The trade deadline has come and gone, each move having been analyzed to death by everyone both locally and nationally. The biggest takeaways from people who aren’t following the team day in and day out have to do with the fact that they are much deeper than before.
In [Brandon] Marsh they have a high-risk return, but the reward could well justify it if the hitting coaches in Philly can get him right...Regardless, with Zach Eflin on the shelf since June, Philadelphia needed to round out their rotation and [Noah] Syndergaard fits the bill as a credible back-end improvement...[David] Robertson then brings additional firepower and a steady hand at the back end, something none of the above had been able to provide thus far.
The Phillies have a brutally bad defense. They got a plus defensive shortstop and a plus defensive center fielder at the deadline. They have a gaping hole in the rotation after their two top starters; they got a mid-rotation guy. They need bullpen arms; they got a reliable one. They checked off every item on their to-do list.
Marsh has not lived up to expectations offensively, but he has much more upside than he showed with the Angels. Sosa improves their infield defense, and Syndergaard and Robertson are significant upgrades to the rotation and bullpen, which are performing well but needed reinforcements.
Most of what you see touched on was the fact that the team did improve their defense, but it mostly focused on the fact that Brandon Marsh is going to be the upgrade over Odubel Herrera and Matt Vierling in the center field, something that is easy to see just from looking at his OAA (+3 in center the past two years), though not so much when considering defensive runs saved (-4 in the past two years). It’s likely that since OAA is dependent on Statcast, it’s going to be more accurate, but it’s also something to watch for as the season progresses.
While it was mentioned a bit in those brief clippings, what’s not mentioned is that in conjunction with the releases of Didi Gregorius and Odubel Herrera, not only does the team’s starting defense improve with Marsh in center and Bryson Stott taking over at shortstop full time, their late game defense should improve markedly, something that maybe wasn’t happening as much. With the additions of Marsh and Edmundo Sosa, coupled with the return of Jean Segura, Rob Thomson now has the option to put a rather stellar defense on the field once the team has a lead if he so desires without losing all that much offense in the process.
Let’s start with looking at a few things. The first one is that the defense has been bad, there is no question. Prior to Saturday’s game, the team had registered -21 OAA, 28th in baseball, though still a far cry from the Nationals and....whatever it is they do with gloves on (-45 OAA). Try as you might, there is no way to sugarcoat the fact that they haven’t been good. Yet that number can be a bit deceiving.
Team defense 2022
|B. Stott (2B)
|B. Stott (SS)
There some players that are hovering right around the average mark, but there are players that had sort of bottomed out. While Herrera did have some solid defensive statistics, his lack of production at the plate was probably the deciding factor in his being released.
But getting back to the defense, there are obvious places for improvement. The problem is that the players that would need to be replaced are also the players with the a) bigger contracts, or b) players that are the offensive stalwarts for them. Rhys Hoskins has never been a good first baseman with the glove, but his four home runs in four games makes him an automatic to remain in the lineup. Alec Bohm has been better with the glove, but still is by no means a Gold Glover at the hot corner, yet his progress with the bat has been huge for this team, particularly when he hit .434 in the month of July. Nick Castellanos is a butcher in right field, but has shown signs of life with the bat of late, meaning he’s going to be given a longer leash than most.
So instead of having to start the better defenders at the beginning of the game, Thomson now has better weapons at his disposal to have a better end of game defense.
Changes to defense
|Beginning of game
|End of game with lead
|Beginning of game
|End of game with lead
It may not be the best defense in the league yet, but even just substituting a few more gloves when games are close could make a big difference. We’ve already seen some defensive wizardry with Edmundo Sosa, so we know what he can do.
While Kyle Schwarber has been everything expected with his bat, his play in left field can sometimes be described as being “statue-esque”. He’s not been an embarrassment, but the change from Schwarber to Vierling in late innings is a definite improvement and combined with Brandon Marsh in center would give them a solid outfield foundation.
The team will be in a dogfight for a playoff spot all year long. When leads are in the bank, it’s best to try and preserve them as much as possible. Adding defense and depth at the deadline helps Rob Thomson put his team in the best position to make sure that those games are taken care of.