Three reasons why the Phillies are the best team in baseball

By the numbers, the Phillies are clearly the best team in Major League Baseball. They have the most wins (36) and the highest run differential (+90). They're the only team with fewer than 17 losses, and one of just two teams with 20 or more home wins.

At 36-14, this is the best 50-game start in franchise history, and the best in MLB since the 2001 Mariners opened 38-12. Like that historic Seattle club, Philadelphia is currently on a 116-win pace.

The sizzling-hot beginning to the season is new for a Phillies fan base that is used to slow starts. Even in the past couple of seasons, when the Phillies advanced deep into the postseason, they chased the Atlanta Braves for the division lead for the entirety of the year. But this season, they took hold of first place in the National League East on May 3 and have proceeded to build the majors' second-biggest division lead.

Phillies fans haven't seen a season start nearly this well since 1976. They set a franchise record with 19 wins last month, surpassing the 102-win club from 2011 that won 18 games in April.

Let's examine the three key reasons why the Phillies are the best team in baseball, and what that tells us about their chances of returning to the Fall Classic after falling a win short last year.

1. They've been locked in for seven straight weeks

Baseball, more than any other sport, requires extreme focus. The season is long. The games are long. Outfielders can go an hour without making even a single play, only to suddenly be required to be twitchy on their feet and make a spectacular jumping or diving catch. Pitchers sometimes sit idle for 45 minutes on the bench in between innings. If you get easily distracted, or even absent-minded, baseball is not for you.

This season, the Phillies are putting on a clinic in concentration. It starts with their comically soft schedule. Thanks to the decision-makers and scheduling powers that be at MLB, the Phillies have played just one series (out of 16) against a team currently above .500. That one matchup came against the Atlanta Braves to start the season. 

It would have been all too easy this time of year for Philadelphia to take its foot off the gas, perhaps even breathe a bit easier, knowing it's playing uninspired teams like the Nationals, Reds, Angels, and White Sox through the first few weeks of the season. But the Phillies haven't let up, and it's helped them capitalize on their weak schedule. They're bringing the same, dominant energy to every series. For seven straight weeks, they're controlling everything they can.

One can argue they haven't been truly challenged yet, particularly against the superteam Dodgers or the gauntlet that is the American League East. But the Phillies, for the most part, have kept the same group together since Rob Thomson took over managing duties from Joe Girardi in the middle of the 2022 season. And that group has proven they're the real deal. Only the Astros have more postseason wins than the Phillies during this span. Whether it's playing a soft schedule or battling in the playoffs, this Phillies club is maintaining the same resolute focus. Loading Video…

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2. Their roster strengths can feel stifling

One of the most dejecting aspects for opposing teams playing Philly is realizing that even their best efforts are futile. Players can do everything right against the Phillies and still come out on the losing side of a series. Even when opposing teams get on the board first, creating a small stir of hope, the Phillies stomp all over it. They are the only team to have a win percentage over .600 when the other team scores first. The club's 20 wins by four-plus runs is the most in the majors, and no other team has more than 15 such wins. The Phillies are suffocating. 

The Phillies' offense — currently paced not by two-time MVP Bryce Harper (though he is a significant piece of the puzzle), but by 27-year-old Alec Bohm — has scored 170 runs against opposing starters, by far the most in the major leagues. The Diamondbacks come in at second with 155 runs. Their 6.57 runs per game in May are also the best in MLB and, again, it's not even close. The Royals are second-highest with 5.25 runs per game this month, and no National League team is above five runs per game. The Phillies are making big impacts in small ways. They're the only team with 180 walks and 50 or more steals, too. 

Bohm, in his fifth big-league season, is playing like an All-Star and contributing the most to their hot start. The third baseman is one of just two players in the majors batting above .310 (Bohm is at .330) with 25-plus extra-base hits. The other guy? Just some Japanese superstar named Shohei Ohtani. Bohm also leads the big leagues in doubles (20) and is tied for the top spot in RBIs (46). 

3. They don't get rattled much (or at all) under pressure

The passionate Philly fan base is an extra arm of the team's strength, no doubt. And now that the Phillies are so dominant again, they tend to be hated by opposing fans. No matter. This club is completely undaunted by the environment it plays in, as well as where their heads hit the pillows at night. The Phillies are the only team winning at least 65.5% of their games at home (72.4) and on the road (71.4). As far as clutch goes, their 15 comeback wins this season are tied for the most in baseball.

It's easier to feel relaxed in high-pressure situations when the starting pitching has been so good. The combination of Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Ranger Suárez, Cristopher Sánchez, Spencer Turnbull and Taijuan Walker represents arguably the deepest rotation in baseball, with the Gerrit Cole-less Yankees perhaps threatening to take that crown when he returns. Philly is the only team with three starters who have thrown 60-plus innings.

Its 2.64 ERA among starters is the best in the majors and more than a half run better than the next-closest NL team (Dodgers, 3.34). It's also a workhorse unit that ranks first in MLB in wins (27), innings pitched (299.2), strikeouts (303), opponent batting average (.210), shutouts (2) and complete games (2). 

The Phillies are hungry to win it all after their recent October heartbreaks. We're deep enough into the season that their start is no fluke. In just a matter of months, we could have a new NL East king. But that's not nearly enough for these Phillies, who won't be satisfied until they're hoisting the championship trophy.

Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Deesha grew up on Long Island and now lives in Queens. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.

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