By Michael Donovan

Phillies fans are in seventh heaven over their 24-17 start to the 2016 season, and their position only a half-game behind the Washington Nationals in NL East.

And here are two big reason the Phils are so much better than any of us thought they would be:

Starting pitching is the most obvious reason the Phillies are playing well. The rotation ranked among the worst in baseball last season, but it is among the best in the game this year. Phils starters have a 5.4 WAR, which ranks fourth in MLB. Philly is third in FIP (3.26), WHIP (1.13) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.87).

Bullpen dominance — Remember the first four games of the season, when the Phillies’ bullpen allowed 15 runs in 10 2/3 innings? It has a 3.13 ERA in 36 games since. Jeanmar Gomez transformed himself from a capable middle reliever to a surprising closer, saving 16 games in 17 opportunities. FanGraphs just wrote about how dominant the Phils’ bullpen has been, pointing out that it leads baseball in Wins Probability Added at 3.08, which is 0.76 points higher than the second-ranked Royals (2.32).

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