Freddy Galvis

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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Phillies are just another team to Freddy Galvis — wink, wink

Phillies are just another team to Freddy Galvis — wink, wink

SAN DIEGO – Deep down inside, this had to be sweet for Freddy Galvis.

But outwardly?

Just another day. Just another game. Just another team.

Galvis, traded from the Phillies to San Diego in December, has haunted his former club in six games this season. He is 10 for 22 with nine RBIs. Five of them came this weekend as the Padres took two of three from the Phillies.

Galvis, 28, launched the first grand slam of his career in the third inning Sunday to help lead a 9-3 Padres’ win over his old team. The grand slam was a 409-foot bomb – in Ted Williams’ hometown – against Jake Arrieta.

“Freddy Galvis has swung the bat against us very well all year long,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Give him some credit for continuing to swing the bat well and putting good at-bats together.”

Galvis signed with the Phillies in the summer of 2006. He was just 16 at the time. He spent a dozen years in the organization, rising to become the team’s regular shortstop for three seasons after Jimmy Rollins moved on.

Galvis never got on base enough for a Phillies management team that took over before the 2016 season, and he was traded for pitching prospect Enyel De Los Santos last winter. The Phillies shortstop position has been in flux since with J.P. Crawford, Scott Kingery and now Asdrubal Cabrera all playing there this season. Manny Machado will be a free-agent target this winter and could be the next to hold down the position — the Phillies hope.

Meanwhile, Galvis plays on. He is having a typical Freddy Galvis season, hitting .237 with some pop — eight homers and 48 RBIs. His on-base percentage is just .296. His defense remains top-shelf.

Galvis harbors no hard feelings against his old team for moving on without him. He said he understands the business of the game.

But still, that grannie against Arrieta had to feel awfully good, right?

“No, I treat those guys like any another team,” Galvis said. “Play hard, play ball and that’s it.”

Galvis was asked how he was able to treat a team he’d spent so much of his life with as just another club.

“I guess I’m a pro,” he said. “I’m a professional. That’s what I am. I just play the game the right way and that’s it.”

Still, it is not lost on Galvis that he has put up big numbers against the Phillies this season.

Ten hits, nine RBIs …

“Good one, huh?” he said with a smile.

Yeah, pretty good.

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Phillies complete a bad trip with an ugly loss and Gabe Kapler takes the blame

Phillies complete a bad trip with an ugly loss and Gabe Kapler takes the blame

BOX SCORE

SAN DIEGO – There were two Phillies killers on the field at Petco Park on Sunday afternoon and the Phillies know both of them well.

One was Freddy Galvis, the little shortstop who spent a dozen years in the Phillies organization before being traded to San Diego in December.

The other was the Phillies themselves.

Galvis’ 406-foot grand slam against Jake Arrieta might have been the crushing blow in an ugly 9-3 loss to the Padres (see first take), but it wasn’t the only blow that the Phillies absorbed.

The rest were self-inflicted.

The Phillies made two errors and had at least three other defensive miscues, one of which set up Galvis’ grand slam. They ran into an out on the bases. And they allowed six stolen bases, most by a Phillies team since June 2008.

After possibly his team’s worst showing of the season, which capped a disappointing 2-4 road trip, manager Gabe Kapler fell on the sword for his sloppy club.

“We didn't execute the fundamentals today,” he said. “That's on me. I have to do a better job of getting us prepared to play and to execute the fundamentals of this game. So that one is on me.”

Kapler didn't throw away any balls or run into any outs. And he surely didn’t help to extend the third inning for Galvis by not being able to make a play on a 40-foot dribbler in front of the plate.

So why was the loss on him?

“Because it's my job to help our players set the tone and be on top of their game — all the time,” he said.

The Phillies were seldom on top of their game on the trip, which saw them lose two of three to a good Arizona club and two of three to a San Diego club that has the worst record in the NL. Aided by a couple of San Diego errors, the Phillies scored three runs in the eighth inning Sunday. Before that, they were on their way to being shut out for a third time on the trip. The offense produced just 15 runs on the trip and the team was just 5 for 41 (.122) with runners in scoring position. Some of the team’s most important bats struggled mightily. Rhys Hoskins was 1 for 21. Carlos Santana was 3 for 22. Odubel Herrera was 3 for 21 and did not play Sunday.

Santana, the cleanup man, is second on the team with 66 RBIs but he's hitting .200 (26 for 130) since July 1 and .215 overall.

"We certainly don't think he's out of place in the four-hole in our lineup," Kapler said when asked about potentially moving Santana to a different spot in the order. 

The Phillies faced some established, formidable starting pitching in Arizona. In San Diego, they faced three rookies and two of them, including Joey Lucchesi on Sunday, delivered six shutout innings. Lucchesi held the Phillies to just two hits.

“You have to give their starting pitching in this series some credit,” Kapler said. “Some young starting pitchers who showed a lot of guts.”

The poor trip left the Phillies at 65-52 as they head into an off day Monday before opening a two-game series with Boston, the best team in the majors, on Tuesday night.

While the Phillies were losing two of three in San Diego, the Braves were winning two of three in Milwaukee. The Phils and Braves are tied for first place in the NL East.

Sunday’s game turned on two plays in the third inning – a defensive miscue by the Phils and Galvis’ first career grand slam. Galvis’ slam came with two outs, one batter after Arrieta walked Austin Hedges on four pitches to load the bases. Earlier in the inning, Arrieta and catcher Jorge Alfaro had a miscommunication on a tapper by Eric Hosmer in front of the mound. Arrieta was in good position to make the play, but Alfaro came charging from behind the plate. The two converged and no play was made on what should have been an out. Arrieta retired the next two batters before Hedges came up.

Kapler had no immediate answer for the game-changing miscue.

“I haven't spoken to Jake or to Alfie about that play specifically yet,” he said moments after the game.

Was it Arrieta’s ball?

“It's something I'd like to discuss with them before I talk it through,” Kapler said.

Arrieta acknowledged a lack of communication on the play.

“From my perspective, it looked like (Alfaro) was letting me get it, so that's why I went at it,” Arrieta said. “Just one of those things where there wasn't communication. I didn't say anything to him, so he probably thought I was going to let him take it because he usually does. Just miscommunication on my part right there.”

Galvis absolutely unloaded on a 2-2 fastball for his grand slam.

He has 10 hits in six games against his old team this season. Nine of his 48 RBIs have come against the Phillies.

The Phillies will spend Monday licking their wounds and replaying in their minds the carnage from a terrible journey through the Southwest. They need improvement across the board because they have reached a crucial point in the schedule. After the two games against Boston, they have five against the Mets, three against the Nationals, three against the Blue Jays, three more against the Nationals and three against the Cubs.

“We handle losses in a series very well and we tend to come back and play well coming off of them,” Kapler said. “I'm fully confident that when we get back to Philadelphia, we're going to be back on top of our game. I’m very confident that we're going to be energized by our fans. We've played very well at home. I'm excited about that opportunity.”

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