Phillies Fans: Do You Actually Want Gabe Kapler Fired?

Photo credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

On the morning of August 7, the Phillies were comfortably positioned 15 games over .500 as owners of the National League’s second-best record.  Even then, the flaws of Gabe Kapler’s team were obvious and the warning signs were clear, but faults (and logic) be damned, it seemed like the Phillies were destined for seven late-season showdowns against the Atlanta Braves with a division title on the line. Of course, we know now that those games will serve as nothing more than a reminder of what could have been.

In the wake of this late-season death spiral, most followers of the Phillies feel what I would term as a blend of anger, disappointment, and acceptance. Whatever the emotion, Phillies fans are a resilient bunch and have already begun to look ahead at what should happen next. And what a question it is.

What happens when a team plays its worst when the games matter most? What happens when it goes 2-9 in September, ­­6-17 over its past 23 games, and 40 days without clinching a series win? When it loses 8.5 games to the young and imperfect Braves in the division standings in just over a month’s time? What happens is that some fans become angry, some apathetic, but almost all will move to assign blame.

Yes, it’s true that there exists a faction of fans and media members who are willing to agreeably deem this season a success simply because of an improved record, but that party shrinks daily as the Phillies’ prolonged freefall has jeopardized what not so long ago seemed like a certainty that the team would finish north of the .500 mark.

Watching the Phillies toggle between devastating late-game losses and lifeless blowouts has all but wiped away the goodwill earned by this young team and its rookie manager. Kapler, specifically, seems to have recently chapped many an ass. The patience of many fans has worn thin in response to his daily lineup shuffles, aggressive shifts, relentless pitching changes, and unwavering positivity that have each taken a toll as the losses mount.  Don’t believe me? You can try sports talk radio, but that’s a, uh, very limited and specific cross-section of the fanbase . Instead, I suggest you open up a tweet from almost any Phillies writer during a game and read the replies. Do these disgruntled fans that are fed up with the manager represent the minority opinion? Maybe, but if it is, it’s a sizable one, and I think it warrants some exploration.

I’m sure opinions will differ, but I want to work in facts, so here’s what is indisputable: The Phillies are hitting .237 as a team this season, which is the second-worst team batting average in all of baseball.  Their .711 OPS and .396 SLG% are both well below the Major League average, and only two teams have a higher percentage of plate appearances end with a strikeout than the Phillies’ 24.6 K% this season.

Here’s what else is irrefutable: The Phillies are a poor defensive team.  Their -117 defensive runs saved ranks dead-last this season and is an almost impossible 41 runs worse than the -76 DRS posted by the Mets, the National League’s second-worst defense by the same metric.

What about the starting pitching that was for much of the season the Phillies’ greatest strength? Over the past 30 days, right around the time the train began to fly off the tracks, that strength became arguably the team’s greatest weakness. Over that span, Phillies starters have posted the National League’s second-worst ERA (5.24) and third-worst WHIP (1.41). The bullpen hasn’t fared much better with a 4.49 ERA and 1.42 WHIP that are each among league-worsts. While Kapler certainly deserves his share of blame for his team’s spectacular implosion, if you think all of this team’s issues fall on his shoulders, then I think you grossly overestimate a manager’s impact. These problematic numbers across all phases of the game aren’t indicative of a manager batting the wrong guy in the cleanup or leadoff spot, or making one too many pitching changes, they are indicative of a team that is fundamentally flawed in its composition and just isn’t good enough.

Another commonly cited gripe with the manager is the surprising regression of players like Odubel Herrera and Cesar Hernandez. Should their struggles be pinned solely on Kapler? Or are they representative of an organization-wide philosophy that has increased emphasis on drawing walks and elevating the baseball, a philosophical implementation that has, in part, driven the recent departure of several key minor league hitting coaches. Look at Hernandez’s average launch angle that has nearly tripled since last season, or Herrera’s which has jumped nearly 25% and tell me that’s all about Gabe Kapler. Please.

That doesn’t excuse Kapler’s obvious shortcomings or mistakes. I agree with many of the common critiques. Go look at my Twitter timeline during almost any Phillies game and behold my palpable disgust. The end of this season has been an unmitigated disaster in all regards, and the Phillies should be thoroughly embarrassed by their organizational incompetence that encompasses everything from a lack of progression by several key young pieces and the predictable minimal contribution from a slew of cheap and uninspiring acquisitions to the fucking grounds crew that couldn’t be bothered to drop a tarp on the infield at Citizens Bank Park ahead of a three-day rain event.

But I’m also fair, and thus, I don’t think that the Phillies’ disastrous finish warrants Kapler’s dismissal after a season in which he kept a fatally flawed team afloat into September. You should be frustrated, disgusted, and discouraged by the Phillies’ disgraceful play over the past month, but I suggest a year of patience and to pump the breaks on calling for his job just because you don’t like his “computers” or analytics-driven decision-making. Let’s see if the general manager can secure him some difference-making talent (an entirely separate issue and big if), and then let’s see what he does with it before calling for his head. If we’re having the same conversations next summer, then yeah, the dude will have to go.


41 Responses

  1. He did a good job getting as much out of this team as possible. The players just ran out of gas at the end. Im not sure what he could have done different to prevent that. More maintenance DL trips for people? idk.

  2. I was down on Doug P after his 1st year. I wandered If he’d survive year 2……and look what happened. I agree with comment above in that they overachieved and then ran out of gas. Get some key free agents, give Kapler another year with those players, and go from there.

  3. Gabe and the loser gm need to go. Time for Middleton to take his team back from these cheap no balls nerds

  4. As much as I hate his stupid face, he deserves one more season. Although I question how “young” this team really is, young teams run out of gas and fall out of playoff contention. As long as management gets the pulse of the locker room to make sure he hasn’t lost it, get him a stud for the cleanup spot and see what happens.

  5. One thing not highlighted heavily above is that the swoon happened after the rent a players which signaled to the young guys they weren’t good enough, this crushing their confidence, which was already suspect due to the fact that they are all playing out of position. Why get a 1st baseman and put the heir apparent in left field, where he is too slie to be an everyday player. Why Crawford at 3rd and Kingery at short. You had a good 2nd basemen, so why not have Kingery float through all three positions to include 3rd, and give everyone consistent rest. The person who I feel really accepted the challenge was Maikel to his position being threatened, and I see him as the team MVP. Best move was Wilson, who is the only one that should he retained, to include Arrietta. If you have a great 7th inning and 8th inning guy, Neshek and Neris, why move them around. Why bounce Eflin back and forth between minors, what message is that.? Why wait so long to bring back Eickoff? Why in the world did we not bring HAMELS home? Comedy of errors! I really like the Joe Girardi idea, who got a really bad deal from the Yankees.

  6. I don’t call for the head of Gabe Kapler after just one season either. But his mindset and in-game strategies align with the front office’s strategies. They are one and the same. He himself is proud and often touts his team’s insistence on taking an unlimited amount of pitches and taking walks over ALL else offensively. He happily dismisses the ghastly percentage of strike outs this lineup (and all its thousands of derivatives) has accumulated this season.

    Kapler seemingly supported the need to play Kingery at every Godly position (even freakin’ pitcher) rather than his natural position at second base, where his error-prone play would have been reduced. But no, no, no … that’s Cezar Hernandez’s spot. And, in the end, Kingery should have sat or been sent to the minors two months ago. And the rest of the position players are average to below average to awful defensively.

    I get not publicly chastising young players, but my God Gabe, don’t tell us all they’re all exceptional players and by golly, if only the ball would have bounced another way or just found a hole somewhere or if an opposing rookie debut pitcher just hadn’t pitched an amazing game for the 16K time this season … You LOSE a fan base that way. You LOSE support that way. When in tough times (like the last 40+ days), just say “We all have to do better. We’re not playing the way we should. Too many mistakes. We need to have better focus, blah blah blah … “ I’d rather hear that benign trope that what he spouts.

    He gets another year. The team is not letting him go now. Nor should they. These players are just not talented enough. Other than Nola, there’s not one true keeper in the whole rotten batch, including Hoskins (who I like, but who’s bat has gone in the dumpster far too many games this year).

    Just don’t tell me Kapler hasn’t made a difference during this horrendous slide. I think he’s made it worse actually.

    1. I agree here. The manager is completely complicit with an organizational hitting philosophy that has shown itself tom be an abomination.. I hold them all accountable, MacPhail, Kl;entak, Kapler. They render baseball unwatchable.. They carry analytics to an extreme. The manager is culpable due to his belief that players are like cogs that can be plugged in anywhere without harmful effects. There is a reason certain methods have endured.

      I have no faith in this GM. He will be gone in two more years. If I were Harper or Machado,, why would I want to come here?

  7. Although Kapler has made some boneheaded decisions, he has kept a bad team afloat. So credit where it’s due. But I want Klentak gone. His attempt at roster building has been an utter disaster. Let the new GM decide if Kapler stays or goes.

  8. Any new live podcasts where nobody shows up, to look forward to?

  9. This team has been almost the worst hitting team in the NL all year. When this started they were about single digits more runs scored than given up. I think Klentak did ALL that he could to help the team. If he was honest, he might tell you that he did too much. Hoskins Slone is good for ~25 defensive runs given up all by himself. I think he needs to move to first base next year. I also think the consistent lack of runs has caused pitchers to try to pitch too safely instead of just letting it rip.

  10. Something about Kapler just screams sleazeball, but I think he’s done a decent job. I’d keep him, and fire Klentak. Signing Santana. Not trading for pitching. Wasted high draft picks year after year. Prospects that don’t ever develop properly. I don’t think he knows what he’s doing.

  11. I think this type of controversial argument fueling journalism is weak. Howard Eskinish, morning talkshowish.

      1. Should your journalism existence be questioned or even brought to mind to question? Should your colleagues murmur throughout the office about whether you should be let go? That’s not life man. Upbeat, exciting, make me feel good stuff. Keep that alive.

  12. Anybody remember when 4 for 4 Cuz said chip Kelly will revolutionize the nfl

  13. Was that great radio this morning or what? How many shows can be talking to a former NFL defensive lineman about his daughter’s battle with cancer, and then two minutes later be cracking jokes about hamsters in the butt?

  14. Gabe reminds me of the tools who say socialism works but it just hasn’t been done right … until they try it. He’s a legend in his own mind who thinks he will prove us all wrong. But if kapler was fired we’d see nobody outside of low minor leagues would ever take a chance on him,

    All of this will stay the same because Klentak won’t fire Kapler and it doesn’t seem he can work deals, MacPhail is too busy playing bridge and Klentak is like his son, and Middleton won’t fire MacPhail because he thinks having MacPhail makes him look like a baseball man. So no stud or decent free agent is going to want to waste their time at this sh!t show, but expect their agents to use the Phillies to drive up their prices. And we have a minor league system where guys can’t hit either and very few improve. I feel for Nola and Hoskins.

  15. I am getting tired of these two promoting plays, charity events and book signings every week. Win two tickets to see Glen appear in a play that is about on same level as one that is put on in high schools all over the area.

  16. Kapler makes Genius Mauch look like–well, a genius! Pitcher comes in, faces one batter, boom, out he goes. Another one comes in, same thing. (Aaron Boone would, ahem, Yank them, Kapler just takes them out.) And so on. No way to build one’s confidence.

  17. The Phillies have always been highly sensitive about perception so I do think it very posdible that Kapler goes because it is obvious that his hiring was not embraced. The weak box office is a statement by the ticket buying publuc that feels no connection to a heartless organizational approach from GM to Mgr that is quite opposite of their history.

    It was different with Manuel (whom I admit I was never a fan of) and Pedersen with the Eagles because both were perceived as having some qualification where Kapler has not been perceived that way.

    I can actually see a scenario where Amaro returns as a coach under a new manager. It would fit with the Phillies tradition of bringing back “their own”.

    I would have preferred them to keep Mackanin, who I tnink was scapegoated unfairly. And frankly, Inthink many team fans felt the same.

    Finally, they need a manager who understands how to manage a team, not manage by numbers. That doesnt mean to ignore “analytics”, either…

  18. As much as I dislike what I see as dumb baseball moves, the biggest problem is this type of baseball is completely unwatchable. Double digit strikeouts on a regular basis. Games that are longer than a football game on many nights. All because this analytics crap that takes the beauty out of the game. If you want to know why fans never supported this team, even when it was winning, it’s because Gabe Kapler, Matt Klentac, and the analytics crowd are killing the game.

  19. Kapler gets another year or at least part of another year to see if he has learned anything. Im a analytics guy myself but I feel like Gabe uses it too robotically. Also I think the whole driving up pitching counts thing needs to be rethought. The idea should be to swing at hitable pitches and not swing at bad pitches. Gabe also needs to learn that you can get angry sometimes especially when the team is playing bad and sloppy baseball.

  20. I believe the Phils won mostly in spite of him, not because of him. I think it is to early to say fire him. While analytics are part of the game now. You cant rely solely on them. You have to have the gut feeling and give some of your better players opportunities to get you out of jams. If he doesnt learn to be better from this season, next season fans will be crying for his head.

  21. My problem has to do with a hitting approach that a manager applies, that turns a good hitter from another organization into a poor hitter in this organization.

    I dont give a damn about analytics. Clipboard theories are great on paper, but often fail miserably in real life.

    Babe Ruth drank beer, was chubby, stayed out late chasing ladies, was undisciplined, anx hit the living hell out of baseballs.

    Do you think thst for one minute, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Pete Rose, Reggie Jackson, Barry Bonds, Mark McGuirre, Mike Schmidt, Lou Gehrig, Micky Mantle, RogerMaris, or any one of a slew of great players would have paid any more attention to “analytics” than Alan Iverson paid to “practice”?

    Great players just play. Jimmie Rollins just played hard. Chase Utley and Shane Victorino just played hard.

    When you try to convince your hitters to do something that just doesn’t come naturally to them, you screw them up.

    Though I loved Charlie Manuel, I think he screwed Ryan Howard up by trying to make him a pull hitter. When he was going tp the opposite and center field, he could single-hsndedly destroy most opponents. His numbers fell way off and he struck out even more (sound familiar 2018 Phillies) than he had previously.

    This nonsence about running up starters pitch counts is one of the most assenine things I’ve ever heard of in sports, regardless of what the clipboard says.

    It ranks right up there with the NFLs version of flat line thinking, “the prevent (let the other team come back) defence.

    While our hitters are on their way trying to “run up pitch counts” thry way too often are doing so from pitcher counts of 0-2, 1-2,
    So, the Phillies run up pitch counts and are rewsrded with one of the lowest team battting averages in baseball.

    If I were an opposing manager, I’d just encourage my pitchers to throw strikes eay in at bsts and then nibble once they get them in a hole. I’d do this to all but a couple of the best hitters, like Hoskins and Wilson Ramos.

    When Carlos Santana was running up pitch counts he got lots of walks and had an almost pitcher like batting average. I noticed late in the season, he started jumping grooved strikes early in his at bats. His average went up, and he’s been one of thd best hitters on the team during that time. I guess the analytics police are keeping an eye on that upstart.

    Im not saying they have to be wild swingers, but if a pitcher grooves a pitch down the middle of the plate, screw the pitch count.. Jump that pitch.

    If you don’t get something that obvious, as a manager, you’re not major league msnagement material.

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