Monday, April 14, 2008

No Defense

The Phillies defense has been atrocious thus far this season and no one has been having a tougher time in the field than Chase Utley. Yesterday's throwing error on a double play contributed mightily to the Phillies' loss. That said, it is unseemly to turn on Utley for his defensive failings all of a sudden because, frankly, ever since his arrival in the big league's he's always had a reputation as an average fielder at best whose weak arm and difficulties turning the double play are his greatest (and only) liabilities.

Utley always gives 100 per cent. At bat and on the base paths that is more than enough; in the field, it isn't. He has worked hard on his defense and can be counted on to get to nearly everything hit his way. His problems after that are well known, but to think he isn't hustling or is suddenly less than "perfect" as some who are leaping from the bandwagon have suggested is not worthy of further comment.

Utley's problems mirror an overall feeling that this club is playing tight and is still trying to find its rhythm. The losses of Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino have forced Charlie Manuel to juggle his lineup and the platooning of outfielders Jayson Werth and Geoff Jenkins and de facto platooning of catchers Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste have contributed to the lack of stability. The Phillies were expected to be an offensive powerhouse but to date they have collectively failed to deliver with few exceptions, Pat Burrell being the most notable one.

If there has been a pleasant surprise it has been the bullpen, which has acquitted itself admirably in the main. The starting pitching has been erratic, as expected, but generally also somewhat better than anticipated. The Phils would have a winning record were they able to catch and throw the ball. No one expected them to be so bad at those skills.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Agreed with your assessment of the bullpen, which has improved considerably from this point last season. Chad Durbin, in particular, has impressed - he appears, at this point, to have been a shrewd pickup, able to step in for an ineffective or injured starter if need be, but also flexible enough to pitch either long or short relief in the interim. It's to the point where if they had to shelve Ryan Madson, I don't think it would really all that significant a loss. I also have to commend Gillick for finally attempting to add some veteran depth in Seanez and Kline - though for some reason he waited until after the season actually began instead of addressing it months earlier. At any rate, it beats the tar out of having options like Brian Sanches, Mike Zagurski, and Yoel Hernandez around.

As for the team as a whole...I reiterate what I posted over on BL: They just can't seem to focus and get their game in order until they sense the sand is running out in the hour glass. We probably have at least another month of this putzing around the .500 mark to look forward to.