The Daily News ran a column this morning that set out to answer that very question. David Murphy did the leg work, and based on results from previous years, he concluded the Phillies need to reach the 88-win mark to qualify for the postseason.
The reasoning is simple. In each full season since the Wild Card was adopted in 1995, the club that would have earned the newly invented second WC spot finished with at least 88 wins on all but two out of 16 occasions.
In practice, the path to get there is not nearly so simple. With a record of 33-37, in order for the Phils to reach 88 wins, they need to go 55-37 the rest of the way -- and even that might not be enough. Nine times, or more than half, the runner-up's win total actually eclipsed 88.
Murphy seems to be operating under the assumption the Phillies won't win the NL East, a conclusion we've more or less drawn on our own. Regardless, sneaking in through the back door doesn't diagram much easier.
The plan he sets out would require Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Vance Worley to revert to their 2011 performances, when the club combined to go 39-17 over their last 56 combined starts. So far this season, the Phils are 11-3 when Hamels starts, but 7-14 when Lee or Worley are pitching. Lee and Worley have also missed games due to injury.
That's an optimistic projection, though clearly achievable. Plus Roy Halladay will eventually return, which should help prop up the rest of the rotation, and actually lessen the load on the other three.
Yet you can see how staggering a hole the Phillies are in when you break it down like that. A team that has been hovering around or below .500 for the majority of the year likely needs to win at close to a .600 clip for the next three months -- and they're still missing players.
Think they have it in them?