Three spring home runs from the Big Piece have Phillies fans thinking revival.
Few predictive models are as well-financed, well-researched and successful as sports books.
Sure, where betting is legal, the books have that little matter of the 10% they collect on losing wagers to ensure their success. But they still get it right more often than not.
The San Francisco 49ers were favored by three or three-and-a-half (depending on where you looked) over the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl in Super Bowl XLVII.
With less than a minute left, the 49ers were inside the Ravens' 10-yard line, down 34-29. Had they scored a touchdown, the 49ers would have gone for two points (to keep a field goal from beating them).
And the difference in the final score would very possibly have been three points.
Of course, the Ravens' defense held, and the final score of 34-31 Ravens made the sharps look dull.
That is the sort of book-breaking magic the Phillies are trying to conjure in 2013.
Per Ladbrokes, the Phillies at 16/1 have an equal chance to win the World Series as the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants.
Unfortunately for Phillies fans, per Ladbrokes, there are nine teams with better odds to win the title—and four of them are in the National League.
The British oddsmakers presently project the Washington Nationals as the National League East's most likely World Series winners at 8/1. The Cincinnati Reds (9/1), Los Angeles Dodgers (10/1) and Atlanta Braves (14/1) are also preferred to the Phillies.
These odds cannot be disregarded when projecting a win total for the 2013 Phillies. It is apparent that at least one casino in Las Vegas took these odds into account.
The Nationals' over-under was 90 wins. Atlanta's over-under was 86 wins. And the Phillies' over-under was 81.5.
One-half game better than they had in an injury-plagued, severely-underachieving 2012 season? Even a hardened, cynical Phillies fan has to question the validity of that sort of pessimism.
Any team would struggle without healthy, effective play from its three- and four-hole hitters in the lineup and without its ace.
Without Utley, Howard and Halladay, that is essentially what the Phillies were dealing with. So far this spring, all three have looked healthy and capable of returning to a high level of play.
Further, the Phillies' 13 blown eighth-inning leads (per the New York Times) should be a problem left behind following the acquisitions of Mike Adams and Chad Durbin.
Those two figure to do a better job of getting the ball to Jonathan Papelbon with a lead than did, say, Jeremy Horst.
So my prediction for the Phillies in 2013 is full health (or close to it) for Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay. Those last two, along with Michael Young and Carlos Ruiz, are all in contract years—so whatever they have left, you'll see it.
Putting it all together, I see 87 wins for the Phillies and a race for the final wild-card berth that goes to the final day of the regular season.
In fact, based on the odds, I'd sign up for 87 wins right now.