The MLB schedule is cruel and ugly enough that once baseball is given back to us, it is immediately taken away. Fortunately, that means we have a full day without Phillies baseball to reflect on what we witnessed yesterday.
It's all too easy to believe things boiled down to Freddy Galvis' home run and the implosion (more of an explosion that they rigged themselves and set off accidentally) of the Phillies bullpen, but there are other aspects to the game to think about and determine conclusively.
Things such as,
The Reds are stupid
The league decided that instead of allowing one of its longest traditions - the MLB season opening with the Reds - it would just have Cincinnati slap against one of the other forsaken franchises of 2016 later on day two. This was not a marquee match-up by any means, but the Reds still felt like they needed to employ some dramatics just to make a long, cold day in the April mist even longer and colder and in the mistier.
Jeremy Hellickson is great
This is Reds hero Joey Votto, moments after hitting a bases-loaded single that gave the Reds the lead back, 4-2, in the bottom of the eighth.
That's the smile of a man who couldn't crack Jeremy Hellickson for the life of him, striking out three times against the Diamondbacks' second-worst starting pitcher last year. That's the smile of a man who needed James Russell to enter the game to finally poke a ball out of the infield.
Before the relievers were permitted to join in, the pitching was not that bad for the 2016 staff. This was largely due to the contributions of the one pitcher who had thrown for the Phillies thus far in the season, Jeremy Hellickson. One of two veteran hurlers brought in to keep the squealing kiddies that make up the rest of the rotation in check, nobody was expecting much from Hellickson. But he proved that he is decidedly and irreversibly the staff ace for six innings, allowing only three hits and keeping the opposing fans adequately stifled. That's the Phillies blueprint for the season: Put a pitcher out there who can give Freddy Galvis the time he needs to summon his immense power.
At only 79 pitches when he got the hook, the 28-year-old was ready to keep going. But like any of us, Pete Mackanins morbid curiosity got the better of him and he waved out to the pen.
Freddy Galvis is the secret weapon
Who would have thought, after all this "Freddy Galvis can't hit" talk, after that spring in which he did nothing to disprove such notions, that it would be Galvis providing the Phillies with power on the first day of the season?
Few things in this game are as confusing as Freddy Galvis power.— Corinne (@crashlandrey) March 26, 2016
Not a lot feels natural about one of the most weak-hitting spots in the Phillies lineup occasionally breaking off a four hundred-foot jack or two. On average, Galvis hits a regular season home run every 51.2 AB, so we can look forward to his next masterpiece somewhere in the range of April 18-22, against the Mets (or Brewers). By then, we will have forgotten that such a thing is possible - as will the Mets, most likely - and Galvis' dinger will once more catch everyone off guard, including that New York pitching staff.
The Phillies are pretty susceptible to diving catches
We don't yet know what a late-inning comeback would look like for this Phillies team, but we do know that whatever attempts they made to not give the Reds the last say on opening day were thwarted by a level of defense no one was expecting or desiring the Cincinnati outfield to have.
If the Phillies want to put together an effective offense, they will have to address their one most apparent weakness thus far: their vulnerability to heroic, game-saving catches.
Did Pete Mackanin even work with his offense on hitting their bloopers and sinking liners several inches further to the left or right, preventing this sort of thing from happening? No, he was too worried working on squeeze plays, of which the Phillies put on zero. Why did they even practice them so much if we were going to get this far into the season before they execute one?
Peter Bourjos' arm is a bit off
There was a play during the eighth inning meltdown in which Peter Bourjos was given a chance to be a hero, kind of, fielding a single and trying to get a runner at the plate, leading to far more satisfying 5-2 loss instead of the 6-2 loss we're all dwelling on today. It wouldn't have saved the game, but it would have made us feel good for several brief, incredibly fleeting moments.
And if there's one thing we were told about this season - not by the Phillies or by a baseball expert or anything, but maybe like by a floating Chase Utley head with light pouring out of his mouth and eyes in a dream or something - it's that we'll be able to count the good times of 2016 in nanoseconds. By the end of the season, we could have four, maybe five hundred thousand nanoseconds of footage of the Phillies doing well. That's got to be good news for the DVD yearbook team.
The point is, in 100% of chances so far, Bourjos has thrown too far up the first base line to be effective. We can applaud Carlos Ruiz's attempts to give his body back to the earth on the play, but there's only so much he can do.
We were made promises about you, Peter. We were told you were a defensive upgrade, sort of. Well, we were told you were fast. When we asked about your arm people would just mutter a little bit and then start coughing into their hands. Still, though.
David Hernandez is not a closer
James Russell is not a closer
Together, Russell and Hernandez faced six batters, recorded one out, and allowed three walks and five earned runs. This was some text book imploding.
"What do we even need a closer for?" people like me asked when it was announced that the Phillies would do without one.
"Oh," I continued yesterday afternoon, gesturing dismissively toward the television. "This."
What is a closer, even
See, this has been my thing for so long; that if a guy on your staff can't get three outs without allowing a run, maybe he shouldn't be on your staff in the first place. But that's the sort of thinking that people use who don't consider their evaluations complete after only nine innings of baseball. We aren't that glacially paced here at TGP; we're on the cutting edge of analysis/complaining. Has something happened? HEREAREOURTHOUGHTSONITIMMEDIATELY.
Last night, we saw Hernandez, who at certain points in spring training was considered the de facto closer, complete an opposite-save, or OPP-SV. This is when, instead of protecting a lead, it is resoundingly surrendered by the allowance of three or more runs, like the guy carrying a flag in a military battle charge running up to the other side and handing it to them instead of planting it in the ground defiantly.
It makes you wonder about the concept of a closer, and the philosophy of the whole thing. Who will arise from the ashes of the Phillies bullpen with the sort of elite skill set that allows for three consecutive outs? Has baseball ever seen such a phenomenon? Are we asking too much?