MLB opening weekend observations: For better or worse, the Phillies will be interesting this year
The Phillies are going to be interesting for everybody to follow this year
The first four days of the 2018 MLB regular season are in the books. Only four teams remain undefeated (Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals) while four are still looking for their first win (Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, San Diego Padres). The early batting average leader? Seattle Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger. He is 5 for 8 (.625).
April is simultaneously the best and worst time of the year for baseball analysis. It's the best because baseball is back! Spring training is fun in its own way, but there's nothing quite like meaningful baseball. It's also the worst because everything that has happened so far has happened in a small sample size. An extremely small sample size. Tough to know what is part of a trend and what is simple randomness. That's never stopped us before though, and there's no reason it should stop us now.
Here is just one.
For better or worse, the Phillies will be interesting all season
The first three games of Gabe Kapler's managerial tenure with the Philadelphia Phillies have been eventful, if nothing else. He's used 21 pitchers in 28 innings, including utility man Pedro Florimon, who on Saturday became the first position player in history to pitch in March. Only the Marlins, who played a 17-inning game Friday and have played one more game than the Phillies overall, have used more pitchers this season. They've used 22 pitchers in 45 innings compared to Kapler's 21 in 28.
Perhaps the craziest moment of the young season came Saturday, when Kapler removed starter Vince Velasquez even though there was no one warming up in the bullpen. Reliever Hoby Milner had to quickly got hot and rush some warm-up pitches. Play is supposed to resume at the end of the 2:05 timer during pitching changes, but crew chief Jerry Layne give Milner more time to protect his arm. Here's the video:
Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker was irate, understandably, and ejected from the game. "Whoever's at fault for not doing their job on the Phillies' side should have to answer to Major League Baseball," said Layne to a pool reporter following the game. Kapler accepted the blame for what he repeatedly called a "miscommunication."
Three things about this. One, Kapler failed at one of a manager's most basic responsibilities. Warming up a reliever before removing a starter is Baseball 101. That's embarrassing. Two, this is such a ridiculously egregious error that I have to assume it'll never ever happen again. Kapler will make sure he's on top of his bullpen machinations going forward.
And three, Kapler will be under even more scrutiny going forward. All rookie managers are under the microscope. That's just the way it goes. Now that he had what we'll generously call an adventurous first series, all eyes will be on Kapler going forward. Oh, and by the way, he guaranteed a postseason appearance in 2018.
Between their talented young players and Kapler's inexperience, which has already manifested itself on the field, the Phillies are going to be quite an interesting team to follow in 2018.
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