Phillies

Giants hire Gabe Kapler as manager

Giants hire Gabe Kapler as manager

Just over a month after being fired by the Phillies, Gabe Kapler has found another managerial job in the majors with the San Francisco Giants.

Kapler will succeed Bruce Bochy, the team announced Tuesday night. You can read more on the news here.

It is a surprisingly quick turnaround for Kapler, even with the well-documented connection he has with Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. The two worked together in the Dodgers' front office when Zaidi was GM from 2014-18, and Kapler was a finalist for the managerial job in L.A. that went to Dave Roberts ahead of the '16 season.

Kapler went 161-163 in two seasons as Phillies manager. There was a slight chance he could return for a third season and it's what GM Matt Klentak wanted, but ownership was ready to move on and Joe Girardi was hired to lead the Phillies' core into the future. 

It will be a shock to some that Kapler landed on his feet so quickly after a rocky two-year tenure in Philly. His team exceeded expectations in Year 1 and fell well short in Year 2, with two straight horrible Septembers playing a large role. 

Kapler does, however, have qualities that appeal to franchises ready to get creative. The Phillies were in that position when they hired him after 2017 and the Giants are now. The Giants are embarking upon a rebuild that will take years. They lack top-end talent and have numerous players aging out of their effective years. They'll need marginal advantages to win games. Enter Kapler.

It will be interesting to see how Kapler's managerial style changes at his second stop. Surely, he will have learned many lessons from the two years in Philadelphia. How to get your message across. How to communicate with players in a way that leaves no room for uncertainty. What not to say after a bad loss. How to better handle a bullpen.

The members of Kapler's staff have also resurfaced. Former Phillies pitching coach Chris Young took the bullpen coach job with the Cubs, former hitting coach John Mallee is now an assistant hitting coach with the Angels, and infield coach Bobby Dickerson is the new bench coach in San Diego.

The other members of Kapler's staff — Rob Thomson, Dusty Wathan, Jim Gott, Dave Lundquist, Paco Figueroa, Pedro Guerrero, Bob Stumpo and Craig Driver — have remained in their roles under Girardi.

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Zack Wheeler's floor a huge boost for Phillies, but that ceiling ...

Zack Wheeler's floor a huge boost for Phillies, but that ceiling ...

For long stretches in each of the last two seasons, Zack Wheeler was every bit as effective as Aaron Nola.

Wheeler had four terrific months in 2018, posting a 2.52 ERA over his final 20 starts beginning on June 1.

In 2019, he found his groove right around midseason, pitching to a 3.04 ERA over his final 16 starts.

When you hear the phrase "untapped potential" in relation to Wheeler, this is what it means. It means that if he can pitch like this a bit more consistently — four good months instead of two — he can be a legitimate ace.

If he can't? Well then, if you trust his stuff and his results the last two years, you're getting no worse than a low-end No. 2 starter. Wheeler has made 60 starts the last two seasons with a 3.65 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, a strikeout per inning and less than a home run per nine.

Those numbers might not jump off the page, but they are impressive when you consider the surge in home runs in 2019 and especially so when considering his workload.

Wheeler is one of only 12 pitchers to reach 375 combined innings the last two seasons. The others are Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, Aaron Nola, Patrick Corbin, Trevor Bauer, Jose Berrios, Miles Mikolas and Mike Leake.

In 2019, Wheeler made 18 quality starts (at least six innings with three earned runs or fewer). Nola also made 18. Zach Eflin had 14, Jake Arrieta had 10 and no other Phillie was in double-digits.

When Nola did not start a game for the Phillies in 2019, they received a quality start 31 percent of the time — less than once every three games.

Wheeler obviously helps with that. Think back to late last season when the Phillies could generate no momentum and had such a smaller chance to win when anyone was on the mound other than their ace. Wheeler changes that. He offers more of a chance for series wins, sweeps, actual winning streaks.

He also brings velocity, something the Phillies' rotation has sorely lacked for years. Wheeler's four-seam fastball averaged a career-best 96.7 mph last season, fourth-fastest in the majors behind Noah Syndergaard, Cole and deGrom.

The Phillies have never had a starting pitcher throw at least 100 innings in a season and average better than 95 mph with his fastball. Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez came the closest. Wheeler has done it comfortably in back-to-back seasons.

Velocity is not the only thing, especially these days when so many have it, but it is obviously still a major part of missing bats and getting outs. Because Wheeler has 3 or 4 mph more on his fastball than Nola, and because he can locate significantly better than Pivetta or Velasquez, he offers the Phillies' rotation a different, much-needed look.

This is not to say Wheeler comes without flaws or concerns. He hasn't yet ripped off a string of strong seasons. Two is a start and the Phillies are banking on it continuing.

He hasn't been a Top 10 Cy Young finisher, though he should have been in '18.

He's never reached 200 innings in a season, though some of that was because of caution the Mets exercised with him.

And Wheeler, despite the velo, has gone through plenty of multi-start stretches where he's been hit hard and doesn't miss many bats, in a way you don't see with the tippy-top guys like Scherzer and deGrom (which Wheeler is not).

He had three starts in a row like that last August and two straight in June.

But Wheeler is as capable of 7 innings, 1 run, 11 strikeouts as any pitcher in either league. When he's on, he can be so, so good. He went at least seven innings 15 times last season and allowed one or no runs in seven of them.

This one addition will not boost the Phillies to 90 wins, but it's the first giant step to another critical offseason.



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At the Yard podcast: Reacting to the huge Zack Wheeler news

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NBCSP

At the Yard podcast: Reacting to the huge Zack Wheeler news

Ricky Bottalico and Corey Seidman react to the big news of the Phillies agreeing to a five-year deal with Zack Wheeler on the latest At The Yard podcast.

They also discuss the possibility of the Phillies signing Didi Gregorius, Cole Hamels heading to the Braves, and much more.

• Initial impressions of the signing
• What the guys like most about Wheeler
• Was this the right price?
• Bittersweet day with Hamels to Braves
• Phillies still need to add another good SP
• One Wheeler concern
• The market for Anthony Rendon



Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies