The Phillies have gone four consecutive games without drawing a walk (that streak ended tonight when Jaime Garcia walked Chase Utley), and they’re also on a four-game losing streak. Coincidence? They haven’t scored more than three runs in a game since April 10 (another streak that has ended tonight). Though season previews for the team across the print and digital media predicted the Phillies would have offensive issues, GM Ruben Amaro is shocked — shocked! — that his team isn’t drawing walks.
Via Kevin Tresolini:
“I think it’s ridiculous that we’ve had no walks in three days,” general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “I cannot believe it. More importantly, it’s about not just walks, but producing, and we haven’t done that. We haven’t gotten hits, period. We haven’t gotten hits with runners in scoring position, we haven’t gotten hits to lead off innings.
“We need more people on base and more offensive production. You’ve got to give some credit to the pitchers, but not all of it. We just need to be better. It’s as simple as that. Right now we’re not.’’
Let’s ignore that the Phillies are actually hitting .278 with runners in scoring position, which ranks seventh out of 15 teams. On 97.5 The Fanatic back in January, Amaro famously said, “I don’t care about walks; I care about production.” As many studies have shown, however, on-base percentage is very heavily correlated with run-scoring (production). Most front offices across baseball have acknowledged this fact, but the Phillies are proudly one of the few remaining teams without a real analytics department.
If you want to know how the Phillies have squandered so many wonderful opportunities since 2009, it’s because they’re still operating under the 1960’s baseball zeitgeist.
Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.
While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.
Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”
He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”
Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.
According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”
Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.