At 23-24, the Phillies have certainly been a frustrating team to start the season. Whether it is the lackluster starting pitching outside the top-3 or the inconsistent offense, you never know what you are going to get.
However, the most concerning thing is how paltry the defense has been to start the season. The Red Sox series was an absolute train wreck in that regard, as the team committed five errors in the three game set. Many of their mistakes this series, however, did not show up in the box score.
On Friday, during their 11-3 loss, no play was more emblematic than Xander Boegarts’ single in the fifth inning. A simple play turned into an adventure when Alec Bohm decided to cut Andrew McCutchen’s throw home off.
Inexplicably, Bohm decided to cut the throw off when there was a play at the plate. Going after the runner advancing to second, he threw it wide of the base and the ball skittered into centerfield. Compounding the issue, Jean Segura was in no hurry to get up off the ground and Odubel Herrera wasn’t backing the throw up. While the play that only had one error in the box score, four different mistakes were made.
Mistakes that shouldn’t be made in the MLB.
Third base has been the position that best exemplifies the poor defense, as over 30% of the Phillies’ errors have come at the hot corner. We knew that there were questions about Bohm’s ability to stick at third base, but the improved confidence shown in Spring Training quelled some of the concern. However, Spring Training isn’t the regular season.
Bohm carries an uninspiring .929 Fielding % in 385.1 innings this season with eight errors. Out of qualified players, his DRS (defensive runs saved) ranks dead last in the Majors at -10. That is certainly not good enough at one of the most important defensive positions in baseball.
I am sure that his struggles/bad luck at the plate to start this season have affected his defensive game. He hasn’t looked like the same player that he did last year, and it is clearly wearing on him. However, the mistakes on the field are not easily fixable. Anticipation and instincts are key traits of good defenders, are those aren’t really teachable qualities. Either you have them or you don’t.
The easiest answer would be to move him off of third base, but then where would you put him? To me, the most logical answer is putting him in left field, as his bat definitely profiles there and he has the arm to be in the outfield. That being said, the Phillies are paying Andrew McCutchen a lot of money and, at this point in his career, can’t really play anywhere other than left. Plus, outside of Segura, you don’t really have anyone else who would be a real improvement at the hot corner.
Flip-flopping Segura and Bohm could be the only real solution to the problem this year. However, midseason position changes are not easy to do, especially ones of this magnitude. Plus, it is not like Segura has been playing lights out defensively at second base. Somehow, the Phillies are going to have to improve their defense or they are going to struggle to get to the postseason.
“We knew we weren’t going to be a real good defensive club,” Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said before the game on Saturday. “But you hope that you can play well and catch the balls that you can catch.”
The Phillies, across the board, are not making the plays that they have to make. A league average defense would likely place the Phillies in first in the NL East. They are almost off the map with regard to how many extra runs the defense has allowed due to a lack of fundamentals.
Something needs to change. And I don’t see the MLB magically reinstating the DH in the National League anytime soon.
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