So we have our answer to the burning Gabe Kapler question: Yes, he was booed during the home opener Thursday. The besieged manager did get some relief — literally and figuratively — when the Phillies won their home opener 5-0 over Miami behind a strong start from Nick Pivetta and the relief work of Adam Morgan, Luis Garcia and Hector Neris. The Phillies have a scheduled day off Friday and, of course, it is supposed to be 66 degrees, which would be a nice day for baseball. The series with the Marlins resumes Saturday when the forecast high is 46 degrees. Enjoy the freeze.
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No concern on Crawford
After going hitless in four at-bats during Thursday’s home opener, shortstop J.P. Crawford’s average fell to .053. He has just one hit in 19 at-bats and has struck out six times. Manager Gabe Kapler was asked if he had concerns about his rookie shortstop’s slow start.
“I don’t,” he said. “J.P., I’m pretty confident, got off to a little bit of a slower start last year. He wasn’t always perfect in his triple-A performance. But the one thing that’s been consistent about J.P. is he manages an at-bat. He controls the strike zone. He’s good at seeing a lot of pitches. He walks. That’s consistent. That you can depend on. You can’t depend on balls falling in for base hits. But you can depend on him controlling the strike zone. He does that very well.”
Crawford has walked just once so far this season and his on-base percentage is .100. Kapler is correct that Crawford also struggled out of the gate last year at Lehigh Valley. He finished April hitting .145 with just two extra-base hits.
The fans might not have been happy to see Gabe Kapler at the home opener, but they were pleased with the result, a 5-0 win that came courtesy of a three-hit, four-RBI day from Maikel Franco and the shutout pitching of Nick Pivetta and three Phillies relievers. It was the Phillies’ first win in a home opener since they beat Houston in 2011. The Phils have won five in a row against the Marlins dating back to last season.
After his name was not in the lineup for the fourth time in six games Thursday, Phillies right fielder Nick Williams was not pleased. “I guess the computers are making it, I don’t know,” Williams told reporters, including our Matt Breen. That, of course, was a reference to Kapler’s reliance on analytics when charting a lineup. “I don’t get any of it but what can I do? I’m not going to complain about it because I have zero power. I’m just letting it ride,” said Williams, who is just 1-for-11 and has struck out four times.
Gabe Kapler’s tenure in Philadelphia is off to a rocky start and we don’t mean the Sylvester Stallone type of Rocky. Doug Pederson, coach of the Super Bowl champion Eagles, can relate and did relate in my column that contrasted where the two men stand now in the Philly popularity poll.
After donning a Roy Halladay No. 34 jersey and throwing out the ceremonial first pitch — a perfect strike — Pederson said Kapler needs to keep his focus on the players. The former quarterback and head coach said he loves baseball — he was an outfielder and pitcher in high school but had trouble hitting the breaking ball — and that it would have been his second choice for college. In addition to finding a Halladay jersey for Pederson to wear, the Phillies gave him a No. 52 jersey (shouldn’t it have been No. XLII?) and a No. 14 jersey, which he wore as a player with the Eagles.
April 7: Vince Velasquez vs. Dillon Peters, 6:05 p.m.
April 8: Jake Arrieta makes Phillies debut vs. Trevor Richards, 1:35 p.m.
April 9: Joey Votto and the Cincinnati Reds open series at CBP, 7:05 p.m.
April 13: Phillies begin six-game road trip to Tampa Bay and Atlanta, 7:10 p.m.
April 18: Start of a 10-game homestand against Pittsburgh, 7:05 p.m.
Stat of the day
Nick Pivetta had nine strikeouts and no walks in 5 2/3 scoreless innings Thursday against the Marlins. It marked the fifth time in 28 career starts that Pivetta has 152 strikeouts in 142 2/3 career innings.
From the mailbag
From e-mailer John comes this question about pitchers per plate appearance, a statistic Gabe Kapler has accentuated here in the embryonic stages of the season:
“Wonder if that stat can go too far in terms of hitters, especially young hitters, being so hyper-focused on taking pitches they lose their aggressiveness? I’m not anti-analytics, but feeling the pendulum has swung too far away from the human thought element of the game.”
Answer: You have made an excellent point and there is a great example of how being a more aggressive team can also be advantageous. The 2015 World Series champion Kansas City Royals were known for going to the plate and hacking. They saw just 3.70 pitchers per plate appearance, which was tied with the Miami Marlins for the lowest average in Major League Baseball. On the flip side, the Royals finished seventh in baseball in runs, third in batting average, 10th in on-base-plus-slugging-percentage and 11th in on-base percentage. Seeing a lot of pitchers, however, does have its advantages and the majority of teams that rank in the top in that category also have potent offenses. I also think the Phillies will be a good offense before the season is over.