Keith Allison/Wikimedia Commons/Fair Use
As May draws to a close, the Phillies are more than 11 games away from first in Eastern Newfoundland and could be on a downward spiral. Since the West Coast trip to Seattle and Los Angeles, the Phillies are 4-10 and in a couple of games they’ve looked lifeless. Even the players’ parents wonder how much fun they’re havingremember that ultimately they are playing a game and games should be fun.
The Phillies look like a mess of Odúbel Herrera letting a ball slip under his glove that was thrown by the catcher, to Roman Quinn and Nick Castellanos failing to communicate properly on a fly ball.
Every night there’s something new, Corey Knebel has made saves in back-to-back games against the Mets and Giants, the offense falls short of expectations and many questionable decisions have been made by the manager.
Let’s talk about this manager for a moment, while managers in the grand scheme of the season probably don’t matter too much, Joe Girardi has always been an issue. Would the Phillies be completely different if Girardi was no longer the manager? Probably not, but some decisions just don’t make much sense.
Some good examples are in the Braves series, on May 25, the same game where Herrera let the ball go under his glove, Girardi sent Jose Alvarado into a decisive situation against Austin Riley with Dansby Swanson first. While everyone remembers the ball going under Herrera’s glove, it wouldn’t matter as Alvarado allowed a solo home run for Riley, making it a six-four game. If the defensive blunder never occurs, the score is still the same.
The Phillies would lose eight-to-four and fall to 20-24 this season. Can Girardi magically make the attack score more points? No. Can he magically make the bullpen elite? No either, but what he can do is work with what he has and put guys in better positions to succeed.
Right-handed hitters have a .866 OPS against Alvarado and Riley has a 1.077 OPS against left-handed pitcher, so going with your worst southpaw in a major position against Riley was probably endless.
The forward game is also full of mistakes. In the bottom of the sixth in a draw, Girardi decides that James Norwood is the best option. Norwood allowed a home run to Matt Olson and allowed two hits plus a walk to load the bases, Norwood failed to even register an out before being called out.
Norwood is not a high leverage reliever, even in the Phillies bullpen. He entered this game with an ERA of 7.11 and an average leverage index of 0.48, meaning he was never really used in the big spots.
He’s basically a cleaning arm when the game is supposed to be out of reach, so why would Girardi willingly put him in a draw against a division rival?
Later in that game, Nick Nelson pitched a scoreless eighth inning, and Harper the next half inning hit an imposing two-run homer against Kenley Jansen to put the Phillies ahead. Girardi would have Nick Nelson, who is primarily their long reliever, try a loopback to close out the ninth in Atlanta. Of course, he was going to fail, and the Phillies lost six to five.
Where is the game plan with these decisions? Girardi looks like Nick Nelson threw the ball well in the eighth, but that doesn’t really look like a plan. One can also wonder why Corey Knebel, Seranthony Domínguez and Jeurys Familia were not available for the same game.
However, even if you go into a match like this, why did you use Brad Hand in the seventh down of a run? If you’re that small, maybe save the only other guy you can trust to close out a game. None of this really made sense at the time and it seriously hurt their chances of winning. Girardi has very strict bullpen rules but fails to adjust the way he manages. These are his own rules to which he cannot adapt.
Would it help if Dave Dombrowski put up a better bullpen? Absolutely, but Girardi always makes bad decisions with what he has and it costs them games.
Girardi isn’t the only problem with the Phillies, they’ve spent nearly $180m on two bats this offseason and are only 15th in wRC+. It’s not good enough, the bullpen plays aren’t good enough, and the defense has recently started to cost this team race after race. Girardi can’t do these things for them.
But there are also decisions Girardi makes that hurt them, the bullpen decisions that were mentioned earlier. Alec Bohm made 23 starts on both holes and recorded a .626 OPS before Girardi finally made a change. These decisions add up over the course of a season and don’t fully maximize the roster they have.
They’re not 21-28 just because of Girardi, but he should be held accountable when he makes bad decisions and hurts the team’s winning chances. Although it’s very difficult to talk about someone’s work like that, it’s an easy decision to make. He shouldn’t be that Phillies manager anymore.