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Defense Gave Charlie Manuel “A Real Good Headache”

Posted By Bill Baer On February 28, 2013 @ 8:00 am In MLB,Philadelphia Phillies,Sabermetrics | 41 Comments

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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