After a weird series in Arizona, the Phillies’ head to northern California to take on the Giants. They’ll be facing their former manager, whose star isn’t burning nearly as bright as it was a year ago.
Record: 61-68 (Third place in National League West, 29 games back)
The last time they met
The Giants visited Philadelphia in late May and won the first two games of the series in extra innings. The last game saw the Phillies earn a comeback victory, but that win wasn’t enough to keep Joe Girardi from joining Gabe Kapler in the fraternity of ex-Phillies managers two days later.
What’s the deal with the Giants?
Coming off a 107-win season the Giants looked like they were headed towards another playoff spot when they surged to a 14-7 record in April. But the season has largely gone downhill from there. They hung around near .500 for a while, but a 11-17 July followed by a 10-17 August has completely knocked them from playoff contention.
They’re also coming into this series in a bit of a freefall, having lost their last seven games.
Winning breeds complacency?
The Giants wouldn’t be the first team to experience unexpected or faster-than-expected success, and then fall short of that mark the following season. Pitcher Logan Webb thinks the Giants might have gotten a bit complacent after a hot start, and his manager didn’t disagree:
Gabe Kapler believes it’s “great” that Logan Webb called out the Giants for being complacent this season pic.twitter.com/M3woomqtwL— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) August 31, 2022
Is Kapler a genius or not?
Last year, there were a slew of Kapler truthers crowing about how the team was obviously wrong to fire him.
That kind of talk has been much less prevalent this year.
My stance on Kapler has been consistent: He might not have been the biggest problem with the team, but I didn’t think he was a good manager either. Getting fired can sometimes be the best thing to happen to a young manager, as it gives them a chance to better evaluate themselves and learn from their mistakes. But in the end, the guy is still a weirdo who may have real problems connecting with players.
It’s notable that this is the fourth time in his five seasons as a manager that his teams have cratered in the second half of the season, and he’s been unable to stop it. It’s easy to manage when you’ve got a 100+ win team clicking on all cylinders, but a good manager should also be able to pull a team out of a tailspin.
As for the Phillies, getting rid of Kapler wasn’t the problem, it was their choice of who to replace him with.
When a team is on a lengthy losing streak, there is usually plenty of coldness to go around. But the coldest of them all is probably outfielder LaMonte Wade, Jr. Wade had a blistering stretch in early August in which he hit five home runs in nine games. But regression has bit him hard. Over the past two weeks, Wade has an OPS of .280 thanks to just three singles, one double, zero home runs, and two walks during that time.
LaMonte Wade Jr. 0 for his last 19 after two looking strikeouts today. He appeared to find a groove a couple weeks ago but is back in a slump. Frustrating season for him.— Danny Emerman (@DannyEmerman) August 28, 2022
But the pitching isn’t bad
Sometimes when the Phillies face a weaker opponent, you take one look at their starting rotation and understand why they have such a poor record. But the Giants will be starting Alex Cobb, Jakob Junis, and Carlos Rodon this weekend, and those guys are far from scrubs.
Many pundits suspected that one or two of those guys would be traded in July, but at that point, the Giants were probably just close enough to contention that it made sense not to give up on the season. Also, there’s something to be said for not getting rid of good players who could theoretically help them return to contention in 2023.
Speaking of contenders versus rebuilders...
Baseball’s disappearing middle class
Have you noticed that the Phillies seem to play either good teams or bad teams, and nothing in between? That’s because there simply is no mediocrity in baseball in 2022. You’re either a playoff contender or buried in the standings.
In the National League, the closest any team is to .500 is seven games, and only three teams within ten games of that mark. In all of baseball, there is only one team that is fewer than five games away from .500. (All hail the Chicago White Sox, the champions of mediocrity at 64-66.)
I don’t think this is just a weird fluke either. Baseball - and all sports really - have adopted a “If you’re not first, you’re last” mentality. If you’re not going to be a contender, you might as well undergo a full-on rebuild.
Last series’ answer: The first Phillies hit at Chase Field came from Gregg Jefferies. FlatNosePete had it right.
This series’ question: Who led the Phillies in hits during Gabe Kapler’s two-year stint as manager?
Arizona hasn’t been very kind to the Phillies recently, but neither has San Francisco. The Phillies haven’t won a series there since 2013 and are 6-16 at Oracle Park in that time. Theoretically, it helps that the Giants are coming in on a losing streak, but that streak won’t last forever. I see the Phillies only taking one out of three this weekend.
Also, Cody Ross can go to hell forever.