Well, that escalated quickly. Gabe Kapler was never going to have it easy – there’s too much distaste for the “analytics” he’s demonstrated an affinity for – but it feels like he’s leaning into the whole “trying too hard to be smart” thing. And boy, did it backfire.
It all started with Opening Day. Aaron Nola was cruising – the team held a 5-0 lead in the 6th inning, and Nola had only thrown 68 pitches. The game seemed comfortably in hand – maybe a little too comfortable for Gabe. With Freddie Freeman at the plate, Kapler decided Nola’s day was done. In a vacuum, the move isn’t disastrous – Nola HAS had trouble with the third time through the order (2.59 ERA first two times through the order, 5.32 ERA the third time), and Freeman has a history of success against Nola. You should be able to trust your bullpen with holding a 5 run lead for 3.2 innings, right?
- The bullpen did not hold the lead. (Not Kapler’s fault)
- The move was NOT made in a vacuum. The next two starters were Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez, two pitchers that averaged 5 innings per start in 2017. There’s a good chance you’re going to need to lean on your bullpen in those games. Knowing you don’t have workhorses behind Nola makes pulling him unnecessarily early inherently more risky.
- The more you use your bullpen, the deeper into the bullpen you have to go
- The deeper you have to go, the worse the quality of the relievers
- The worse the quality of the relievers, the higher chance the other team has to score
- The higher chance the other team has to score, the lower chance you have to win
I don’t know if you can call the Nola move a gamble. Gambling usually pairs risk and reward in equal proportions. This was more of a “high risk/low reward” thing, like eating a hamburger you find on the street. And much like eating some maligned street meat, this move did not pay off. Pivetta and Velasquez combined for 6.2 innings pitched. The bullpen was so taxed that Pedro Florimon (reminder: position player) had to take the mound IN THE THIRD GAME OF THE SEASON. It doesn’t take much to see that the wheels were set in motion the moment Kapler pulled Nola.
What Kapler wanted to look like was this –
But he’s ended up looking more like this –
Weekly Record: 1-4.
Standout Hitter: Rhys Hoskins. Did you expect someone else? Hoskins is already running a 4-digit OPS and in the early going has not only been the Phillies best player, but also one of the best players in baseball. Batting .471/.550/.824 will get you there.
Standout Pitcher: Aaron Nola. Coming into the season Nola and Hoskins were probably the two most discussed players, and they haven’t disappointed. Through two starts, Nola has a 2.61 ERA and looks just about every part of the ace he’s been hyped up to be, although he could (and should) get those strikeout numbers up to where they were in 2017.
Sit-Down Hitter: Nick Williams. He has a lot of potential and athleticism. He also has 1 hit in 2018.
Pedro Florimon Nah I’m just kidding, it’s Vince Velasquez. His first start was equal parts inefficient and ugly, resulting in a 13.50 ERA in only 2.2 IP. There are reasons to not panic yet – his velocity is up and he generated his fair share of swings and misses, both encouraging signs. It will take some convincing performances to prove his first start was a result of poor luck rather than poor pitching, though.
Around the League Round-Up
- The most coveted free agent of the offseason was Shohei Ohtani, a Japanese star that dreamed of being the first two-way player since Babe Ruth. After a rough spring training, some people had already written him off. At the time of this writing, Ohtani already has two homers (including one off of Corey Kluber) and showcased a 100 MPH fastball in his first start. Not bad at all.
- The Yankees added Giancarlo Stanton in the offseason, which had people wondering how many homers Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez would combine for. On Wednesday, they increased that total by one each.
- Kevin Pillar of the Blue Jays stole three bases in a single inning. “Neat”, you might say, thinking that maybe he got on base a couple of times to do so. Nope.
- Confidence is catching snowflakes while securing the win.
- Edwin Encarnacion is a DH, a position almost entirely comprised of slow boys who try to hit baseballs to the far side of the fence. He recently hit one on the near side of the fence and still managed to touch all four bags. This article details it in wonderful….uh…detail.
It’s still early. The home opener is today. Let’s hope this team starts to put things together and rally off some wins.