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.

New Jersey product Tim Adleman limits Phillies to 1 hit over 8 innings

New Jersey product Tim Adleman limits Phillies to 1 hit over 8 innings

Cincinnati Reds starter Tim Adleman came into Friday night's start against the Phillies with an ERA above six, having allowed 10 runs in his last 5 2/3 innings. 

So, naturally, he gave up just one hit over eight scoreless innings. 

The 29-year-old righty dominated the Phillies in just his 20th career MLB start en route to his third win this season, pitching easily the best game of his young career in a 5-2 Reds' win (see game recap).

It was understandably the best that Reds manager Bryan Price had seen from Adleman.
 
"It wasn't just because of the line score," Price said. "It was really command-based. Really good both sides of the plate. Had a nice sinking fastball, could straighten it out when he needed to. A very, very good changeup. I don't think he even used a breaking ball there until the eighth inning.

"So it was really that good."

At just 100 pitches through eight, naturally the question for Price was whether to allow him the chance at a complete game. However, Price needed to get reliever Asher Wojciechowski work to get him ready for a start next week.

"I wanted to stay in there pretty badly, but you understand the move," Adleman said. "Wojo needed to get some work. It had been a while since he threw and it's a game in May. It's not a game that's deeper in the season. … I totally understand."

For his eight innings, Adleman attacked the Phillies' batters early in counts and didn't allow a batter to reach third all night. He retired the leadoff batter in all but one inning and allowed just four batters to reach base.

The Phillies' only threat came in the first inning. An Andres Blanco single was followed by an Aaron Altherr hit by pitch. That brought up Thursday's hero — Tommy Joseph — with two men on and just one out. Adleman utilized his changeup on a 1-2 pitch, inducing a weak grounder back to the mound for a 1-4-3 double play. 

In three at-bats against Joseph, Adleman recorded three groundball outs, all on the changeup, which is his primary off-speed offering.

"The scouting report is that he's a really good fastball hitter. Does a lot of damage on fastballs," Adleman said, "so if you can get him in situations where you're confident he's looking for a fastball and then cut a changeup on him, it can be really effective. Obviously, you have to keep it down, but that's the same with all your pitches."

Joseph's at-bats set the trend for the rest of the Phillies' lineup. The Reds' starter kept the ball down and didn't allow another baserunner until he walked Blanco to lead off the seventh. Sixteen of his 24 outs came on groundballs and only five pitches were hit past the infield. 

Adleman stated his goal was to use the Phillies' aggressiveness against them with strikes early in the count, and it worked. It was his first time pitching into the eighth inning in his career and he did so with almost exclusively his fastball and changeup.

"I think it had a lot to do with that little pause [in his delivery] and he did a good job changing speeds on us," Joseph said. "He basically did it with two pitches, which says a lot about how hard this game can be. Hats off to him. 

"Next time, we'll see if we can't get him back."

In a way, Adleman was getting the Phillies back. He made the third start of his career at Citizens Bank Park last year on May 14. He took the loss against Friday's starter, Aaron Nola, while allowing three runs in five innings.

Born in Staten Island, Adleman was raised in New Jersey, but grew up a Yankees fan. He hadn't been to CBP until college, when he faced Villanova while playing for Georgetown. 

At 29, he's a little old for a second-year starter because he took a winding road to the major leagues. Drafted by the Orioles in 2010, he was nearly out of baseball by 24. He spent two years in independent leagues before catching on with the Reds and debuting in the show last season.

The journeyman starter had struggled in his last few starts, which helped his ERA balloon to 6.19. However, his Friday night opponent seemed more than happy to take some air out of the balloon. Adleman became the fifth pitcher in the last six days to come into a start against the Phillies with an ERA of 5.00 or above and allow one run or less over at least five innings. 

"It feels good," Adleman said of his night. "Philly's a good young team and Nola is making quite a name for himself. He out-pitched me last year and coming into tonight I knew I had an opportunity to right the ship so to speak."

Pete Mackanin calls team meeting after Phillies hit low point with 21st loss in 26 games

Pete Mackanin calls team meeting after Phillies hit low point with 21st loss in 26 games

BOX SCORE

When the opposing pitcher comes in with an ERA that matches the area code for San Diego — 6.19 — and holds you scoreless on one single over eight innings, well …

You've reached the low point of your season.

And it's time for a team meeting.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin called for a little powwow after his club suffered a 5-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night (see Instant Replay). Don't let the final score fool you. It wasn't that close. The loss was the Phillies' 21st in the last 26 games. They were held to three hits for the fourth time in the last six games — five losses — and have scored just nine runs over that span.

Mackanin acknowledged that this was the low point for his team, which owns the worst record in the majors at 16-30. Cincinnati starting pitcher Tim Adleman entered the game with a 6.19 ERA, but he pitched like an ace in holding the Phillies to just a first-inning single over his eight shutout innings (see story). Adleman walked two, struck out four and at one point set down 16 straight Phillies. The 29-year-old right-hander has made 20 starts in his big-league career and this was by far the best.

"Yeah," Mackanin said when asked if the loss was the season's low point. "We need to step it up. We're better than this. I know we're better than this. We've just got to start playing as aggressive as we can and take it to the other team. Be aggressive at the plate and pound the strike zone."

That apparently was Mackanin's message to the club in his postgame meeting, though he would not talk about it.

"He just wants to see us play with a little more fire and a little more energy," Aaron Altherr said. "You know, it's something we've got to do. Today wasn't too great. But, like I said, hopefully we can right the ship and start winning some games again."

Tommy Joseph was tight-lipped on the content of the team meeting.

"That's basically stuff that was between us," he said. "There's a pretty good understanding that we need to get going in here and that was really it. I think the rest is pretty self-explanatory and what he had to say is between us.

"It's definitely not a lack of effort. Everybody is out there trying to get the job done. I think there are certain nights when the job is getting done. When things start to spark a little bit, everybody feeds off that. Obviously there are some nights where that doesn't happen. It's definitely not from a lack of effort. Everybody is going out there busting their ass, so it's just a matter of sometimes it goes our way and sometimes it doesn't."

Mackanin used slumping Odubel Herrera in the leadoff spot for the first time this season and he produced a ninth-inning double after Adleman exited. The Phillies actually loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, but a fielder's choice groundball and then a strikeout by Maikel Franco, the potential tying run, ended the game. Franco struck out swinging wildly at a full-count breaking ball from Raisel Iglesias.

Joseph mentioned that Adleman changed speeds well and used a slight hesitation in his delivery to throw off hitters.

But was it more the pitcher or more just a bad offense?

"It's hard to tell," Mackanin said. "That's a daily question. Are we not hitting the ball like we should or is the pitcher that good? It seems like I look up and every other pitcher we face has a 6.00 ERA, but I think it's all because we're missing good pitches to hit. We're getting pitches to hit and we're not hitting them."

Aaron Nola did not have a good start. He gave up a pair of homers in falling behind, 3-0, after two innings, and, obviously, there was no coming back, not with this offense.

The Philies are 5-18 in the month of May.

Or should we say Mayday?

"We're trying to stay positive, as positive as we can throughout this stretch," Altherr said. "You know, it's tough sometimes when things are going the way they are. We're just going to keep being positive, keep trying to bring as much energy as we can to win some games."