Phillies

Phillies cannot improve without making these defensive fixes

Phillies cannot improve without making these defensive fixes

The Phillies' defense was atrocious this season. It was the worst in the majors. It was the worst this city has seen in decades. 

When looking at why the Phillies fell apart in the second half, the offense deserves its share of the blame, but the defense faltered all year long.

The Phillies are not going to contend with below-average defenders at nearly every position. You just can't, even if you have a staff full of aces.

I personally take defensive metrics with a grain of salt, but the Phils' figure of minus-129 defensive runs saved this season is hard to ignore and certainly passes the eye test. It's 28 defensive runs worse than the next-worst team, the 111-loss Orioles.

The four main reasons:

1. Infield defense an overall weakness

There was a 100 percent chance the Phillies' shortstop defense was going to be worse this season. That's what happens when you move on from a defensive whiz like Freddy Galvis, who by the way is still making sensational plays and saving his pitching staff in San Diego.

Phillies shortstops have committed 19 errors this season, a dozen more than their league-low seven last year.

Scott Kingery did improve at short after a shaky start. And it seems clear the Phillies aren't sold on J.P. Crawford's defense at short. Crawford had more errors — mostly on throws — in 30 games at shortstop this season than Galvis had in 155 starts last year.

To make matters worse, the Phillies received Galvis-like offensive production from their shortstops this season. They got Galvis' bat without his glove. Don't be surprised if the Phils add a defensive-minded veteran shortstop this offseason, especially if Kingery moves to 2B.

2. Catchers couldn't catch

Jorge Alfaro graded out well this season with pitch-framing. Every other aspect of his receiving was poor. There is a case to be made that Alfaro's focus — and really the organization's focus — on pitch-framing and catching the ball perfectly made him worse at catching it, period.

The Phillies have the most passed balls in the National League. A lot of them were inexcusable for a major-league catcher. Only the Pirates have more combined passed balls and wild pitches.

These are costly, costly events that increase the other team's scoring chance in a substantial way. 

Alfaro's offseason focus will likely be enhancing his receiving ability. If the Phils move on from Wilson Ramos, they need to add a second catcher who excels defensively. The free-agent pickings are slim. Yasmani Grandal is out there but why would the Dodgers let him walk?

3. Rhys Hoskins is not a leftfielder

It's not his fault he's out there, but Hoskins is not a leftfielder, he's a first baseman. Hoskins' range is comparable to Pat Burrell's midway through Burrell's career, but Burrell could at least make up for it with a strong and accurate throwing arm.

The Phillies had the fourth-most errors in left field this year and the fifth-fewest assists.

Hoskins at first base with Carlos Santana at 3B is a legit possibility for 2019. Third base defense would be sacrificed for the betterment of offense and left field defense ... which is definitely more palatable if it means Bryce Harper is there.

4. Odubel Herrera regressed in CF

The defensive metrics liked Herrera until this season, and again, the eye test backs up the change. Herrera did not get good jumps this season. He did not make strong throws and was routinely tested by baserunners. The throwing arms of Herrera and Hoskins both grade out toward the bottom of baseball, with Hoskins ranking dead last among 58 qualifying outfielders.

Roman Quinn's above-average defense was glaring because of what it replaced.

Herrera had another multi-blunder game Tuesday night in Denver, not hustling on a double-play ball he had no excuse to not beat out, then later muffing a ball in deep right field.

The Phillies probably realize at this point Quinn is the better all-around player, but Quinn's constant issues staying healthy mean that the Phils would also have to bring in a fourth outfielder they'd feel comfortable playing a lot in center. Keeping Herrera as that fourth outfielder if no intriguing trade offer materializes could be an option.

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There's a contestant on the Bachelorette that looks exactly like Bryce Harper

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The Bachelorettte

There's a contestant on the Bachelorette that looks exactly like Bryce Harper

We’re just going to go ahead and say what you’re already thinking. There are two contestants on this season’s Bachelorette that look a lot like Philadelphia athletes.

Exhibit 1: Luke P. is Bryce Harper

While Phillies fans may have had love at first sight when the team signed Bryce Harper to a 13-year contract, his Bachelorette doppelgänger is also a man who falls in love fast. From the time Luke P. got out of the limo on night one, I can’t unsee his resemblance to Bryce Harper.

Looks like I’m not the only one, it has been confirmed on Twitter.

Exhibit 2: John Paul Jones is Nolan Patrick

I was a little wary of this one, but if another random human on social media says it, it’s a confirmed fact. The man that was so nice, they named him thrice, John Paul Jones is basically Flyers center Nolan Patrick.

The people have spoken.

Now, see for yourself.

As for the rest of the guys, with absolutely no advanced knowledge whatsoever, Peter, the pilot, will be the one at the end down on one knee proposing to Hannah B.

After giving up 7 runs on 856 feet worth of homers, does Cole Irvin get another start?

After giving up 7 runs on 856 feet worth of homers, does Cole Irvin get another start?

CHICAGO — And this is why you need to close out those one-run leads in the ninth inning when you have a chance to take two in a row from the hard-hitting Chicago Cubs in their electric home-field environs of Wrigley Field …

Because sooner or later, the Cubs are going to break out the lumber and lay a beating on you.

That’s just what happened to the Phillies on Wednesday night. Twenty-four hours after they suffered a painful walk-off loss to the Cubs, the Phils were pounded by a score of 8-4 (see observations). The Phils are now tasked with the difficult challenge of beating Jon Lester in Thursday’s series finale to get out of Chicago with a split. Then it’s on to face another lumber company in Milwaukee, the same one that outscored the Phils, 22-6, in the final three games of a four-game series last week in Philadelphia.

The Cubs didn’t need to wait until the ninth inning to beat the Phillies on Wednesday night and they didn’t do it against the bullpen. They teed off on rookie lefty Cole Irvin for 856 feet worth of home runs in the third and fifth innings. Anthony Rizzo belted a mammoth three-run shot in the third and Albert Almora Jr. crushed a first-pitch grand slam in the fifth.

Later in the game, the Cubs got a 449-foot homer from Javiez Baez against Enyel De Los Santos. All of the Cubbies’ runs came on homers.

“The wind was blowing out,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “We saw what it looked like in batting practice. The ball was rocketing out of the ballpark.”

The Phils were only able to rocket one ball out of the yard, but Andrew McCutchen’s solo shot in the eighth was too little too late.

The big subplot in this game was Cole Hamels. The lefty made his first-ever start against his former club. The Phillies jumped out to a 3-0 lead on Hamels, blew up his pitch count and got him out of the game after four innings. But the Phillies needed to do more against Hamels. They left two men in scoring position in the first inning and the bases loaded in the fourth.

“The difference in the game was we really did a good job of building Hamels’ pitch count, but they were able to deliver the knockout blows,” Kapler said. “They scored all of their runs on two swings [against Irvin]. We just weren't able to deliver that one knockout blow, that uppercut. They were able to do that.”

Irvin is a command lefty who can’t afford to miss spots up and over the plate. He tried to go down and away with a 3-0 fastball against Rizzo in the third and the Cubs’ slugger crushed the heart-of-the-plate pitch off the scoreboard to tie the game.

Irvin pitched around Willson Contreras in the fifth to get to Almora. The walk to Contreras loaded the bases and brought pitching coach Chris Young to the mound. The plan was to go at Almora with changeups, but not, as Irvin said, with changeups that were “middle-in and belt high.” Irvin’s first pitch to Almora was right there and the Cubs’ centerfielder crushed it for four runs.

“Unfortunately, I just didn't make my pitch there and didn't make my pitch to Rizzo, either,” Irvin said. “They hurt me for it. I didn’t even get through five innings so I’m really disappointed.”

The big question now is: Will Irvin get another start next week against the Cardinals at home? His performance in his first two big-league starts would suggest that he deserves a look beyond a difficult outing in his third big-league start. But the Phillies can easily go in a different direction because Vince Velasquez is just about ready to come off the disabled list. That issue was talked about extensively before the game (see story).

After the game, Kapler wasn’t ready to make any decisions.

“I think that’s something that we want to spend some time thinking about,” he said. “After a loss like this and after we just kind of got punched, I think the main thing is that we go back and digest and look at what happened in the game and really evaluate it with a little distance between what happened. That’s usually how I approach those things.”

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