One thing that we knew coming into a season full of intrigue and uncertainty is that Gabe Kapler is going do the unexpected. We had to wait all of one writing of his first lineup card to validate this. Check this out:
Here it is!
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) March 29, 2018
Bold, Gabe. Bold indeed.
Andrew Knapp over Jorge Alfaro? Crawford hitting sixth? Williams hitting third? Show me a guy who had this as his projected lineup and I will show you a guy that needs to get his ass to a Parx Casino roulette table. My March Madness picks are in better shape than my lineup projection.
But headline here is the curious absence of outfielder Odubel Herrera. He’s only 5 for 27 (.222) lifetime against Atlanta starter Julio Teheran, so maybe that was a determining factor?
Odubel Herrera, who is not in the Opening Day lineup, is 5 for 27 in career vs. Julio Teheran. Altherr (2 for 16) and Nick Williams (2 for 10) in CF and RF. Cesar Hernadnez (3 for 28) at 2B over Scott Kingery.
— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) March 29, 2018
Herrera was one of the Phillies’ most productive hitters a year ago, totaling 59 extra-base hits and represents one of the lineup’s best talents, so it’s a bit curious that he won’t start.
The omission of Herrera in the Phils’ first lineup of the season will likely spark speculation that Kapler is “sending a message” to Herrera, who hit only .224 this spring. I doubt it, but it’s interesting. Most decisions from Kapler will be driven by analytics, not seniority, honors, or what a player is owed.
The move to go with Altherr does, however, raise one interesting question—Kapler has stressed culture since his hire last December. In order to establish a culture that’s strong enough to withstand the turbulence of a Major League season, the manager has to get his players to buy in. It takes more than t-shirts. With one of the team’s most prominent players probably less than thrilled about sitting today, it will be at least worth keeping an eye on how players respond to Kapler’s juggling of the young talent at his disposal. His ability to do so, while keeping the locker room on board, will be critically important in order for him to succeed.