That is not how the 2018 season was supposed to end for the Philadelphia Phillies. After spending money to improve the team in the off-season, many expected Philadelphia to compete for a potential Wild Card. Those expectations grew bigger as the team led the NL East by 2.5 games on July 26.
Unfortunately, the rest of the season would not be kind to the Phillies. Philadelphia would go 22-38 the rest of the way to finish the season with a losing record and outside of the playoffs. There were plenty of issues all season long that finally surfaced down the stretch, but fans were left wanting more in Gabe Kapler‘s managerial debut.
Philadelphia Phillies 2018 Season Recap
The Good – Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins‘ bat
If you are looking for a team MVP, there’s no question Nola was the best contributor for the Phillies this season. He quickly showed his growth in 2017 was no fluke with a quick start to 2018. In his first nine games, Nola went 6-1 with a 1.99 ERA in 58.2 innings pitched. He allowed just three home runs while recording 51 strikeouts over that stretch.
Nola posted a remarkable 10.0 bWAR which far surpassed the next closest Phillies player (That would be Jake Arrieta at 3.1). For the season, Nola went 17-6 with 224 strikeouts in 212.1 innings pitched and a 2.37 ERA. But true to form, the Phillies wasted arguably his best performance of the season. Facing the Boston Red Sox on July 30, Nola went eight strong innings with six strikeouts and just one earned run allowed. Unfortunately, the Phillies lost to the eventual World Series Champs 2-1 in extra innings.
Offensively, Hoskins was the team’s best slugger and leader. He led the team in homers (34), RBIs (96), and doubles (38). He added 89 runs scored, 87 walks, 137 hits, and posted a 125 OPS+. However, Hoskins was only worth 0.5 bWAR for the season. More on that in a minute.
The Bad – Hoskins’ glove (and everyone else’s)
The Phillies were bad in the field this season, and that alone is an understatement. Philadelphia was far and away the worst defensive team in MLB this season. As a team, the Phillies posted a Defensive Runs Saved of -146! For comparison, the next worst team, the Toronto Blue Jays, posted a -100. The Atlanta Braves, winner of the NL East, were fourth-best in MLB at 59 DRS.
Where does Hoskins fit into all of this? Not favorably. Out of all MLB outfielders, Hoskins finished fourth-worst in DRS at -24. The worst in baseball was Charlie Blackmon at -28. Odubel Herrera (-12) and Nick Williams (-17) were also among the worst in the league. It didn’t end with DRS for Philadelphia. In terms of Range Runs (RngR), Herrera (-8.2), Hoskins (-7.6), and Williams (-5.9) were once again near the bottom of the leaderboard. When it was all said and done, Hoskins (-11.3) and Herrera (-10.5) were among a group of eight outfielders to post a double-digit Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) in the negative.
For those who still challenge certain defensive metrics, the Phillies committed 123 errors out of the balls in play that they were able to get to. Only the St. Louis Cardinals (133) committed more errors in all of baseball.
Despite Philadelphia’s progress from 2017 to 2018, it remains difficult to project what is in store for this team. Carlos Santana, Maikel Franco, and Hoskins are decent offensive weapons at this point while Herrera is coming off a career-high 22 home runs but lower numbers across the board. Scott Kingery, Jorge Alfaro, and Williams all represent a young and growing core, but their end potential remains to be seen. However, regardless of the offense provided, there is little to no sign that the defense will improve.
All of that to say nothing of the questions that have risen about the manager. Kapler began the season with a resounding thud that was echoed in the season’s finish. There was a brief window in the summer when his name surfaced as a potential Manager of the Year candidate as the team thrived, but an 8-20 record in September squashed that talk.
Now, fans are left to wonder if he’s the right man for the job. Kapler is certainly unorthodox in his ways. Regardless of the positives, his negatives will always be viewed a bit harsher by certain critics opposed to his way of doing things. And for a city desperate to get back to the playoffs, Kapler must produce better results in a hurry. If not, the Phillies will be looking up at the Braves and Washington Nationals in the division for quite some time.
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