Is Kapler good enough to be manager of the year?
The Philadelphia Phillies manager Gabe Kapler hasn’t had the warmest welcome in 2018. Right off the bat lack of experience, talks of diets and coconut oils, and his overall tone and idealistic approach just turned people off. However, sitting at 58-48 on July 31st and .5 games in first place, has he done enough in 2018 to warrant NL manager of the year talks?
Shifts, bullpen shuffling, double switches, and his overly positive, borderline arrogant interviews were enough to push Phillies fans away early. Every club in the MLB uses analytics, whether they’re as public as the Phillies about it or not. So is it time to give Phillies manager Kapler credit where it is due?
Analytics in use
Thinking back to opening day on March 29th, there were already many questions that were raised on Kapler’s methods. Not having Odubel Herrera or Jorge Alfaro in the line up really shocked Phillies fans, not to mention his use of 26 relievers in the first five games. Taking Aaron Nola out of the game after 5 and 1/3 innings and only 68 pitches is still engraved in everyone’s minds as well.
Nick Williams NOT in Phillies lineup tonight.
Williams critical of Gabe Kapler on Thursday:
“I guess the computers are making [the lineup], I don't know. I don't get any of it, but what can I do? I'm not going to complain about it because I have zero power”#phillies #bebold pic.twitter.com/cMPMNB1sF3
— Jeff Skversky 6abc (@JeffSkversky) April 7, 2018
It seemed his over-use of analytics was already starting to backfire.
Fast-forward to the end of July, Phillies are in first and have their best record at this point since 2011. They are in first place after coming off of a season where they finished 30 games below .500.
Has Kapler done enough at this point to have his name thrown in the ring for manager of the year? It’s not out of the realm of possibility. He still would have to finish out the second half strong, but the expectations have already been exceeded for 2018 Philadelphia Phillies.
Manager of the year isn’t out of reach
Only two managers have won manager of the year that finished out of the top two spots in its division. So, Kapler is most likely going to have to lead the Phillies to a playoff berth. Most of the criticism now comes from the way he runs his team off of the field and after games.
Most recently, Odubel’s mishaps on July 30th may have single-handedly wasted ace Nola’s marvelous eight-inning start against the MLB best Boston Red Sox. The coach remains positive in these situations instead of coming down hard on his players. For some fans, that isn’t good enough.
The fact remains that the players like to play for Kapler, and it shows by the way the team is able to bounce back after tough losses. Time and time again Phillies players have come out in defense of their manager and his positivity.
Rhys Hoskins on Gabe Kapler's positivity: "It's impressive. That's just kind of how Gabe is as a person, though, not just as a manager. He cares…. having that positivity from your manager is pretty special over 162 games."
— Jon Marks & Ike Reese on 94WIP (@MarksReeseWIP) June 27, 2018
Like it or not, the Phillies manager is winning
Kapler has a long way to go before he is going to be awarded manager of the year, but he is definitely on his way. The way he has adapted to coaching in the big leagues and taken one of the worst teams in baseball to one of the best has been impressive to watch, to say the least. Say what you want about his eating habits and the way he handles post-game interviews, this team is winning and there’s no arguing with that.
Winning is becoming almost normal in Philadelphia over the last year, and the Phillies manager is continuing that culture. Their run differential this year is +21, and for a team whose batting average is below .240, that is impressive. They’re still able to produce runs and win games, despite having one of the worst defenses in the league.
The coach has to get credit at some point for the way the team is playing. Can the Phillies can continue to play strong throughout the last 56 games of the regular season? If so Kapler will absolutely be in the conversation for manager of the year.