Now this, THIS is Philly sports. For every one championship, the people of Philadelphia must put up with heartbreaking blow after heartbreaking blow. After watching the Sixers blow a chance at the finals due largely to Joel Embiid not maintaining his body, the Phillies now appear to be in free fall. The energy this team had during the first week of the season seems like a distant memory and in all honesty, they have the same vibe as last year’s team.
Leaving runners in scoring position, lifeless when it matters and stretches of absolutely abysmal baseball. As of today, the Phillies are 2-8 over their last 10, a stretch that includes an absolutely inexcusable late inning meltdown in Atlanta.
Calls for Gabe Kapler’s firing were virtually non-existent this time last week but are now gaining momentum. Last season’s collapse is starting to look like less of an anomaly and Kapler seems intent on sticking to his philosophy. He wants to be very player-friendly and positive but doesn’t seem to make any adjustments. He never tries to light a fire under players, never argues with umpires and never deviates from his attitude.
In Philadelphia, it goes without saying that this whole routine is getting old quickly, especially with the Phillies in absolute free fall. If they bungle this Marlins series and somehow manage to drop below .500 – after being 12 games over – calls for Kapler’s firing will reach a fever pitch.
While the star-studded lineup not hitting is a huge factor and injuries have certainly mounted, the Phillies have also declined pitching wise. Pivetta has taken a huge step back, Nola has regressed and the team’s rotation has been a mess all season. As a staff, Phillies pitchers have allowed a National League leading 124 home-runs. Opposing hitters ate hitting .262 against them – the eighth worst mark in all of baseball.
While offense is up across the league, Phillies pitching largely held up until the end last season. The team was just horrific in September, pitching included. The wheels came off the bus and it seemed as though help would be sought out, but it never came. Klentak and MacPhail banked on their in-house options and it hasn’t worked out.
It is completely reasonable to hold them accountable, but what of the decision to move on from Rick Kranitz? Kranitz served as pitching coach for three seasons and saw multiple pitchers improve in 2018. The Phillies rotation was outstanding during the first half of that season and was also a model of consistency. Once Ben Lively got injured and replaced by Eflin towards the end of April, the Phillies rolled out the same starting 5 all season.
Contrast that with this season and it’s an entirely different picture. The Phillies rotation has no consistency and has already been jumbled multiple times. Granted, the pitching coach has no effect on a-lot of these things, but there are fair questions to be asked.
For example, younger pitchers like Cole Irvin and Ranger Suarez have been put into some tough spots. Irvin had so much poise in his debut but has since turned into a pitching machine. He could just not have it, but I really question the decision to move him to the pen so quickly. The left-hander has just been over-matched and the beat-downs he’s taken can’t be doing a-lot for his confidence.
Granted, much of this can be explained again by lack of depth. If AAA was properly stocked, Ranger Suarez and Cole Irvin wouldn’t need to be pitching in big spots. However, it is fair to ask whether there has been a change in approach given some of the regressions. Do any pitchers seem to be thriving under Chris Young? Have any young pitchers been able to establish consistency? The answer is no. It’s been mostly step backs.
This is not to say that Rick Kranitz is some pitching wizard, but this really feels like a “not broke, don’t fix it” type situation. Kranitz had familiarity with this staff and had watched them grow together in the big leagues. Sure Chris Young was here last year, but Kranitz had seen a-lot more.
The decision to promote Young was driven by the fear of losing him to other clubs. They felt as if they didn’t make a move, someone else would hire him. But so far, this move doesn’t seem to make any sense. Time and time again we see coaches, across all sports, making decisions that don’t benefit the team in the name of getting “their guy”. Looking at you, Chip Kelly.
I really hope this isn’t one of those cases…..