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Rise and Phight: 5/4/2021

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Milwaukee Brewers v Philadelphia Phillies
Matt Joyce has a lovely singing voice
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

As Matt Gelb reports (link below), the Phillies made another leadership change within its player development hierarchy. They installed Travis Hergert as the director of pitching development after little more than a year of experience within MLB. Hergert is another Driveline alumnus, who will surely raise the hackles of the portion of the fanbase that remains skeptical of the latest development techniques. That skepticism is nurtured by the way the team is covered in the city. Figures like Ben Davis and Ruben Amaro, Jr. often stereotype the work of development houses like Driveline with buzzwords like ‘launch angle’ and complain that players and coaches only care about power and velocity. There are two misakes here. First, the game is just different now: power is king because it works. Second, places like Driveline tailor their development efforts to individual players much more than Davis or Amaro ever suggest. The Phillies are hiring Driveline alums because it is the easiest way to catch up to the best in the league at development. And they need to catch up because previous regimes (i.e., Amaro’s) refused to keep pace with a evolutions in the game.

But catching up won’t be enough. They need to find a way to get ahead of most teams. Hiring Driveline coaches won’t get them there. The Dodgers have a small department devoted to biomechanics. They use the research coming out of that department to identify players they know how to develop well, and to tailor programs to those players’ natural physical gifts. They use their knowledge advantage to maximize the returns on their talent investments. Until the Phillies take a similar approach—and perhaps they surreptitiously have—they will still just be playing catch-up.

Phillies news:

MLB news:

And in response to Smarty’s Brewers series preview, here’s some blind 90s optimism: