The Phillies Defense Hasn't Been Great, But Their Range Is Worse

The Phillies Defense Hasn't Been Great, But Their Range Is Worse

Guest post by Matt Hammond

Sure, the boots look bad.

But worse for the Phillies in the field this year are the plays that, well, aren’t.

an handful of errors so far -- including two in the first two frames in
last night’s loss as well as a could’ve-been-made play by Jimmy Rollins
that let the first scored runner reach -- the Phillies' .980 fielding
percentage is actually solid: eighth in all of baseball.

One-tenth of a percentage point higher and they’d be tied for fourth.

What's more, they've got the seventh-fewest errors with eight. Washington has the most with eighteen. 

Young, Ryan Howard, Domonic Brown, Freddy Galvis, John Mayberry Jr.,
and Laynce Nix have yet to commit an error. Nix and Mayberry at two
positions. Galvis at, like, all of them.

has erred, but is solid in center. Rollins has, too, though only three
big-league shortstops haven’t and Rollins’ fielding percentage still
ranks sixth at the position. Chase Utley’s ranks second-worst among
second basemen, though the feeling is his glove will come around.

games are scored pretty uniformly throughout baseball. You may be able
to count seven should’ve-been errors this week. So can fans in New York
and Boston and… every city.

Maybe the worst Phillie killer is a silent one: range.

Shocker: the third-oldest roster in baseball struggles with getting to
balls in play to get the chance to botch them. Their Ultimate Zone
Rating – which accounts for arm strength, double play-ability,
sure-glovedness, and, of course range – ranks sixth-worst in MLB.

Isolate for range, made possible by Range Rating, and they’re second-worst. 

It’s not only the old and injured. Much of it's inexperience, and guys taking bad routes. 

lost about half his range, and ranks fifth-worst among first basemen.
Utley’s actually seventh in RngR among second basemen, though only last
year he was third. Rollins is currently 11th, and in a clear sign that
the first year of a “sabermetric component” in Rawlings Gold Glove awarding. He was ninth in 2012.

Young’s actually above Placido Polanco and even with David Wright – for fifth-worst.  

(Fun Polly note: not only does he have the best all-time fielding
percentage at two positions (2B, 3B) but he’s also got top-two range
factors among active players both. Even now.)

Even Revere and Galvis, great as they’ve been overall, are still minus range players. 

ranks only 17th of 25 qualifiers in center. (Denard Span, the other
center fielder the Twins dealt this winter, is first for the Nationals.)
Galvis is 17th of 22 at second (above Howie Kendrick), 16th of 27 at
short (Starlin Castro) and 13th of 22 at third.

Or, just three slots higher than Young.

He’s actually at his rangiest in left field, where he’s even with Mike Trout.

Just a small sample size for these two? Tough to say.  

RngR is down across the board from last year, from before he broke his
back and was tagged with a 50-game PED ban. Revere's on par with his
2012 RngR, but that was down from what would've been second-best in
baseball the year before. 

Either way, the reports on most of the rest seem about right.

Dom Brown is 17th of 21 qualifying left fielders, still better than
Bryce Harper (18), Ryan Braun (20) and Josh Willingham (21) at the
game’s second-least intensive position.

If Mayberry qualified, he’d rank seventh among right fielders, even with
Hunter Pence and just below Giancarlo Stanton. Ezequiel Carrera would
be 12th, or average. Nix would be 15th, or about exactly that of Josh
Hamilton and Jayson Werth.

Shane Victorino is second at the position.

Have fun setting the line on Delmon Young and/or Darin Ruf.

Dire as it is, the Phillies’ problem is likely limited to range. (Though that’s kind of a biggie.)

the rest of the fielding categories, they’re mediocre at worst. In
Outfield Arm Runs (ARM), they’re ninth. In Double-Play Runs (DPR), 16th.
RngR is their downfall. 

while FP has been hotly discussed by the team and media throughout its
slide since 2008 (.985), from seventh all the way to 15th last year, the
drop-off in range over the span has been worse: third-best in their
World Series season to, now, this. 

the next time somebody muffs a grounder, botches a pop-out or sails a
throw, feel free to cock back the remote. Just don’t throw it at your

Or forget to do the same for the balls they don't get to. Because they can't.


Matt Hammond is the Phillies Insider and Morning Update Anchor for 97.3 ESPN in New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter here.

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday in the season opener (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular-season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot, it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Sixers head coach Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as the big man liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 minutes and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fadeaway jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guys' first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of [Hakeem] Olajuwon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).