The Phillies' once very promising chances of making the playoffs are soon going to dwindle to zero, and though it's never just one aspect of a team that causes problems, a big problem all season has been the club's defense. It was their undoing in a loss to the Braves Thursday night, as the Philly.com game story chronicles in detailed fashion.
It's been an ongoing theme with this ballclub, and it probably started with signing Carlos Santana, who should probably just be a DH, and moving Rhys Hoskins, who should just play first base, to left field. Those guys aren't alone in being part of the problem, though. Let's take a look.
The first place I like to look on a team level is defensive efficiency, because there's no subjectivity at all. It's just a measure of the percentage of balls put in play being turned into outs. It's not perfect (psst: no stat is), but over the course of season, the best defensive teams are going to convert the most balls into outs.
Errors don't always tell the full story, because you can't make an error if you have bad range and just can't get to a ball others would get to. Still, errors are bad. Only the Cardinals (117) have committed more errors than the Phillies' 113. Those two teams are actually tied for last in fielding percentage.
It gets even uglier. One of the more accurate advanced defensive metrics is defensive runs saved, from Baseball Info Solutions. Thirteen teams score out in the negative. Only four are below -50:
- Mets: -82
- Blue Jays: -94
- Orioles: -106
- Phillies: -126
Here's how the Phillies rate out by position in defensive runs saved.
- Catcher: -9
- First base: -1
- Second base: -13
- Shortstop: -21
- Third base: -15
- Left field: -25
- Center field: -9
- Right field: -16
This is such a colossal failure that it has to be at least partially in coaching, specifically in positioning.
On that front, I can't help but think back to June 3, when Jake Arrieta lashed out after being swept in San Francisco, . Keep in mind, Arrieta came from the Cubs, an excellent defensive team widely hailed for how it deploys the defense.
As noted above with the errors, though, it's not only positioning. It's everything. The organization, as it heads to the offseason in hopes of making a Manny Machado and/or Bryce Harper splash, needs to figure out a way to shore up the defense. It's such a glaring weakness this season that it could be argued this is what prevented them from making the playoffs.