Josh Beckett’s No-Hitter Doesn’t Change Anything

As if the 2014 season couldn’t feel any worse, Los Angeles Dodgers starter Josh Beckett no-hit the Phillies on Sunday afternoon. Even aside from the no-hitter, it was a frustrating game to watch, as Ben Revere went 0-for-4, Ryan Howard made a fielding error, Domonic Brown made a mental error, and A.J. Burnett was giving up a ton of hits. Dee Gordon stole two more bases, giving him five for the series, and making Phillies catchers 10-for-47 throwing out base-stealers (21.3%).

Following Sunday’s denouement, many will focus on the Phillies’ offense, which has now been shut out four times in ten games dating back to May 14. There will be calls for changes, like getting Revere out of the lineup, benching Brown, or calling up prospect Maikel Franco from Triple-A to replace the injured Cody Asche. It would all be for naught, the equivalent of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

The Phillies’ offense isn’t bad. Spotty at times? Sure, but so are most offenses. The Oakland Athletics, owners of the American League’s best offense, were just held to five runs over all three games of a series sweep by the Toronto Blue Jays. The Phillies entered Sunday’s game averaging 3.98 runs per game, tied with the New York Mets, and just a shade over the 3.97 league average. Only four teams — the Rockies, Marlins, Dodgers, and Giants — averaged more runs per game than the Phillies. Even with the black holes that have been Revere and Brown, the Phillies have still been getting on base at a .316 clip and have a collective .382 slugging percentage, both close to the league averages of .312 and .390, respectively.

The Phillies as a team, however, are bad. Their -36 run differential is second-worst in the league and third-worst in baseball thanks in large part to a shoddy bullpen and their aggregate 4.55 ERA, which is the fourth-worst among all 30 bullpens. The starting rotation, now without Cliff Lee, is perilously close to crossing the 4.00 ERA threshold at 3.98. They play terrible defense — UZR ranks them sixth-worst thus far — and don’t run the bases at all, Revere aside.

Beckett’s no-hitter doesn’t provide us with any new information nor does it provide a reason to make big changes. It was a statistical aberration that happened to occur against the Phillies. The Detroit Tigers, who had the American League’s second-best offense last season including two-time MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, were no-hit by Miami Marlins pitcher Henderson Alvarez last season. It happens.

The Phillies’ window for making big changes sailed a long time ago, when GM Ruben Amaro decided to attempt to contend with the team rather than go into a total rebuild. They’re married to the decision now, and veering from it now would only be harmful over the long term. Benching Brown or Revere, or calling up Franco might net you an extra win over the rest of the season, but it doesn’t make the Phillies any more of a realistic contender and detracts from future goals.

It’s easy to be upset at the Phillies impotence on Sunday afternoon against the Dodgers, but overreacting to it is just about the worst thing the team could do right now. Tip your cap to Beckett for pitching a great game, and go right back after it against the Colorado Rockies tomorrow.

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