Defense Wins Championships – The Hawk Newspaper
Phillies need to change their roster-building philosophy
The main feat that everyone associates with baseball is the long ball. It’s flashy, it’s exciting, and it’s what puts the races on the board.
Moments like Jose Bautista’s three-point moonshot in Game 5 of the 2015 American League Division Series (ALDS) and Kirk Gibson’s home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series have generated some of the greatest crowd reactions in baseball history.
However, the popularity of the home run overshadows what is arguably the most important part of the game: defense. Defense doesn’t win the masses, but it certainly helps win championships.
When evaluating how good or bad a team is defensively, Defensive Runs Recorded (DRS) is perhaps the most important stat to consider. DRS is a statistic that calculates the number of runs a player saves or costs their team taking into account the player’s range, the likelihood of a given game being played, and whether or not the player is playing said game. Game.
The Philadelphia Phillies ranked dead last in the DRS for the 2021 season with -54 DRS. They were one step below the second-worst team, the New York Yankees, who finished with -41 DRS. The Phillies have finished in the top half of Major League Baseball (MLB) DRS just twice since 2012, and have finished in the bottom three five times, including the last three spots.
During the same period, no team finished lower than 14th in DRS and won the World Series, and only three teams finished in the bottom half of the league in DRS and made the World Series.
The Phillies have built one of the most intimidating offenses in all of baseball over the past few seasons, containing the likes of Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins and Jean Segura. However, despite this offensive firepower, the Phillies haven’t won more than 82 games in a season since 2018 and haven’t made the playoffs since 2011. Their throwing difficulties and defensive struggles are the main culprits for neutralizing the impact of the attack, regardless of who is running the show in Philadelphia.
Although the Phillies have struggled defensively since 2013, their problems have amplified in the two seasons since the arrival of manager Joe Girardi and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. Neither have a long history of managing teams with defensive struggles, but the Phillies finished 30th in DRS and 20th in fielding percentage in 2021 and 28th in DRS and 14th in fielding percentage in 2020.
Despite their lack of historic defensive struggles, Girardi and Dombrowski have brought in and given plenty of playing time to players who have been downright abysmal defensively. In 2021, the following Phillies players all finished with a negative DRS: Harper, Alec Bohm, Didi Gregorious, Andrew McCutchen, Hoskins and Brad Miller. In what was perhaps the best encapsulation of the Phillies’ defensive situation, Bohm committed three errors in three innings in a game against the New York Mets on April 11.
Things got bad enough last season that Bohm was dropped to Class AAA in Minor League Baseball in August. All of these players were regular starters for the Phils in 2021, and their defensive struggles are a major reason the Phillies missed out on the playoffs and will, in all likelihood, be kept from reaching their full potential in 2022.
It appears Dombrowksi hasn’t learned anything from how the 2021 season has gone for the Phillies, as he made two big signings at the end of the offseason. Those recruits were outfielders Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos. Schwarber and Castellanos are both very good hitters, but pedestrian defenders. At the start of 2022, Castellanos is already at -3 DRS and Schwarber at 0 DRS.
The Phillies have quality pieces in place to make a playoff run, including last year’s National League MVP in Harper, one of baseball’s best batting pitchers in Zack Wheeler and several other players. quality. However, their defensive struggles have plagued them for a decade, and in that decade the Phillies didn’t make the playoffs.
Regardless of who’s in charge at Philadelphia, it seems like they’re ignoring the defensive side of the game, and that’s been detrimental to every iteration of the team. Until Girardi and Dombrowski stop building the Phillies roster like they’re playing franchise mode in MLB the Show, the Phillies will continue to exist in a state of perpetual mediocrity.