The Phillies, who have also been playoffs for the past decade, made two big purchases last week. The first, in which they signed slugging leftfielder Kyle Schwarber, was physically the larger of the two. Then over the weekend they struck a deal with Nick Castellanos, another slugger who plays in the outfield. The Phillies are going to pay the luxury tax for the first time ever, which is nice, even if the cigar heir who runs the team could have done it sooner. Whatever. Smoke them if you have them.
The signings make it clear that if the Phillies can be said to have a master plan, it is that they will try to stamp the ball in 2022. They added Schwarber (32 homers in 2021) and Castellanos (34 homers) to a lineup that already includes Bryce Harper (35 homers) and Rhys Hoskins (27 homers). But there’s a problem here: The Phillies were saved -54 in Defensive Points last season, which was their last in the league. The players they added are not good defenders, and only one of them can play DH at a time. So the Phillies will be bad defensively this year, and probably a lot worse than last year.
They become So Defensively bad in fact that Jayson Stark of The Athletic devoted an entire column to whether the Phillies can even make it through the postseason with such a poor defense. “COVID protocols fell in Philly,” a scout joked to Stark. “They can’t catch anything.” Fortunately for Phillies fans, historically, there is a positive side. The 2011 Phillies, the team that won a club record 102 games, were also terrible defensively. This Phillies lineup doesn’t have Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt pitching for it, but the team also doesn’t need to win 102 games to make it through the postseason. They just have to hit better than they throw, on balance. Or maybe Phillies president Dave Dombrowski just looked at the 2011 team, saw they also stunk defensively and moved on from there.
(Another amusing part of Stark’s article is this: The Phillies are So defensively bad that adding one or two good defenders wouldn’t even help that much. They are bad all over the field! So maybe they just throw the defense all in and go all in on the attack. You know what they say: Attack wins championships.)
Either way, it’s a risky gamble, and the games to come will show if it’s more foolish than brave. But today the Phillies played against the Yankees in spring training and, boy, even the spring training lineup is starting to work well.
That’s Mickey Moniak, the No. 1 overall pick in 2016, who failed to catch the ball and collided with Matt Vierling, who is expected to peloton in midfield with Odubel Herrera. (The YES announcers say Aaron Hicks couldn’t have put it better if he threw it—that would be the sport of “chuckball”—but I say he could. What if he just threw it over the outfield fence? that are harder than hitting? Maybe not.)
These weren’t the only Phillies in action. Rhys Hoskins, come down!
I like how Hoskins’ expression changes as the ball falls out of his glove. I guess I better get used to it because Phillies fans are up for 162 games of this – at least.