Defense Gave Charlie Manuel “A Real Good Headache”

CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyCSN) has some interesting quotes from Charlie Manuel on the Phillies’ defense through a few spring training affairs:

“They gave me a headache today, a real good headache,” Manuel said after Wednesday’s game in which Freddy Galvis, John Mayberry Jr. and Yuniesky Betancourt were charged with errors.

“We can’t play like that if we expect to win. You’re going to make mistakes. At the same time, you can’t make that many mistakes and you can’t make the same mistakes over and over every day. What the hell? We had one clean inning today. One clean inning. We dropped balls and missed balls allover the field.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not panicking and I’m not really upset. But at the same time, I’m looking for better play. We’re looking to play the game better. That’s the bottom line. I don’t give a damn. We’re looking to play the game better. You have to catch the ball and throw it to the right place.”

Manuel’s “what the hell?” line is particularly interesting. It’s as if he was reliving the nightmare again, right there on the spot in front of the media.

The blame, though, shouldn’t lie with the players. While Galvis is normally a sure-handed defender, most of the players expected to get meaningful playing time with the Major League club are not. Consider some of the players brought on during the off-season*:

* All the usual caveats with defensive stats apply.

  • Michael Young: -19.8 UZR in 3,101 innings at third base (-9.2 UZR per 150 defensive games)
  • Yuniesky Betancourt: -49.2 UZR in 8,234 innings at shortstop (-8.2 UZR/150)
  • Delmon Young: -53.8 UZR in 6,266 innings in the outfield (-11.6 UZR/150)

And then there’s Darin Ruf. Obviously, there isn’t much data, but he’s somewhere between Pat Burrell and Raul Ibanez defensively (read: awful, terrible, horrible). John Mayberry is also below average; Domonic Brown still has some kinks to work out; and Ryan Howard is, well, Ryan Howard at first base.

To quote a great George Carlin routine, “This is the best we can do, folks. This is what we have to offer. It’s what our system produces: garbage in, garbage out.” The defensive deficiency of the Young duo and Betancourt wasn’t some hidden secret the Phillies just happened to find out yesterday; they have long been branded as poor defenders since time immemorial.

Eric Longenhagen’s excellent conversation with Keith Law was particularly revealing about the Phillies’ approach to analytics. Law said,

I still can’t quite fathom their pride in their refusal to use any kind of analytics in their decision-making. When your competitors are operating 12-man analytics departments, why would you brag about how you don’t have one at all?

When your front office hasn’t joined the 21st century in analyzing baseball, you make big, glaring mistakes like expecting solid defense out of Youngs Michael and Delmon, and Betancourt. And your manager suffers painful headaches as a result.

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41 comments

  1. LTG

    February 28, 2013 08:09 AM

    But Chris Wheeler said that when you can field like Betancourt you can stick around MLB for a long time and be useful even if you don’t hit. Are you telling me Chris Wheeler is wrong?!

  2. Santos

    February 28, 2013 08:56 AM

    Sarge also referred to Yuni as a “good hitter” in (I believe) that same game that the Wheels quote is from. Really makes you wonder why a good hitting, good fielding shortstop only got a minor league deal… Although Sarge also referred to a ball that took 6 hops from shallow center to home plate as “a good throw”. So I don’t know what to believe.

  3. DP

    February 28, 2013 09:08 AM

    Keith didn’t get into specifics in the past e-mail exchanges and I understand he may not have wanted to name names, but what is the reason the Phillies refuse to embrace analytics? Whose call is that? Ruben, Monty, higher up, the entire organization? What is the beef? Is it a money issue (you wouldn’t think that would be a problem with the new park, recent success, upcoming tv contract etc.)or a stubbornness issue (i.e. we won a World Series without it and we don’t want or need it)?

  4. Ryan Sommers

    February 28, 2013 09:38 AM

    The way that both color commentators are falling all over themselves to praise Yuni makes me think he’ll get significant ML playing time this season

  5. nik

    February 28, 2013 10:22 AM

    I think people are overreacting to the Phils defense. Its looking like Dom Brown is going to claim a corner spot and I’d rate him as a neutral defender at this point. With Rever in Center, I think our outfield defense will be neutral overall even on days Ruf plays left. With Nix or Mayberry in left the overall OF would be a small net plus. In the infield MY is obviously the glaring hole, but I believe Manuel will switch in Galvis in the late innings, somewhat mitigating the downside there. I have no worries about C, SS and 2B. At first Howard is a negative defender, but he’s looked completely recovered from his injury so he should be back to his pre-injury defense. Overall, I’d say the defense if going to be fine — Yuni isnt going to sniff SS for us, unless injuries devastate us, but at that point it wont matter.

  6. Phillie697

    February 28, 2013 12:12 PM

    @nik,

    Wow, just wow. Our defense is only thing that has me worried that we might give up 680 runs again. Small net plus with Mayberry in left, ROFLMAO. Revere is not Superman.

    I hear Sarge and Wheeler are hiring someone to do their research for them. You’d fit right in.

  7. Jonny5

    February 28, 2013 01:33 PM

    The Phillies will have one of the worst defenses in baseball in 2013. It’s a good thing they will have 3 of the top 6 NL pitchers in their rotation and a decent bullpen. There are 3 good defenders on this team and 2 are getting old.

  8. Scott G

    February 28, 2013 01:37 PM

    Phillie,

    I’m not exactly sure why you’re scoffing at Mayberry in LF (or why you always seem to be snarky in general).

    In seasons when Mayberry hasn’t been asked to play the majority of time in CF, his stats seem to suggest that he’d at least contribute a positive UZR/150 in the corner outfield spots.

  9. LTG

    February 28, 2013 01:47 PM

    Anyone just see Ruf turn a catchable ball into a triple?

    Yeah.

  10. LTG

    February 28, 2013 02:03 PM

    Wheels just said, “Lefties aren’t people.”

    I’m pretty sure that’s what he said.

  11. Phillie697

    February 28, 2013 02:32 PM

    @Scott,

    I wasn’t scoffing at Mayberry in particular, more scoffing at the fact that Mayberry could make the OF into a small positive defensively. Dom Brown is really bad, and I love Dom Brown. That said, there is a chance Dom will get better, but until it ACTUALLY happens, I’m not basing my analysis of a team on hope, which if you really get down to it, is the reason why a lot of people who scoff at the sabermetric way of looking at things; it doesn’t allow for hope, a quality more suited for fandom than real analysis.

  12. LTG

    February 28, 2013 02:35 PM

    Not to be a planetist or anything but Mike Adam(a) looks like a Tauron.

  13. Scott G

    February 28, 2013 03:24 PM

    Dom Brown’s UZR/150 has been getting steadily less negative. I know single season UZR/150 isn’t reliable, but those trends lead me to HOPE that the 25 year old could be getting better, which makes sense.

  14. JCB

    February 28, 2013 03:28 PM

    Looking at the box score from today, it’s nice to see Howard take Kimbrel yard.

  15. Phillie697

    February 28, 2013 04:11 PM

    @Scott,

    And when it does, then the statement that having Mayberry in the OF might make our OF defense a slight positive would be a true statement that I would agree with. Until then, it remains false.

  16. futties

    February 28, 2013 07:42 PM

    did the phillies really brag about not having an analytic dept? well, that’s just arrogance. (ruben? arrogant?? yo.) personally, i judge the new stats mania to be overdone. you spend a bundle on your scouting mission, you either trust their reports or you sack their asses. when they got pence, and everybody cried yay, we got ourselves a winner!, i thought, oh shit, the guy cannot, absolutely cannot, judge a fly ball, and it’s gonna cost. i wonder: what did the stats guys say, what did the scouts say? when the genius nerds come up with a set of stats that measure a guy’s grit, his soul, i’ll gladly join you.

  17. LTG

    February 28, 2013 08:19 PM

    I say it again, Futties is my new favorite.

  18. Oliver

    February 28, 2013 11:59 PM

    Wait, isn’t Mayberry generally regarded as a good defender?

  19. hk

    March 01, 2013 07:59 AM

    Oliver,

    In small sample sizes, Mayberry projects as a plus fielder in the corners and a below average fielder in CF. The question is, how many innings does he project to get in the corners vs. CF when Revere needs a day off and how much impact will those innings have on the overall team defense? I suspect the plan is not for him to play much in the OF. Otherwise, why did they sign Delmon Young, another RH hitting OF?

  20. Cutter

    March 01, 2013 08:10 AM

    Since my last comment magically disappeared, I’ll just say that the Phillies look strong up the middle (Ruiz, Rollins, Utley, and Revere) and shaky on the corners.

    But isn’t that generally the preferred way to have it? (Obviously, it would be preferred to be strong everywhere, but if you had to choose one)

    I don’t think errors in an early Spring game by a backup outfielder, a guy known as a defensive specialist, and a guy who likely won’t even make the team is a reason to say that the Phillies are bad defensively.

  21. hk

    March 01, 2013 09:25 AM

    Cutter,

    Of course, if you have to choose between being strong in either the corners or up the middle, it makes sense to be strong up the middle. However, being strong up the middle and being strong at the corners are not mutually exclusive. In the off-season, this team gave away Nate Schierholtz and signed Delmon Young for as much (and probably more) than Nate would have cost. Over the past few years, Nate has been the better defender and better hitter. When you counter with the fact that Nate hits LH and Delmon hits RH, I’ll counter your counter with the fact that JMJ > Delmon on defense and vs. LHP’s.

  22. GB

    March 01, 2013 09:55 AM

    Small, but not insignificant issue, it will be Kratz for the first 25 games due to Ruiz’s drug suspension and I doubt Ruiz has another year like last season in the tank at his age. A strong start can be overblown, but not for this Phils team. I think they need to get out quick not only to challenge the Nats/Braves and help their team chemistry, but for the fans/local media support it will bring…then the story line can be this team can surprise people rather than this team is cooked

  23. Cutter

    March 01, 2013 11:54 AM

    I am still skeptical of how much playing time Delmon actually receives this season. Based on early returns, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think the opening day OF is Brown/Revere/Mayberry which should at least be adequate defensively.

  24. hk

    March 01, 2013 11:59 AM

    You may be right and I hope that you are. However, your skepticism does not excuse the GM committing >= $1M to Young when an outfield of Brown / Revere / Mayberry and Schierholtz in a platoon projected to be better (and most likely cheaper) than Brown / Revere / Young.

  25. Pencilfish

    March 01, 2013 12:26 PM

    hk,

    I don’t disagree with your assessment of Schierholtz’s superior defensive skills, but his career triple slash line is
    .270/.319/.409 (1389 PA’s), while DY’s is .284/.317/.425 (3575 PA’s). How is Schierholtz a better hitter? If anything, DY is slightly better.

    Schierholtz signed a 1-yr 2.25 million contract with the Cubs, while DY is only guaranteed 750k (but could be worth up to 3.5 million). If the Phillies had offered arbitration to Schierholtz, it would have cost more than 750k (he made 1.3 million in 2012). Perhaps you are count on DY making the whole 3.5 million, but that’s iffy.

  26. hk

    March 01, 2013 12:41 PM

    Pencilfish,

    1. Schierholtz’s offense, when scaled for league and park, is better than Young’s.

    2. I assumed Schierholtz would have gotten ~$1.5M in a settlement prior to arbitration if they had kept him. Young is guaranteed $750K, but he gets another $250K for one day on the 25-man roster with additional bonuses for staying on the roster and keeping his weight down. For the Phils to cut Young before he makes $1.5M, he will really have to suck and be overweight.

  27. hk

    March 01, 2013 12:43 PM

    3. My idea was to platoon Schierholtz with Mayberry, which would project to provide much better offense and defense than Delmon Young.

  28. Pencilfish

    March 01, 2013 12:52 PM

    hk,

    If you are right, the Phillies did Schierholtz a favor, allowing him to become a FA and make more money with the Cubs :-)

    No arguments with your OF of Brown/Revere/Mayberry, but you also need (two?) OF’s on the bench. That could be Nix and Young. If we kept Schierholtz, who’s the right-handed OF on the bench, assuming Ruf is sent to AAA for extended AB’s?

  29. Al Di

    March 01, 2013 12:56 PM

    Negadelphia, criticizing every move..
    Too old too slow ,,, if all these writers know so much then why aren’t they in front office….bunch of ignorant assholes

  30. Pencilfish

    March 01, 2013 01:12 PM

    Al Di,

    The writers are offering different points of view. Nothing wrong with that, whether or not it endorses or opposes moves by the front office.

    If you don’t like it, feel free to leave.

  31. JB Allen

    March 01, 2013 01:38 PM

    Al Di –

    Give it some time. Ten years ago I read the same complaint about those losers [sarcasm!]at Baseball Prospectus, some of whom now work in MLB front offices.

    As for the negative vibe, just think of it as tough love.

  32. Cutter

    March 01, 2013 01:52 PM

    The team seemed to sour on Schierholtz rather quickly for some reason. Maybe with Revere, Brown, and Nix, they felt another lefty outfielder was unnecessary.

    On the other hand, Mayberry and Ruf are the only two projected righties in the OF, and Ruf isn’t even a sure bet to make the Opening Day roster.

    And in no way is this an endorsement of Delmon Young, but he does have the most power POTENTIAL out of the group.

  33. hk

    March 01, 2013 02:16 PM

    Their career ISO’s say otherwise.

    * Delmon’s is .141.
    * Nate’s is .139 despite him playing 1/2 his games in one of the worst parks for LH hitters to hit HR’s.
    * Dom’s is .152 despite the majority of his MLB PA’s coming within 18 months of a broken hamate bone.
    * JMJ’s is .194.
    * Ruf’s is unknown, but if his POTENTIAL is not an ISO > .141, what the heck is he doing having a chance to make the big squad.

    The mental back flips that RAJ supporters are willing to do to try to justify some of his moves are astounding.

  34. hk

    March 01, 2013 03:57 PM

    If you knock MLB ISO for only reflecting past results, what does you expect to get from each player’s MiLB ISO, which obviously reflects further in the distant past results? Nonetheless, their MiLB ISO’s are as follows:

    Ruf .215
    Nate .208
    Delmon .202
    JMJ .199
    Dom .165

  35. Phillie697

    March 01, 2013 11:13 PM

    If I have pick one guy for POWER potential, it’d be Ruf. It’s Ruf’s other skillsets that has me skeptical.

  36. hk

    March 02, 2013 06:29 AM

    A Nix (.194 ISO vs. RHP’s) / JMJ (.263 ISO vs. LHP’s) platoon might have the most POWER potential, but a Schierholtz / Mayberry platoon might have had the most overall potential.

  37. Phillie697

    March 05, 2013 11:47 AM

    @hk,

    I think you’re mistaken our esteemed manager for Tony LaRussa :)

  38. hk

    March 05, 2013 02:09 PM

    …and our esteemed GM for Billy Beane.

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