Phillies Mailbag: Williams, Lineup, Kapler
We are back once again with a Philadelphia Phillies mailbag on 97.3 ESPN. After another week, do Phillies fans feel better about this Phillies team? We answer your questions and will discuss them on the Sports Bash with Mike Gill Tuesday afternoon.
The Phillies did not need to sign Carlos Santana. Don't you think Nick Williams needs to play?
The addition of first baseman Carlos Santana meant that the Phillies now would need to perhaps find playing time for Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr separately, instead of perhaps both players playing every day. And now, Scott Kingery is taking at bats in right field, too.
Williams was not happy about this. He went as far as to make a snide comment to the media about a "computer picking the lineup". Williams has apologized for this comment, and perhaps made up for it with a pinch-hit home run that would be the decisive home run on Monday night. But without Santana, the Phillies lack critical depth.
Heading into the offseason, I noted that the Phillies badly needed an impact left-handed bat in their lineup. The Phillies were said to consider Carlos Gonzalez and ultimately settled on Santana, who as a bonus is a switch-hitter. The move does mean that Altherr and Williams will have to share some playing time.
But the Phillies are much deeper this way. Should the Phillies instead carry a journeyman veteran outfielder the likes of such players as Daniel Nava, Ross Gload, and Laynce Nix as they have in the past? I think the Phillies are much better off this way.
There are interleague games requiring a designated hitter games forthcoming, including this weekend in Tampa. Chances are that one outfielder or a first baseman will suffer an injury at some point. Other times the Phillies might want to match the lefty Williams against a tough left-handed pitcher.
The Phillies have many options now. Oh, and they have someone like Williams available to hit a go-ahead pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning.
Biggest issue with this lineup is that there isn't any consistency with it. How can guys get into a rhythm?
The Phillies lineup has not been the same two games in a row all season, that is true. But in a game of matchups, the Phillies will put the lineup on the field any given night that they feel gives them the best chance to win. However, I would argue there is enough consistency in this lineup.
No player has lead off the game or played second base other than Cesar Hernandez, who besides getting on base consistently is also finally using some of his speed to steal bases and to score runs. Behind him has been Santana, who is demonstrating why the traditional number two hitter is no more. Lead off hitter gets on base, Santana drives him in. No need for a "productive out"
Rhys Hoskins is also firmly implanted in the fourth spot in the lineup, setting up the same thing as the Hernandez/Santana combo. While the third hitter has varied some, the usual goal is that a high on-base batter bats third and Hoskins can drive him in. That is working.
Beyond that, the Phillies have gotten production behind the core four, particularly from Maikel Franco. As Kingery is mixed in here or there, J.P. Crawford sits against left-handed pitching, as does Andrew Knapp. As we have seen over the last several games, the lineup is functioning quite well.
Let us not forget the 1993 Phillies. Perhaps they were at the forefront of the analytics movement. The National League champions featured platoons at three positions: left field (Pete Incaviglia and Milt Thompson), right field (Jim Eisenreich and Wes Chamberlain) and second base (Mariano Duncan and Mickey Morandini). I would say they did okay.
What do you think about Gabe Kapler's stock has improved at all this week?
A week makes a tremendous difference. The Phillies, while they sit at 4-5, look much better than the 1-2 start and many questions surrounding the bullpen. As we previously have said, the lineup is functioning well, and the Phillies have gotten solid pitching performances to this point. But there needs to be more to the story before we can make any assessments on rookie manager Gabe Kapler.
First, Vince Velasquez gave the Phillies six full innings. It did not initially look like he would, but Velasquez overcame a high-pitch start in the early innings to make it through five innings.The bullpen did not allow a run afterward, thanks to Jake Thompson.
The bullpen needed to pitch a lot more on Sunday, thanks to Jake Arrieta's slow progress and allowed three runs in their five innings. Not stellar, but on Monday the bullpen turned in three scoreless after Ben Lively overcame an early poor start to get through six full innings.
All of these things have created a different aura around the Phillies team. Early frustrations have given way to what I think is a confidence that the Phillies will always remain in the game. The lineup continues to battle, and the bullpen, down three of their core relievers in Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek and Mark Leiter, is beginning to figure things out.
It has felt like a long week two, but the season will be even longer. A larger sample size will tell the story on Kapler in the end.