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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.

CSNPhilly Internship - Advertising/Sales

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CSNPhilly Internship - Advertising/Sales

Position Title: Intern
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# of hours / week: 10 – 20 hours

Deadline: November 20

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• Other various projects as assigned

Requirements

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10 observations from Flyers' 1st week of training camp

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10 observations from Flyers' 1st week of training camp

VOORHEES, N.J. — Four games down, four more to go.

One big round of cuts and a much earned day off.

Friday marked the midway point of the Flyers' preseason schedule (1-1-2), and as we wrap up the first week of training camp, here are my 10 observations so far.

1. The Frontrunners
With a rookie game and three preseason games in the books, Sam Morin and Robert Hagg have displayed the poise and calmness required of rookies ready to make the jump from the AHL to the NHL. Morin doesn't overreact to situations, which is a credit to his maturation process and Hagg has displayed a steady presence playing on the right side, which is key considering a number of left-handed shots on the Flyers' blue line.

Travis Sanheim continues to make strong gains, showing improvement from his rookie game to the most recent preseason game against the Bruins. While you can't help but admire Sanheim's offensive skill set — he scored the Flyers' only goal Thursday — I still see some holes in his game defensively that would be a concern once the season starts.

For the most part, Morin and Hagg have been solid in that department. With all that said, I already feel better about this defense than I did last season with veterans Michael Del Zotto, Mark Streit and Nick Schultz.

2. Top-line ready
This may sound odd, but with all of the attributes that winger Oskar Lindblom brings to the Flyers, I can't help but be impressed with his commitment to defense and a strong two-way game coming straight out of the SHL. In Thursday's game against the Bruins, midway through the second period, Lindblom hustled back in the Flyers' zone to break up a potential 2-on-1 and then drew a penalty in the process. Defensively, Lindblom is considerably better than where Travis Konecny was at this point a year ago, and that dedication to his defensive play is why you can trust him on the team's top two lines. Offensively, he's been active and he'll start producing points eventually.

3. Power play will be just fine
Instead of getting frustrated that the Flyers' power play finished a whopping 0 for 9 Thursday in Boston, including six and a half minutes without a single shot, I view it a little differently. Coming into this season, Dave Hakstol's emphasis centered around being a tougher, battle-tested team for their opponents. Their first few days of training camp reflected that. I view the Bruins game as a Flyers team that outworked the opposition and that resulted in the power-play opportunities. A big part of evaluating the preseason part of the process is establishing good work habits and the Flyers are doing that. From what I've seen in practice, Hakstol and Co. have spent zero time working on power-play setups and puck movement.

There's still plenty of time to cover that aspect as we're still two and a half weeks away from the season opener in San Jose. Besides, power plays go through peaks and valleys throughout the course of the season. I'd rather it stink now than in November.

4. If Giroux looks quicker, you’re right 
Thursday marked Claude Giroux's first preseason action for fans to see how the captain looks after a strong summer of training camp and what he termed "getting back to the basics." If you followed him around the ice during practice, he certainly doesn't look like a player who has lost a step. In fact, the Flyers' conditioning staff ran a series of pre-camp tests that determined speed, conditioning and VO2 (body's ability to consume oxygen).

One of the evaluations was the "repeated shift" test, where skaters start at the goal line, skate to the blue line, stop, return to the goalie crease, skate to the other end around the two circles and finish at center ice. Giroux was one of the team's fastest in this particular drill, and as I clocked him, he was a good half second faster than his teammates who were out there with him.

5. Has Patrick earned his place?
If you believed it was a foregone conclusion that No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick was a bonafide NHLer and his roster spot was secure, general manager Ron Hextall has provided a reality check on more than one occasion. For beginners, I think Patrick has handled himself tremendously with everything a 19-year-old rookie has to deal with in the transition from junior hockey to the NHL, not to mention overcoming major surgery during the offseason. As we’ve seen, Patrick knows the game, he knows where to be on the ice and I’ve yet to see him make a high-risk, low percentage play in a game. I’m still left wondering, as I’m sure Hextall is, does he have another gear? Preseason is played at one speed, the regular season is another notch and the playoffs are 60 minutes at the highest intensity. Is Patrick the difference between the Flyers making the playoffs? No, but I think his addition gives the team more talent and balance within the lineup. This next week will be a crucial one for the rookie.

6. Fourth-line competition heats up
Taylor Leier made a profound statement Wednesday and entered the conversation with his two-goal game in Lehigh Valley. I’ve admired Scott Laughton’s dedication throughout camp and even prior as one of the few guys who was skating nearly every day with teammates in the week leading up to camp. I had heard about the refinements Laughton had made last season in Lehigh Valley and now, we’ve seen it so far in the preseason. Right now, this horse race is on the backstretch at Belmont Park and with three games over the next four days starting Monday, it’s time to see some of these guys go to the whip and pick up the pace. Does Matt Read have some giddy-up? If I had to assemble my fourth line right now, I’d have Michael Raffl on the left side, Laughton in the middle and Leier on the right side, but give it a week it can certainly change.

7. Stickin’ it to the guys
One week into the preseason and I’ve already seen more slashing than Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th movie franchise (there were 12 in the series and I think I stopped after the third one). In Wednesday’s game in Allentown, the Flyers were whistled for two slashes on their first two shifts. Thursday in Boston, there were a total of seven slashing penalties. The referees are sending a strong message, but let’s slash the number of calls. I’ll get more into this at a later time, but right now, between the slashing penalty and the faceoff violations, it’s really … really slowing down the pace of play in the preseason.

8. Goaltending appears solid
Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, two completely different goalies with two contrasting styles, should give the Flyers stability and less drama in net. Elliott’s positioning is reminiscent of the manner in which Henrik Lundqvist (no, it’s not a direct comparison) likes to play, which is deep in the crease. Elliott doesn’t challenge shooters in the way Steve Mason would come out of the net and take away the angle, but Elliott was very calm in net with no wasted movement against the Bruins. I don’t think the drills the Flyers have run early in camp have been “goaltender friendly,” but they’ve adapted. Elliott was very sound in his preseason debut as was Neuvirth on Wednesday in Lehigh Valley. Both netminders already have a good working relationship as they’ve been accustomed to a goaltending platoon throughout their careers.

9. Myers, not quite ready, just yet
It was a real long shot to think defenseman Philippe Myers would make the Flyers' roster out of camp, but there were strong vibes regarding Myers, especially after TSN hockey analyst Bob McKenzie tweeted back in January, “Based on what I saw at WJC, Myers looks NHL ready or close to it.” Well, the only way you can gauge that level of readiness is against NHL competition. Myers didn’t look out of place at all, but he’s still young — he won’t turn 21 until January — and there’s still room for growth in his game. He had the glaring turnover against the Islanders, which led to John Tavares’s overtime winner, but Tavares has a way of making even the best players in the league look foolish. One of the more interesting pairings during camp was when Hakstol had Myers together with Provorov, a lefty-righty combination. Don’t be surprised if that combo is a mainstay for years to come.

10. Kosorenkov deserves a contract
As one of 18 cuts Thursday morning, right winger Ivan Kosorenkov proved he’s worthy of an entry-level contract. Whether he receives that from the Flyers or another team in the league remains to be seen. Kosorenkov is the latest argument of how the Flyers could benefit from a two-round entry draft expansion. There’s a lot of quality talent that goes unselected and Kosorenkov is proof of that. He had a strong development camp and followed that up with a solid rookie game paired with Mikhail Vorobyev. Kosorenkov has that low center of gravity where scouts and coaches like to say “he’s good on his skates.” I compared his lower trunk to that of Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko. Kosorenkov scored 34 goals last season for Victoriaville in the QJMHL, and I’ll be very eager to see what kind of numbers he can post this season.