For the last eight years, I’ve been the guy who shows up this time of year to tell you that the Phillies aren’t nearly as good as you hope they will be. Prior to that, I was the guy who dropped in to tell you to take a few tranquilizers and stop trying to bench the shortstop because of a few awful April losses. I was not a popular person, but I was usually right.

This year? I’m here to tell you to believe.

The Phillies might not go 162-0, and their bullpen might not go the entire season without surrendering a run, but they have a chance to surprise some people. And that would still be the case even if they weren’t 4-0.

No doubt, four wins in four games will help the cause. In and of itself, though, it doesn’t tell us much. If you’re interested in the recent history, nine teams started 3-0 between 2017-20, and only two of those teams finished the year with a losing record. But that little factoid doesn’t really mean anything, at least not with regard to the Phillies, because the Phillies were one of those nine teams that started 3-0, and they did it by sweeping the Braves. They did not finish with a losing record, and they fired Gabe Kapler after the season because they finished 81-81.

So, no, we don’t know much more about this Phillies team than we did on the morning of opening day. There’s a reason a season is 162 games and not three. In a three-game series, something as minor as the weather can be the variable that separates success from defeat. If it was 80 degrees and sunny instead of 49 degrees and windy on opening day, who knows. Two of the Phillies’ three wins came by a single run. Both of those games were tied heading into the eighth inning. Let’s not get carried away.

But, at the same time, let’s be mindful of the differences between that 2019 start and this one, and that year’s team and this one. For instance, we know that this year’s lineup is better than that one was. While six of the eight regulars are the same, the two newcomers are Alec Bohm and Didi Gregorius, and the two departures are Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez. That means 25 percent of the lineup has been upgraded in a substantive manner. While the jury is out on Bohm’s defense at third base, you don’t need to be Ray Kinsella to see that the kid can flat-out hit.

But it’s the pitching staff that should give you the most hope that 3-0 might turn into 90-72. Former general manager Matt Klentak earned some scoffs a couple of off-seasons ago when, after signing Zack Wheeler, he said that the Phillies had as good a 1-2 combo as any at the top of their rotation. Debate the particulars all you want, but Wheeler is looking like a guy who could go down as one of the all-time free-agent bargains, even at five years and $118 million. After holding the Braves to one hit in seven scoreless innings on Saturday, Wheeler has now allowed just three home runs, 23 earned runs, and 91 baserunners in 78 innings as a Phillie. Since the start of last season, Wheeler and Aaron Nola both rank in the top 20 in the majors in innings, ERA, and FIP. Wheeler ranks in the Top 12 in ERA+ and walk percentage, and Nola ranks eighth in strikeout percentage.

While the Phillies might not have a dominant rotation, at least not one through five, it has a chance to surprise people. Consider that, in 2019, Zach Eflin was, by far, the second-best starter on the team when he posted a 4.13 ERA in 163⅓ innings.

I’ve long been skeptical of the annual “breakout season” hype about Eflin, mostly because he hasn’t given us any reason to think that he is suddenly going to stop giving up home runs, and there will always be a hard ceiling on a guy who gives up 1.5 of them per nine innings. But if Eflin gives them what he did in 2019, they are going to have a good chance at winning more of his starts than they lose. And if he gives them what he did in his first start — seven innings, one run, four hits, eight strikeouts — then three out of every five games the Phillies will feel pretty darn good.

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Three quality starters and an excellent lineup is a formula that can win a lot of baseball games if it is followed by pitching that is at least adequate. That’s a big qualifier, especially when you consider the unknown quantities that the Phillies will be counting on. But sometimes, unknown quantities are an automatic upgrade over known ones.

There’s more reason to believe that Matt Moore and Chase Anderson will be league average starters than there was Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez. There’s more reason to believe Archie Bradley and Jose Alvarado can be legitimate back-of-the-bullpen arms than there was Tommy Hunter and whoever else the Phillies fooled themselves into thinking could do it last season.

Point is, there are actually things that can break right for the Phillies on the pitching side of things this season. If a few of them do — especially Moore and Alvarado — they’ll not only have a good chance to make the playoffs, but to make some noise once there. You didn’t need a 3-0 start to know that. But for the first time in a long time, it’s another reason to believe.

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