Ah, Opening Day. Better late than never, I suppose!
We’ve got our finalized roster, there’s a real live game on television tonight... for the first time in forever, things feel... semi-normal?
Thus, I was feeling extra chipper today, and decided to torture myself a bit by looking back on the struggles of ye olde 2019 Phillies.
Of all the Phillies’ blunders last year, there was one non-surface-level aspect that stood out to me more than any other. No, it wasn’t the health of their bullpen, nor was it the lack of depth within their roster — it was their inability to pinch hit. The 2019 Phillies were absolutely helpless when it came to pinch hitting.
Yeah, I know it’s not the most pressing of issues, but it was a legitimate problem that plagued the Phillies over the duration of last years’ season — and in 2020, where we’re faced with a 60-game sprint, within which every result matters, situational hitting becomes infinitely more important.
Across 474 plate appearances, the Phillies as a team in substitution-based scenarios slashed:
.192/.263/.315, .578 OPS, 11 HR, 37 BB, 147 K
For those keeping track at home, that is an absolutely horrific line.
This disparaging result was birthed by the Phillies’ terrible bench contingent, whose names you probably haven’t heard in a while:
Guys like Sean Rodriguez, Jose Pirela, Logan Morrison, Mitch Walding, Aaron Altherr, Dylan Cozens, Rob Brantley, and others...
With names like those, it’s no wonder the results were so lackluster.
That said, it seems that, quietly, the Phillies have assembled a squad that should fix this problem in quite the drastic manner.
Here’s how their bench is shaping up in 2020:
Leading the pack, infielder Neil Walker, who had a pretty excellent 2019 off of the bench.
He slashed .324/.425/.588 with 2 home runs and 6 RBI in 40 plate appearances as a substitute — which is a substantial upgrade for the Phillies, and would have, quite easily, led the teams’ bench in 2019. Plus, he hits from both sides of the plate, making him a versatile, and dangerous, bat from the wings.
Next up, there’s the local guy, Phil Gosselin, who’s finally getting his shot on an Opening Day Roster (after some “contractual things” are sorted out pre-Friday.)
He put up a .342/.390/.368 slash with 3 RBI over 41 sub-appearances in 2019, (10-for-32 in pinch hit scenarios) and was, bar none, the Phils’ most effective pinch hitter over all of last year. Sure, he’s not the slugger you want to bash the winning home run, but, with the “runner on second” rule making its way into todays game, a single is all a team needs to walk it off.
Plus, he hit somewhere around .900 (yes, .900) in Summer Camp this year — and that’s not even an exaggeration. Over the last 6 days, Gosselin has THIRTEEN hits...
If anybody earned their spot with this club, it’s Philly Phil.
Next comes everyone’s favorite (ha) backup catcher, the one, the only, mister Andrew Knapp.
Knapp, another switch-hitting bat, was not at all as bad off of the bench as one might assume based on his regular season stats.
In 48 substitution appearances, Knapp slashed a fair .256/.333/.302 with 4 RBI. He wasn’t “good” per se, but, with the encouraging signs we’ve seen from him in Summer Camp, I’m confident he’ll have a much more effective year at the plate in 2020... at least, compared to his beyond poor 2019.
Kyle Garlick is next on the bench list — and boy does he supply the power that’s missing from these 3 previous hitters.
What you can expect from Garlick; probably a lot of strikeouts, yes — but, when he makes contact, it’ll be meaningful.
He had an eye-popping 2019 in Triple-A, putting up a .314/.382/.675 slash alongside a 1.057 OPS and 23 home runs — and he managed to carry that into a limited Major League stint, too, slugging at a .521 clip at posting an .842 OPS across 53 plate appearances with the Dodgers.
He’s got a heavy, right-handed swing, and that’s something every bench needs.
Rounding it out, there are your every-day players that’ll be getting a rest every now and again. Guys like Jay Bruce, Roman Quinn, and Adam Haseley.
These folks’ talents speak for themselves, yet, they would likely be the go-to bats to switch into the game once a starting pitcher exits/for situational matchups.
So, let’s recap — we have:
- Two veteran infielders with brilliant pinch hitting numbers as recent as last year.
- A backup catcher who was better in pinch hit scenarios than he was when given regular at-bats.
- A big bat who tore up Triple-A last year, and managed to slug .500+ at the Major League level.
- The rest of our MLB hitters.
Yeah, I’d say that’s an upgrade over Rob Brantley and Sean Rodriguez...