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What we learned from yesterday’s Phillies loss - it’s over!

Yesterday’s told us one important thing.

MLB: Spring Training-Pittsburgh Pirates at Philadelphia Phillies Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

By now, we all know the missteps from yesterday’s opener. Aaron Nola was pulled too early, Hoby Milner is not someone to rely on, Scott Kingery should have pinch hit, Odubel Herrera should have started the game, Pat Neshek’s injury should have been publicly known, and Andrew Knapp’s suspect defense shouldn’t have been in a tight situation in game 1.

Gabe Kapler’s first game as the Phillies manager went about as poorly as it could have, and now we know one thing - it’s over and done.

But here exactly is what’s “over and done” - Gabe Kapler’s first game as a major league manager. That’s it. The season isn’t over and done. His career isn’t over and done. The future of the Phillies isn’t over and done. Analytics isn’t over and done.

Think of it this way. On August 11 last year, Rhys Hoskins made his major league debut. In his first three games, he went 0-10 with 4 strikeouts. Or how about going back to May through July 2006, when Cole Hamels made his debut. Over his first 11 games, he amassed a very ugly 5.98 ERA with opponents hitting to the tune of an .825 OPS against him and the Phillies losing 7 of his 11 starts. Or in 2003 when Chase Utley debuted 2 for his first 12 with no walks. Or Mike Schmidt’s debut in 1972 when he hit .206 with 1 home run.

You get the point. Not everyone starts his major league career like Aaron Nola, allowing 1 earned run over 6 innings (though the Phillies still lost that game because they were shutout). Yesterday was Gabe Kapler’s first game. It’s over. It’s done. Let’s move on.

Especially because it could have easily turned out otherwise if the players had done their job. If Milner had kept the ball in the park. If Knapp had thrown accurately to third. If Neris had thrown accurately to first. If any of those things happen, which in most games they would have, the Phillies might have won the game and Kapler would have gotten a W for his first game. But, as baseball goes, they didn’t, and the Phillies lost.

The result? Now everyone is blaming analytics. Take, for instance, the most mainstream of Philly opinion-makers, Jim Gardner:

Look, I grew up watching Jim Gardner, and still do. I love the guy for my local news. But, for baseball analysis? So quickly blaming the bogeyman of “analytics” is nonsense. But, it’s nonsense that we’re going to be forced to push back on all season long.

Kapler is going to do things differently. He’s going to take the long-term view, which he talked about after the game in his explanation of pulling Nola. He’s going to trust his bullpen, which the team invested heavily in over the off-season. He’s going to play splits and try to keep players fresh over the course of a full season. These aren’t normal in the staid traditionalist sport of baseball.

What this means is that every time Kapler goes against the grain and the team wins, it will be mostly greeted as just another win in a 162 game season. But every time he goes against the grain and loses, not only will that loss be mourned, but his entire essence as a manager will be questioned. This is inevitable because it is the nature of innovation. Just imagine if the Philly Special hadn’t worked out. Or how the Process would seem if Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz never came back from their career-beginning injuries.

We have to push back against this. We are going to see a different approach to managing this year. It’s entirely possible Kapler is innovative and just bad at his job (see, e.g, Chip Kelly). But, until we have proof of that, we can’t let an opening day loss derail us into questioning the innovation and talent the Phillies are going to bring to the field this year.

Kapler’s managerial debut is over. That’s it.