Fundamental Flaw: Thoughts after Rockies 5, Phillies 4

Sep 12, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera (37) walks off the field after making the final out during the ninth inning of loss to the Colorado Rockies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Are you sick about hearing about the lack of fundamentals in baseball yet?

Maybe if you watch the Phillies on a game-in, game-out basis you’ve grown numb to it.

Hell, watching the Phillies anymore makes me think of a Green Day Song.

Whether it’s the approach they take at the plate throughout the game, an inability to move runners along. Having a woeful batting average with runners in scoring position, over-sliding bags. Defensive miscues as a result of poor positioning, or their latest malady:

Not giving up a home run with two strikes on the batter, specifically on an 0-2 count.

Yep, it happened again to the Phillies. Twice. In the same game. To the same hitter.

Garrett Hampson, the Herculean, 5-11, 196-pound utility man for the Rockies, a guy who never in his career hit double digit home runs in a season, hit two dingers Sunday, one off Aaron Nola and one off Hector Neris to drive in all five runs for the Rockies in their 5-4 defeat of the Phillies that all but buried the hometown team for the 2021 season.

Hampson has hit three of his 11 home runs this season against the Phillies (72-71), but the two on Sunday were as egregious fundamental pitching errors as it gets.

When it’s an 0-2 count you can’t throw a pitch like this:

Or like this:

Making matters worse, Hampson is a .148 hitter this season when the count is 0-2. The only home runs he’s hit in these situations? Sunday. The only RBIs he’s had in this count? Sunday.

Oh, and the Phillies have allowed 16 home runs this season on 0-2 pitches, the most in the major leagues.

I mean, WTF!

At first glance it’s hard to figure out where the fault lies, especially since it’s not the same pitcher each time.

Is it an organizational philosophy on how to pitch to batters? Is it the catchers calling the wrong pitches? Is it the pitchers shaking off the catchers and throwing the wrong pitches? Or is it a complete lack of command by the pitchers in an era where pitchers are more worried about velocity and spin rate than they are about location?

Regardless, these outcomes are pathetic, especially for a team that up until this point (and maybe still does) fancies itself as a playoff contender.

How can you expect to contend when you can’t do the little things correctly in a game?

After the game, J.T. Realmuto, who had a three-hit game, had this to say, making it seem like he’s putting the onus of the errors more on the pitchers. (Courtesy NBCSports Philly):

“We’re just not executing our pitches when it comes to 0-2 counts. We have the least amount of wasted pitches 0-2 which means we’re throwing more pitches in the strike zone 0-2 than anybody in baseball. And with today’s hitters, there’s a lot of chase in the game. You don’t always want pitchers chasing a strikeout two or three pitches in a row, but 0-2 is a god time to do it.

“I think our guys have the right intent. Obviously they’re not trying to throw the ball in the middle of the plate. We’re just not doing a very good job of executing in those counts and it’s something we have to work on. You have to be able to put guys away when you get into those advantage counts.”

It’s simply aggravating. This isn’t something that just cropped up. For Realmuto to pull out that stat about fewest wasted pitches, that’s got to be something they’ve been tracking all season.

So why wasn’t this addressed sooner this season? Why does it still rear its ugly head?

Are today’s pitchers bull-headed? Are they over-confident that they can out-throw a hitter and just have gotten burned to the tune of 16 times in 0-2 counts?

Or is this a failure of the coaching staff to really address these situations? Is it a belief that still, way more often than not, they’re going to get an out and that out is likely to be a strikeout, so, go with the best pitches in zone.

After all, teams are hitting just .145 with a .411 OPS against Phillies pitching in 0-2 counts this season. And with 294 strikeouts, Phillies pitchers have punched out the opposition 53.4% of the time when it’s an 0-2 count.

Ironically, Phillies pitchers have not walked one batter after getting an 0-2 count though, which means they aren’t really trying to get guys to chase pitches and are putting the ball into the zone.

It’s almost as if they willing to trade a home run 3% of the time if they are going to get an out 85% of the time.

However, the timing of some of these 0-2 homeruns are killing the Phillies, who are now 4 1/2 games behind the Braves in the NL East and 2 1/2 games behind both the Padres and Reds for the NL Wild Card with just 19 games to play.

Bryce Harper’s adventures

Harper once again tried to will the Phillies to victory offensively. He hit another home run, his 32nd of the season, and lifted his batting average to .307 and his OPS to 1.032.

However, Harper lost a fly ball in the sun, even though he was wearing shades, in the fifth inning, and a lazy fly ball fell to the earth for a single for Elias Diaz. If Harper makes that catch, it’s likely Nola gets out of the inning and doesn’t give up the three-run homer to Hampson.

But, it’s hard to blame Harper for anything these days with how productive he’s truly been. It’s just unfortunate that this had to occur when it did, but you make your own breaks in sports, just like you make your own misfortune.

After Harper’s homer cut the lead to 5-4 in the eighth inning, Brad Miller grounded out, Realmuto popped out and Didi Gregorius struck out.

In the ninth, Freddy Galvis led off with a single and Ronald Torreyes pinch hit for Matt Joyce solely to bunt the runner over into scoring position. That brought up pinch hitter Andrew McCutchen, who was swinging first pitch and hit a grounder to shortstop Trevor Story. If he knew Story was going to throw high,  McCutchen would have ducked or lid into first, instead, Rockies first baseman Colton Welker jumped to catch the ball and swipe tagged McCutchen on the shoulder just before he reached first base.

Finally, Odubel Herrera grounded out to second base to end the ball game and put an ugly, tattered bow on the weekend series loss to the Rockies.

What’s next?

In case you want to still torture yourself with the playoff race….

The Phillies are off Monday before starting a three-game series with the Cubs Tuesday. Kyle Gibson will start Tuesday, followed by Ranger Suarez Wednesday and the dreaded “Bullpen game,” Thursday.

The Braves are also off Monday before welcoming the Rockies to Atlanta for three games (and the Phillies hope the Rockies do to the Braves what they did to them).

As for the teams the Phillies are behind in the Wild Card race:

The Padres start a four game series in San Francisco on Monday. However, even if they lose, the Phillies can’t gain any ground as Cincinnati would remain in the Wild Card position because they are idle Monday before beginning a three-game series in Pittsburgh Tuesday.

Finally, St. Louis starts a three game series in New York against the Mets on Monday.

“We have to win every series the rest of the season and sweep a couple of them to catch the Braves,” Realmuto said. That would mean going 15-4. Good luck J.T. Good luck.

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