2012: John Mayberry, Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence
2013: Domonic Brown, Ben Revere, John Mayberry
2014: Tony Gwynn, Jr., Ben Revere, Marlon Byrd
2015: Ben Revere, Odubel Herrera, Grady Sizemore
2016: Cedric Hunter, Odubel Herrera, Peter Bourjos
2017: Howie Kendrick, Odubel Herrera, Michael Saunders
These are the Opening Day outfield alignments that were trotted out by Charlie Manuel, Ryne Sandberg, and Pete Mackanin for the last six years. To say it was bad is kind of an understatement. Here are the bWAR totals for each player during these seasons:
Phillies’ Opening Day outfield WAR totals
Am I cheating here? Absolutely, since these totals do not include any other players other than the ones that were written on the Opening Day lineup card. If you get past that, believe me, the situation doesn’t improve much. However, if you want to get technical, the total bWAR for outfielders who played the positions the majority of the time as starters equaled 17.7. If you want to get really, REALLY technical, according to Fangraphs, the Phillies outfield has accumulated 18.2 WAR during this time period, far and away the worst total. Like I said, wasn’t much better. The point is plainly clear: the outfield situation has been catastrophically bad the past six years. The situation has only been saved somewhat because the front office was able to find a diamond in the Rule 5 rough in Odubel Herrera. In fact, if you were to take out Herrera’s numbers, the players that the Phillies have deemed “Opening Day worthy” have produced 7.7 bWAR since 2012.
Seven. Point. Seven.
Simply by default, this year’s iteration of the outfield has to be better simply because they are better. Any one of the players that projects to be regulars are better than any option the team has used since 2012. Of course, heading in to the offseason, it looked like the alignment was pretty much set. Yet as we all know already, with the free agent signing of Carlos Santana to man first base,
Babe Ruth Rhys Hoskins will shift to left field, which does create something of a fight for playing time among him, Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr. If we’re all being realists though, it really only means that one of Williams or Altherr will be on the bench as neither Hoskins’ nor Herrera’s bat will be leaving the lineup with any kind of regularity. This may seem a little harsh, but consider:
- Aaron Altherr has yet to be healthy for a full season. While he was incredibly hot last year when given the chance to play regularly (from April 16 through August 4, he had an .892 OPS), he did miss more than a month with a hamstring injury toward the end of the season. This after missing most of 2016 with a wrist injury that he suffered prior to the season starting.
- While Nick Williams was good last year (343 plate appearances is a pretty decent sample size), there are still things he needs to work on. His 5.8 BB%, 28.3 K% and .375 BABIP all suggest that at least some of the numbers he put up were more luck than anything. If he is unable to control the strike zone better, he might find himself on the short end of the platoon more often than not.
Of course, this all references only the offense. Defensively, this outfield will not be as good as it was at the end of the season. With Williams, Herrera and Altherr receiving the bulk of playing time, fly balls had very little space to fall. Herrera ranked just in the top half of all full time centerfielders in DRS (+4) while Altherr was just a tic below in right (-1). Williams’ numbers are skewed by his wretched showing in right field, something he will have to improve on since Hoskins will be taking over left field. While Hoskins didn’t light the world on fire with the leather, he also didn’t embarrass himself there either (-1 DRS in 237 innings). The athleticism Hoskins showed in being able to pick up left field as quickly as he did portends some good things heading into the season.
Depending on your projection of choice, the Phillies will have their finest collection of Opening Day outfielders in a long time:
Phillies outfielder projections
Even if you were to factor out Williams and Altherr, the other two alone would be better than anything the team has produced in six years. It’s about time to get excited about who roams the great green expanse of Citizens Bank Park. Fans have certainly earned it after experiencing the dreck of the past.