There are - and as far as I can tell, will forever be - Gabe Kapler apologists. They believe that the team actually overachieved during his tenure as the Phillies’ manager, and found his uber-sabermetric approach to running a team to be innovative and effective.
Gabe Kapler overachieved in two seasons as Phillies manager. In 2018, he had a poor team 15 games over .500 in August. In 2019, he kept a top-heavy, injury-riddled group in the race with zero (“if we dont, we don’t”) front office help. His reward: being fired. Fair shake? No way.— Joe Giglio (@JoeGiglioSports) May 22, 2020
I do not fall into the category of apologist. While I don’t think he was the main reason why the 2018 and 2019 teams collapsed in the second half of the season, I also don’t think he was the answer. He didn’t seem to have control of the clubhouse, couldn’t properly communicate his ideas to the players, and didn’t always provide logical explanations for some of his more confusing moves.
That’s not to say he won’t succeed with the Giants. Sometimes being fired is the best thing that can happen to a manager, as it can help him analyze what didn’t work, so that he can go on to have future success. For instance, Terry Francona made plenty of mistakes as Phillies manager, but his post-Phillies career has been wildly successful, and has a decent chance of being inducted into the Hall of Fame one day,
I haven’t really kept track of Kapler’s exploits in San Francisco, beyond the extremely negative reaction to his initial hiring. Most pundits thought the Giants overachieved slightly in the abbreviated 2020 season, and the team is off to a solid start in 2021. Then again, getting teams off to solid starts has never been Kapler’s problem.
One thing is for certain: He’s going to get booed the first time he steps onto the field at Citizens Bank Park.
San Fransisco Giants
Record: 9-6 (Second place in National League West)
The last time they met
The Phillies visited San Francisco in August 2019, and as was typical for August 2019, lost the series. The one victory was powered by two Bryce Harper home runs.
He’s still around?
In the early going, the Giants’ best offensive player has been Evan Longoria, and those aren’t words I ever expected to write in 2021. Honestly, I had forgotten Longoria was still playing.
Brandon Crawford driving in Evan Longoria seems like it should be from 2010.— daniel jasper hayes (@DJHayes_) April 14, 2021
Early in his career, Longoria looked like he was bound for superstardom, But after averaging almost seven wins over replacement in his first four seasons, he settled in as a useful, but not star level player for the remainder of his career (which as it turns out, is still going).
Maybe at age 35 he’s having one of those weird late-career resurgence seasons. Or maybe its still early in the season, and he’ll soon trail off from his current hot pace.
Evan Longoria is most famous for going 1 for 20 with no walks and 9 strikeouts in the 2008 World Series. pic.twitter.com/LAYGaSLAF8— John Foley (@2008Philz) December 20, 2017
That’s how Ruf ryders roll
There was a subset of Phillies fans who really believed in Darin Ruf. They thought that if the team simply installed him as the first baseman (or left fielder) instead of Ryan Howard, the Phillies would have the next centerpiece of their lineup in place.
We're all in agreement that Darin Ruf is better in every measure right now than Ryan Howard is, right?— Ian Riccaboni (@IanRiccaboni) September 3, 2014
The only problem with that logic is that even when given a chance to play regularly, Ruf never hit well enough to stake a meaningful claim on the job. For all the teeth gnashing that Ryan Howard’s performance against left-handed pitchers received, in the 2014 season, Ruf managed a paltry .386 OPS against righties. In 2015, he raised that number to a whopping .486.
That lack of production eventually led Ruf to the Korean League where he became a star. With 30+ year old righty first basemen being such a commodity in the major leagues, the Giants thought he was worth inviting to Spring Training before the 2020 season. Because as Matt Moore has shown us, any former big leaguer who experiences success in Asia is guaranteed to continue that success upon returning to the United States.
As it turned out, Ruf had a solid season in 2020, even putting up solid numbers against right-handed pitching! That success hasn’t carried over into the early part of 2021, as he is batting just .158 thus far.
Quick look at the Giants’ scheduled starters
Kevin Gausman has carved out a nice career as a mid-rotation pitcher. But that’s apparently only because he hasn’t had to face the Phillies very often. He’s 0-3 with a 6.55 ERA in his career against them.
The Phillies took a 1-0 lead when Bryce Harper jumped all over a first-pitch fastball from Kevin Gausman in the bottom of the 1st inning. pic.twitter.com/CBNu1YGahd— Phillies Nation (@PhilliesNation) July 28, 2019
Logan Webb struggled in his first two major league seasons (cumulative -0.6 WAR), and thus far, season three hasn’t been any better. After two poor starts, he was shifted to the bullpen, but due to an injury to Johnny Cueto, the Giants need him to start again.
Coming off a poor 2020 season, there wasn’t much demand for Anthony DeSclafani on the free agent market. But so far, he looks like a smart signing, with a 1.06 ERA after three starts. He probably won’t want to remember the last time he faced the Phillies though. He allowed two home runs (one to Scott Kingery of all people!) and was the pitcher of record in a 7-1 loss.
Last series’ answer: The four Phillies who homered against the Cardinals on May 29, 2019 were Bryce Harper, Scott Kingery, Maikel Franco, and Andrew McCutchen. Nobody was able to correctly guess all four.
The same pitcher who earned the Phillies’ lone win in the last Phillies vs. Giants series also suffered one of the losses. Who is he?
What to expect
- The game two pitching matchup of Zack Wheeler vs. Logan Webb seems like a mismatch in the Phillies’ favor. And it will be.
- Longoria hits his first career home run at Citizens Bank Park. Will this be seen as suitable revenge for his dismal performance in 2008? No.
- Darin Ruf will get a hit, prompting some bizarre “should of kept” response from some fans.
Closing thought that may or may not be relevant to the series
Joe Girardi has been far from flawless during his time as Phillies manager. But (aside from him being an easy target for mockery in my columns) there hasn’t been a single moment when I’ve wished that Kapler was back at the helm.