The Sunday night edition of “Hittin’ Season” is hosted by John Stolnis, Justin Klugh and Liz Roscher, recapping the Phillies’ weekend series every Sunday night. This week, the gang talks about Jake Arrieta’s comments after the Phils’ disheartening sweep at the hands of the Giants in San Francisco. The podcast is available only for Patreon members of “Hittin’ Season,” so become a Patreon member here to get every “Hittin’ Season” and “Continued Success” podcast in full!”
Jake Arrieta is right. It truly was a horses**t series.
The Phillies’ latest nightmare trip to San Francisco against the struggling Giants couldn’t have possibly gone any worse as they were swept away by a substandard Giants team that outscored them in the three-game set 12-1. That lone run, by the way, was only thanks to a home run by a pitcher, Jake Arrieta, on Sunday.
They played poor defense, made easy outs at the plate, and as a result, the Phils fell 3.0 games behind the Atlanta Braves for first place and 1.5 games behind the Washington Nationals for second place in the NL East.
The offense has been a disaster for the last three weeks, and it’s beginning to stress everybody out, especially Sunday’s starter Arrieta, who described himself as “furious” after the game and angrily chastised some teammates in particular, and his manager.
Here is a portion of Jake Arrieta’s postgame comments today, courtesy of @JSalisburyNBCS. Criticizes Phillies defensive shifts, Kingery’s decision-making and general lack of offense in series vs. Giants. pic.twitter.com/6DvpJwdXBU— Sean Kane (@SKaneNBCS) June 3, 2018
Frustration is perfectly understandable. The Phillies are 6-10 in their last 16 games and are hitting a combined .233 this season, tied for 3rd-lowest in the National League. They’ve scored five runs or more twice in the last 14 games, and the offense, outside of Arrieta’s dinger on Sunday, was held scoreless by a trio of pitchers named Chris Stratton, Andrew Suarez, and Dereck Rodriguez.
The starters, who were the supposed weakest area of the team heading into the season, have been carrying the offense for most of the season, and it appears Arrieta has had enough of it.
Criticism of the offense is justified, but it’s also fair to note the Phillies have three rookies — Scott Kingery, Jorge Alfaro, and J.P. Crawford — getting regular playing time this year, and two others — Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams — in their first full years in the Majors. This is a young group and, until the last few weeks, these guys had been doing enough to get the job done. Nevertheless, they have been a train wreck since mid-May.
However, some of Arrieta’s criticism seemed unwarranted, at least publicly. Kingery’s play in the 6th inning probably would have been handled better by an established shortstop, but this is a rookie playing out of position trying to make a tough play. He charged a slow-rolling ground ball and, instead of trying for a force play at 2nd tried to get the runner at first but couldn’t. It should have been an out, given how it was hit, but instead led to two runners getting on base with one out. (quotes via Matt Gelb of The Athletic)
“...We had a check swing. Kingery should have gone to second on that play...”
Perhaps Arrieta didn’t mean to single out Kingery specifically, but he did, and it felt a bit unfair.
Arrieta’s criticism of defensive shifting also was a bit untimely.
“We’re the worst in the league with shifts. So we need to change that,” Arrieta said. “Copy the best. I don’t know. That’s not my job. Use your eyes make and adjustment and be better. We need some accountability all the way around. Everybody, top to bottom.”
Perhaps this is an issue he’s had with manager Gabe Kapler all season. Perhaps he’s generally not a fan of defensive shifting. But defensive shifts did not cost Arrieta any part of that 5-run 6th inning on Sunday. Kingery was shifted slightly toward second base on the one-out grounder, but the shift did not make the play impossible. The other base hits in the inning were not due to shifts, either.
It’s true that the Phils have shifted a lot this season and, if you believe in some of the advanced defensive metrics out there, Arrieta is correct that the Phillies have been the worst defensive shifting team in the league.
Jake Arrieta had harsh words about the Phillies performance in defensive shifts.— Sports Info Solutions (@SportsInfo_SIS) June 3, 2018
Phillies do rank last in our Shift Runs Saved stat (-11 entering today)
Only one other team rates negative- Dodgers are -1
Are there areas in which the Phillies’ defensive shifting could improve? Perhaps, but their run prevention issues have come because of poor catching and throwing, not necessarily the positioning of defenders allowing balls that would have been outs turn into hits.
The largest problem facing this team is the silence of the bats, which Arrieta addressed as well. The offense entered the season as the supposed strength of this team, but has been the unquestioned weak link thus far in 2018.
The Phils’ offensive woes go far beyond one bad series, and Arrieta wants some accountability.
“We need to have an accountability check,” Arrieta said. “This is a key moment in our season. We had a pretty good April, a pretty good May. June isn’t starting out so well.”
Arrieta was asked if accountability exists within the current Phils clubhouse and said, “Well, if there’s not, I’ll make sure there is.”
Between the defensive shifting comments and the call for more accountability, it doesn’t take a highly-trained detective to hear some criticism of the skipper in these comments. Gabe Kapler held a 10-minute meeting with Arrieta after the game and said, “He cares a lot about winning and I think this series [ticked] him off. It [ticked] me off, too. It was not our best series... ...A ton of respect for his leadership characteristics, what he brings to that clubhouse. I know why he responded the way he did and we talked it through like men. And we will continue to do that.”
Rhys Hoskins, who is traveling with the team during their road trip while he sits on the DL, agreed there needs to be accountability in a big league clubhouse.
“You hope that I take accountability for my actions and my work,” Hoskins said. “The guy next to me does the same thing. If we all do that, then we’re going to be OK. Obviously, that doesn’t happen. That’s the perfect season.
“That’s when you hope that some guys step up. When things need to be said, they need to be said. It’s not always pretty. That’s what building chemistry and building a winning culture and team is about. That kind of stuff needs to happen even though it’s not fun.”
But what can the manager really do in order to jump start the offense? Hoskins’ struggles in May were well documented, as were Kingery’s. Those are two huge pieces of the offense that have been non-existent, and now Hoskins is on the DL. J.P. Crawford is on a rehab assignment and should return soon, but until Hoskins and Crawford get back, the Phillies’ bench consists of Dylan Cozens, Mitch Walding (who went 0-for-6 with 6 strikeouts this weekend), Jesmuel Valentin and Andrew Knapp.
That’s not a lot of options.
Perhaps Arrieta was speaking about a different kind of accountability, a clubhouse accountability that is unseen by most of us. But right now, there isn’t a single Phils hitter who is in a groove in any way, and there aren’t many moves to make.
Jake Arrieta is one of the few veteran leaders of this team, and is the guy one would expect to speak up after a tough stretch of games. Having him in the locker room to hold players accountable and say something when it needs to be said, is welcome to a young clubhouse.
So Arrieta stepped up and said what was on his mind, hoping to get a young team’s attention ahead of a brutal month in which they play their next 26 games against teams with a winning record.
June could make or break the Phillies’ season and Arrieta knows it. So he said something before he felt it was too late.