When the Phillies traded for outfielder Ben Revere this offseason, it seemed like the team was committing to improving a defense that made 101 errors last year, which put them right in the middle of the pack in Major League Baseball.
That total was an increase of 24 errors from the year before, when their 74 team errors were the second-least in all of baseball.
In 2010, they made 83 errors. In 2009, they made just 76. And in 2008, they made 90.
Clearly, 2012 saw a spike in the number of errors, and the problem was team-wide.
So the Phils signed Revere, and fans hoped this meant a re-focusing on the importance of defense to a club’s success.
Then the Phillies traded for Michael Young, and signed Delmon Young and Yuniesky Betancourt. They also failed to sign a starting corner outfielder, instead deciding to hope Domonic Brown and/or Darin Ruf could win one or both of those corner outfield positions.
None of those players are what would be considered “good” at defense, despite what Chris Wheeler may tell you.
(And no, Chris. Betancourt is NOT a good defender. It’s important to watch SOME game tape, dude.)
And while the Phils’ best offensive team most likely involves an outfield of Ruf and Brown and Michael Young at third base, it’s clear the defense is going to take a hit.
“They gave me a headache today, a real good headache,” Manuel said. “We can’t play like that if we expect to win. You’re going to make mistakes. At the same time, you can’t make that many mistakes and you can’t make the same mistakes over and over every day. What the hell? We had one clean inning today. One clean inning. We dropped balls and missed balls allover the field.”
Yesterday, the culprits were Freddy Galvis (usually an outstanding defensive player), John Mayberry Jr. (also a good defender) and Betancourt (who is not a good defensive player). In fact, Betancourt now has two errors already this spring, with Revere, Ruf, Erik Kratz, Cody Asche, Michael Martinez, and Steven Lerud accounting for the others.
The main idea in baseball is to secure outs. That’s why it’s so important for a hitter to get on base as often as possible and deny the other team the only thing that can get it off the field.
And when a defense gives another team free outs, it’s a killer, especially for a pitcher like John Lannan, yesterday’s starter, who relies on good defense to take care of the ground balls he hopes to generate.
Now, the only way a team can overcome its defensive deficiencies is to outslug their sloppiness and score enough runs to blot out the sun, thereby making up for the unearned runs they allow.
I’m not sure that describes the Phillies, exactly.
Of course, there is the caveat that it is still early in spring training and that players are still getting their feet wet. Which is why Manuel isn’t ready to execute anyone by firing squad just yet.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not panicking and I’m not really upset. But at the same time, I’m looking for better play. We’re looking to play the game better. That’s the bottom line. I don’t give a damn. We’re looking to play the game better. You have to catch the ball and throw it to the right place.”
It sure doesn’t look like the Phils are going to score a whole lot of runs this year, unless Brown and Ruf hit the cover off the ball. So they’re going to need their starters to perform, their bullpen not to implode, and for their defense to be better than it was last year.
So far, things are not off to a good start.
And hey, we haven’t even seen any Delmon Young yet!