Harper(less) Phillies outfield continues
Bryce Harper rumors have been circulating across the country this winter. So far most of the rumors led to false hope. Phillies and other teams in on the Harper sweepstakes have to now shift their focus to spring training. A Harper(less) Phillies outfield brings a lot of concern to the lineup. The possibilities of Harper, Manny Machado, along with many other available free agents still exist.
But until anything else develops the Phillies have a Major League team to try and win the division or maybe even take a step towards developing a World Series roster. When Gabe Kapler was hired as the 54th manager in Phillies history, the Phillies made it clear for their new direction with analytics.
Spring training for the Phillies is just around the corner. Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins along with many other Phillies players are in Clearwater, FL prior to their mandatory camp opener. The stage is being set for the boys of summer. But for the Phillies’ obvious voids in their lineup still exist as they did in 2018, with little to no questions answered by the Phillies front office during the offseason so far.
Kapler’s rough transition as manager
One of the biggest attractions the Phillies had with Kapler is analytics. He brought a dimension to the Phillies they desired. This fairy tale story didn’t last long. Kapler pulled the Phillies ace Aaron Nola after just 68 pitches and not allowing a run in 5 1/3 innings with a 5-0 lead in the 2018 season opener.
Kapler managed with Defensive shifts, pitching match-ups, and other moves to give the Phillies the extra advantage. He also called reliever Holby Milner into a game without throwing a warmup pitch. The transition was rough but somehow the team collectively battled their way to 11 games over .500 to lead the National League East at the All-Star break.
The problems became too much for the Phillies as they eventually crumbled to go 8 -20 in September. Back as manager in 2019 Kapler gets a chance to tweak and polish his methods.
Are analytics the answer
With the current Harper(less) Phillies outfield, it’s not what fans imagined going into 2019. The Phillies still have a lot of pieces. How they use those pieces is the biggest question. Going into Spring Training the Phillies have six outfielders on their 40 man roster. The starters consist of Odubel Herrera in Centerfield along with 32-year-old Andrew McCutchen in either left or right field.
This is when the situation gets unstable. The Phillies have Nick Williams coming off of a disappointing 2018 season .256/.324/.425, Roman Quinn with exceptional speed and a low batting average, Dylan Cozens with a lot of power and even more strikeouts, and Aaron Altherr who eventually got sent to the minors after a season to forget in 2018 .181/.295/.333.
To win with this group analytics could be the best answer. It will be the perfect time for Kapler to showcase his form of plug and play for all his outfielders. You have athletes that can play in more than one spot. You have a combination of power, speed, and defense. Analytics, putting the right players in the right situations to have success.
The new look Phillies infield with Jean Segura now at shortstop, Hoskins back a first base, and newly acquired JT Realmuto has become much improved. With analytics being a key to a lot of other clubs success, this could now be the Phillies turn. Before the last game of the 2018 season, Hoskins spoke to the crowd and Phillies fans abroad. “Obviously we’re a little disappointed with the way that the season has ended. I’d like to promise you that we will learn from it, we will get better from it, and we will be better and ready when 2019 comes around.”
Featured image via Travis Gaugler
All Stats vis Baseball-Reference.com
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