Winning is great and losing sucks but within that archetype exists degrees of each model. There are great wins and there are bad losses and the feelings about those outcomes differ greatly, yet in direct proportion with their moderate counterparts and with each other. A great win is so much more exhilarating than a regular win and conversely a bad loss is much worse than a regular loss but the correlation of the extremes is equal; a bad loss hurts as much as a great win uplifts.
A bad loss can be defined as a game you should have won, we’re winning at one point and typically occurs against a meaningful opponent and maybe in a relevant situation. Losing a game to a very good American League team doesn’t hurt anywhere near as bad as losing one to a divisional opponent.
The Phillies have had some pretty bad losses so far in this very young season.
The most recent one occurred this past weekend in game two of the Nationals series. The Phillies scored single runs twice in that game only to give back those runs immediately in the next half inning. The Nats put up two in the seventh only to have the Phillies answer back with five making it an 8-5 game heading into the eight. With only six outs left to get the Phillies had a win expectancy of 92%. All they needed to do was get six outs without giving up four runs. The Phillies had battled all game and it was right there.
They ended up losing by two.
This bad loss is on Phillies manager Gabe Kapler who made every wrong bullpen move you could make. Starting with bring in Juan Nicasion and his plus-6.00 ERA to a tie game in the seventh and moving on to choosing to go left/right with Adam Morgan/Kurt Suzuki instead of right/left with Pat Neshek/Andrew Stevenson. Neshek vs the inexperienced third-string backup with one home run in 142 major league at-bats or Morgan, who has been great, against an experienced batter who has killed the Phillies in recent memory. Suziki hits a home run about every 15 at-bats against the Phillies and about every 13 at-bats at Citizens Bank Park. He has a 1.588 OPS so far this season against the Phils. Sorry but at that point you play to the opponents weakness, not your strength.
A week before that they had a 10-1 lead going into the sixth inning against the 8-19 Marlins and by the middle of the eighth that had been whittled down to a one run game. Over a period of nine outs they gave up eight runs. They won that game but it should have never been that close making it the rare bad win, where the outcome was what you wanted but how you got there was ugly.
Eight days before that on April 19th against the Rockies the Phillies lost a game by one run in which they left 19 runners on-base. They had 17 hits and six walks and only scored three runs. They were 1 for 11 with six strikeouts with runners in scoring position. The game was tied 2-2 going into the 13th inning and the Phil’s were able to scratch out a run to give them a 3-2 advantage. They had a win expectancy of 89% with one out left to get. The opponent was down to their last strike when they hit a home run to end it. Juan Nicasio was on the mound.
Four games before on April 15th they were playing the Mets at home. It was a tie game with two outs and runners on first and second in the 11th inning. A routine ground ball is hit to first and it gets by Rhys Hoskins causing an unearned run to score. They end up losing when Edwin Diaz strikes out the side in the home half of the inning. Division rival, game at home, lost on an unearned run.
April 9th, again against the Nats. Playing at home the Phillies have a one run lead with two outs in the ninth. Again, the opponent is down to their last strike. And like in Colorado, just one more strike and everyone in the Phillie-verse is happy. At this point the Phillies had a 98% win expectancy. Catcher JT Realmuto wants a slider down, way down, but instead Ramos leaves it up and Robles ties the game with a solo home run to left-center. Jose Alvarez and his 13.50 ERA is inexplicably brought into a crucial situation and while he gets the last out of the ninth, in the tenth he proceeds to give up single, single, home run, single, single, strike out, strike out, double, ground out and the Phils lose 10-6.
Wednesday April 3rd, yet again against the Nats. The Phillies had a two run lead with six outs to go; a win expectancy of 88% with an 8-6 lead heading into the bottom of the 8th. They end up losing the game 8-9 when David Robertson gives up a single and then proceeds to walk three, the last one forcing in the winning run. A walk-off walk is probably the worst of the bad losses. The Phillies had a win expectancy of 88% with three outs to go.
That’s five bad losses and while that may not seem like a lot consider that it represent 36% of the Phillies 14 losses. Over a third of their losses are games that were not only winnable but that they were actually heavily expected to win at some point late in the game.
Also consider that four of them were against a division rival – a team that is expected to challenge for the division crown. The Nats in particular have a way of handing bad losses to the Phillies and quite frankly, that has to end.
While some of it can be blamed on just bad luck you also have to consider that a lot of it is based on really poor execution and to some extent, strategy. Execution is on the player but strategy has to 100% lay at the feet of the manager. Some of Kapler’s bullpen decisions are just baffling and they’re outcomes are very predictable. It doesn’t take a genius to know that some guys shouldn’t be put in the later innings in tie games.
For their part and as a testament to the character of this team, the Phillies went on to win the next day following every one of these losses but one. It’s not easy to suffer a tough loss but to put it behind you and come back the next day and win shows that this brand of Phillies is not going to let anything stand in their way.