On Thursday afternoon, the Phillies were shellacked by the Mets, 24-4. These games are prime games for seeing a position player pitch and this was no exception. Sure the seventh inning was earlier than most of these occurrences, but with the way the game was unfolding, there wasn’t much wrong with the decision. Roman Quinn was the sacrificial lamb and this is where the problems begin.
Most of the time, a position player is asked to throw to enough batters to maybe end the eighth or ninth inning, nothing that would exert him past the point of potential injury. Today was different because the team played so poorly. Running the Play Index, we find 63 instances of a position player pitching this year. Now, exclude Shohei Ohtani and that number drops to 54. Of those, only 4 times has a player thrown more than an inning. It’s mostly because the manager doesn’t want to injure the player by having him exert himself doing something he doesn’t train to do. Kapler, though, decided that Quinn would be the guy to go more than an inning, something that’s almost incomprehensible. Kapler let Quinn throw 42 pitches in his outing. Want to guess how many non-Ohtani “pitchers” have thrown that many this year? One (Jose Reyes on July 31). Kapler should be excoriated for this decision.
First of all, the fact that Kapler would even consider this is just plain wrong. Let’s start with the fact that he was using Quinn in the first place. Quinn hasn’t exactly been the paragon of health in his career and letting him pitch in the first place was a poor decision. We don’t know if he volunteered himself, but having the short bench and the necessity of using so many pitchers the night before meant someone had to do. Using their most fragile player to do so, though, is something that should have made Kapler think twice.
Secondly, Quinn’s appearance should have ended after one inning - period. Letting him trot back to the mound to begin a second inning of work brought back memories of Jeff Francoeur having to survive the managerial mishaps of Ryne Sandberg. Watching Francoeur toil then was maddening enough, but at least we had the oafish Sandberg to blame since we had all seen what a poor manager of men he was. We expect more from Kapler. We all understand the need to save pitchers, especially with four more games to play. But no manager - not Sandberg, not Kapler, no one - should be asking a position player to do something like this for more than an inning at a time. The possibility of injury only increased with each pitch Quinn threw and at a time of the year when the entire 25 man roster is important, putting one in harm’s way is disappointing to say the least.
Lastly, while most (if not all) of the blame falls on Kapler as the final decision maker, where were the veterans on the club? During that game, we saw Chase Utley letting Bob McClure have it on the mound in anger for leaving Francoeur out there to rot. Where were the veterans on this club backing up Quinn, pleading with Kapler to take Quinn out of the game? We’re not looking for someone yelling at Kapler on the mound, but someone should have stepped up and questioned the decision-making. Now, perhaps behind closed doors, that happens. But all we have is the evidence we saw on the field and that was sorely lacking.
Kapler has been great this year. He’s run a good bullpen, pressed the correct buttons more often than not, and has generally impressed in his maiden voyage as a manager. This decision, though, was ill-advised and cannot happen again. Let’s hope the opportunity never presents itself again and that Kapler learns from this mistake.