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.

Despite
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. 

Michael
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.

Revere
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.

And
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. 

Howard's
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. 

Revere
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.  

Galvis'
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.)

Across
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. 

And
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. 

So
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
TV.

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.

Best of MLB: Mets win in 10th on Yoenis Cespedes' walk-off HR

Best of MLB: Mets win in 10th on Yoenis Cespedes' walk-off HR

NEW YORK -- Yoenis Cespedes homered with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the New York Mets a 2-1 victory over the Miami Marlins in the first game of a pivotal series between National League playoff contenders Monday night.

Jose Reyes dashed home to score the tying run in the eighth on a dangerous collision at the plate, and the Mets pulled even with Miami for second place in the NL East. With its seventh victory in nine games, New York remained 2 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the league's second wild card.

It was an exhilarating win for the Mets, who appeared to be at a major disadvantage on the mound in the opener of a four-game set. New York was shut out for six innings by Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, but Mets starter Rafael Montero also put up zeros in his first major league start since April 2015 (see full recap).

Martinez's 13 K's, throwing error give Cards win
MILWAUKEE -- Stephen Piscotty scored on a throwing error in the ninth inning after Carlos Martinez struck out a career-high 13, leading the St. Louis Cardinals over the Milwaukee Brewers 6-5 on Monday night.

With two on and nobody out in the ninth, Yadier Molina dropped down a bunt. Reliever Tyler Thornburg (5-5) threw to third base for a force out, but Jonathan Villar's throw to first was wild, allowing Piscotty to score.

After Martinez held Milwaukee to one run over six innings, the Brewers scored four runs in the seventh to take a 5-3 lead. St. Louis tied it in the eighth on a two-run homer by Randal Grichuk off Corey Knebel.

Seung Hwan Oh pitched a perfect ninth for his 14th save. Miguel Socolovich (1-0) pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings to pick up his first win.

Jedd Gyorko and Kolten Wong each hit solo home runs for the Cardinals (see full recap).

Royals keep rolling, take down Yankees
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Dillon Gee kept the Royals' momentum going with six sharp innings, Alcides Escobar hit a three-run homer and Kansas City beat the New York Yankees 8-5 on Monday night to open their three-game set.

Gee (6-7) allowed only four hits and a run in the latest impressive start by the Royals' staff, helping the reigning World Series champions win for the 18th time in 22 games.

Lorenzo Cain, Kendrys Morales and Alex Gordon drove in runs off Michael Pineda (6-11) during a five-hit salvo in the first inning. Pineda then retired 15 straight before getting into a two-on, no-outs jam in the seventh that led to Escobar's homer off reliever Blake Parker.

Starlin Castro drove in two runs for the Yankees, the second in a four-run eighth inning that forced Kansas City manager Ned Yost to summon fill-in closer Kelvin Herrera (see full recap).

Jake Thompson tweaks delivery, offers ray of light on a dark night for Phillies

Jake Thompson tweaks delivery, offers ray of light on a dark night for Phillies

BOX SCORE

On the surface, this was not a very positive night at the ballpark for the Phillies. They had just four hits and lost, 4-0, to the Washington Nationals in front of the smallest crowd of the season – 16,056, announced – at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).
 
But lest we forget, this is a rebuilding season and in a rebuilding season the final score isn’t always paramount. So on an otherwise dark Monday night there was a ray of light for the Phillies.
 
Jake Thompson had the kind of start those who traded for him a year ago and those who watched him pitch this season in Triple A said he was capable of having.
 
“It was great to see,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “That’s just what he needed. He needed a real positive outing. I think this will do wonders for him down the road.”
 
Thompson held the NL East-leading Nationals to two runs over seven innings, his longest of five outings in the majors.
 
“He looked like the pitcher that was advertised,” Mackanin said.
 
Thompson’s first four outings in the majors were poor. He was tagged for 22 hits and 21 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings. He walked 13 and struck out 13. Those results were starkly different than his last 11 starts in Triple A. He went 8-0 in those 11 starts and recorded a 1.21 ERA while allowing just 10 earned runs in 74 1/3 innings. He gave up just 52 hits and 18 walks over that span while striking out 42.
 
After watching Thompson for four starts, pitching coach Bob McClure decided to suggest some delivery changes to the 22-year-old right-hander.
 
Players are often receptive to making adjustments when they are struggling. Thompson incorporated the changes McClure suggested and found success Monday night.
 
“We just tried to simplify his delivery so he could make better quality pitches,” McClure said.
 
In his old delivery, Thompson started off facing home plate. He pulled his arms over his head, turned and lifted his front leg before delivering the ball. McClure eliminated many of the moving parts. No more lifting the arms above the head. No more body turn. Thompson started his delivery with his body already turned, like a modified stretch. He simply lifted his leg, let his body go down the slope and fired. The new delivery slowed everything down for him. He looked poised, especially after the first couple of innings, and started attacking hitters with first-pitch strikes like a confident pitcher does.
 
Considering he only worked on the new delivery in two short bullpen sessions Saturday and Sunday in New York, Thompson was a pretty quick study.
 
“It was huge,” he said of the new delivery. “Just on the physical side of things, I’m in a better position to make pitches. I took away some moving parts to make it easier on myself.”
 
Thompson allowed seven hits, walked one and struck out three. All three strikeouts came in his final inning of work. He struck out leadoff man Trea Turner with two men on base with a slider to end the inning.
 
That’s another adjustment McClure made. He had Thompson stop throwing his curveball and focus on his fastball, slider, cutter and changeup.
 
Both of the runs that Thompson allowed came in the first inning on a solo homer by Jayson Werth and an RBI single by Anthony Rondon. After that, Thompson recorded six straight shutout innings. His teammates didn’t support him offensively. Washington right-hander Tanner Roark pitched seven shutout innings. He is 3-0 and has allowed just two runs in 28 innings in four starts against the Phils this season.
 
Thompson needed a start like this for a couple of reasons. First, if he had been pounded again, Phillies officials might have had to consider taking him out of the rotation just so his confidence didn’t get ruined.
 
And second, with Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin out with injuries, the team needed to know something was going right for one of the young pitchers being groomed for the future. Vince Velasquez, another young arm, had three poor outings before pitching well in New York on Sunday.
 
“This will help his confidence a lot,” McClure said.
 
McClure then offered a little glimpse into Thompson’s competitive character.
 
“He seemed pissed that he wasn't pitching well,” McClure said. “But he wasn't deflated. We felt like we should keep starting him because he didn't seem beaten. He seems like a tough kid mentally. We felt like once he started making better quality pitches, he'd get better results.”
 
It happened Monday, a ray of light on an otherwise dark night.

Instant Replay: Nationals 4, Phillies 0

Instant Replay: Nationals 4, Phillies 0

BOX SCORE

The Phillies were beaten, 4-0, by the Washington Nationals on Monday night, but wins and losses don’t matter as much as development in a rebuilding season, so there was a bright spot: Rookie right-hander Jake Thompson finally broke through with a good start in holding the Nats to two runs over seven innings.
 
The Phillies’ offense was not good. It produced just four hits on the night.
 
Washington got all the offense it needed when Jayson Werth, the second batter of the game, homered off Thompson in the first inning.

The Nats lead the NL East at 76-55. The Phils are 60-71.
 
The crowd of 16,056 was the smallest of the season at Citizens Bank Park.
 
Starting pitching report
Thompson had struggled in four starts — 9.78 ERA — since arriving from Triple A and there were questions whether he’d even make this start. But he put together a nice outing. After giving up two runs in the first inning, he pitched six straight scoreless innings, finishing his outing with three strikeouts, the last of which came on his 111th pitch when he froze Trea Turner with a breaking ball with two men on base. Thompson allowed seven hits — four in the first three innings — and walked one.
 
Washington right-hander Tanner Roark pitched seven shutout innings to improve to 14-7. He held the Phils to four hits and a walk and struck out five.

Roark is 3-0 with a 0.64 ERA (two earned runs in 28 innings) in four starts against the Phillies this season. The Nats are 15-4 in his last 19 starts.

Bullpen report
Frank Herrmann gave up two runs in the ninth.
 
At the plate
Odubel Herrera had two of the Phillies’ four hits.
 
Werth’s homer in the top of the first was his 19th. Anthony Rendon drove in a run with a two-out single in that inning. Clint Robinson and Turner had RBI singles in the ninth to push the Nats’ lead to 4-0.
 
ICYMI
Herrera is staying in center field for the remainder of the season, Pete Mackanin said (see story).
 
Up next
The series continues on Tuesday night. Jerad Eickhoff (9-12, 3.87) pitches against Washington right-hander Max Scherzer (14-7, 2.92).