Phillies defense a major liability early in 2018 season

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PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 29: Carlos Santana #41 of the Philadelphia Phillies misplays a ground ball for an error in the sixth inning during a game against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park on April 29, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Braves won 10-1. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 29: Carlos Santana #41 of the Philadelphia Phillies misplays a ground ball for an error in the sixth inning during a game against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park on April 29, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Braves won 10-1. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images) /
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The Phillies have been a well below-average team defensively this season. If their struggles continue, it will cost them important games.

The Phillies have succeeded in plenty of areas this season, leading to their 29-20 record and first-place standing in the NL East this season. However, one area the team has struggled in this season is defense.

As a whole, the team has made 36 errors, tied for third-most in the entire league. Their .980 fielding percentage ranked fourth in the league heading into Sunday’s game.

The advanced fielding metrics aren’t kind to the team either. They rank second-to-last with -32 defensive runs saved. Their errors have led to 17 unearned runs, which have cost them in games, namely Tuesday’s loss to the Braves. The team’s -4.6 UZR/150 ranks 24th overall in the league. The team ranks 23rd overall in defensive value at -7.1.

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Few players on the team have been above-average defensively this year. Cesar Hernandez is the only fielder with a positive UZR at their everyday position this year. Otherwise, every player has had their flaws this season.

Carlos Santana and J.P. Crawford lead the team with five errors this season. Four of Santana’s five errors came in consecutive games from May 19 to 22. Crawford made three of his errors in four days just before he landed on the disabled list.

They were supposed to be two of the team’s most sound players defensively this season.

In addition to leading the team in errors, Crawford and Santana both have poor advanced fielding numbers. Crawford has a -3.1 UZR; Santana has a -0.6 UZR. They both have -4 defensive runs saved this season.

Since Crawford has been out, Scott Kingery has been the everyday starter at shortstop. He has not made any errors there, but he has turned just 17 of 30 balls into his zone into outs, good for .567 revised zone rating. His UZR at shortstop is league-average at 0.0, but his UZR/150 is -1.4.

Kingery has not gotten enough playing time at the other infield positions to garner anything meaningful from advanced numbers. Three of Kingery’s four total errors came as throwing errors from third base. He also made a fielding error at second base.

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The club’s outfield as a whole has been okay but not great defensively. Aaron Altherr, Nick Williams, Odubel Herrera, and Rhys Hoskins all have just one error each this year. Herrera has three defensive runs saved and Altherr has one. On the other hand, Williams has -3 and Hoskins has -8. None of them, not even Herrera, have a positive UZR.

One player shining defensively is catcher Jorge Alfaro. He has caught 10 runners stealing this year, tied for the league-high with Jonathan Lucroy. Alfaro possesses the three fastest throws to catch runners stealing this year. His pitch framing has taken a major step forward this season and has helped his pitchers plenty of times in this regard.

Next: Phillies holding first place in the NL East

Overall, the Phillies have not done well defensively this season. They rank poorly in many defensive metrics and their players have not performed well in this regard. The team needs their defensively sound players to play like they are, or else it will hurt them in the future.

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