Happy Home Opener! I honestly cannot wait to see how the sellout crowd at Citizens Bank Park welcomes Gabe Kapler to Philadelphia today during the pregame introductions. A loud ovation would be a pleasant surprise. After all, every new manager deserves more than a week to prove his worth. If things are still going the same way at the beginning of May, then feel free to boo away. Doug Pederson will be in attendance to throw out the first pitch, so Kapler would be wise to stand as close as he can to the Eagles coach at all times.
Regardless of the Kapler reaction, the weather is going to be perfect as long as you love sunny skies and shivering thighs. The predicted game-time temperature for today’s 3:05 p.m. start is 48 degrees with winds coming out of the west/northwest at 18 mph. (Does that make it a Nor’wester?) Today could actually be the best day of the entire homestand. Snow is forecast for Saturday, and a high of 45 is the prediction for Sunday’s series finale. A chilly rain is forecast for Monday and Tuesday when the Phillies host the Cincinnati Reds. Let’s face it: April baseball in the Northeast is almost always bound to be damp and dreary even if the team is playing well, which the Phillies were not on their 1-4 road trip.
You’re signed up to get this newsletter in your inbox every weekday during the Phillies season. If you like what you’re reading, tell your friends it’s free to sign up here. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @brookob. Thank you for reading.
— Bob Brookover (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Making pitchers work
The Phillies offense had an abysmal two games against the Mets in New York, but that did not stop Kapler from touting his young hitters. He was particularly pleased with how many pitches they have seen through the first five games and the fact that they chased Mets ace Noah Syndergaard after four innings by making him throw 92 pitches.
The Phillies do, in fact, lead the majors in pitches seen per plate appearance, according to BaseballReference.com, and that’s nice. But they are well below the league average in runs (12), hits (25), home runs (3), batting average (last at .188), on-base percentage (.286) and OPS (.594). Kapler correctly made the point that the weather was awful for the two games in New York and it is difficult for hitters to be successful in the cold. But the weather is going to remain miserable during the current homestand, so the Phillies need to find a way to hit through it.
How shallow was right fielder Nick Williams playing when Amed Rosario’s game-winning triple sailed over his head in the sixth inning of the Phillies’ 4-2 loss to the New York Mets on Wednesday? According to Major League Baseball’s Statcast data, he was 52 feet closer to home plate than the average right fielder was during games at Citi Field last season. Manager Gabe Kapler said in Matt Breen’s game story that was exactly where the Phillies wanted Williams playing.
Not much went right for Kapler and the Phillies during their 1-4 road trip, but the manager is convinced that the team’s analytics-driven maneuvers will pay off over time. My column explains the manager’s reasoning and why Kapler still believes the Philles are headed in the right direction.
Facebook apparently can empathize with the Phillies because like the National League East’s worst team, Mark Zuckerberg’s company got off to a bad start with its first attempt at live-streaming a big-league ballgame. The reviews from the Mets-Phillies broadcast were not good, and Philly.com’s EJ Smith shared some of the more entertaining Twitter critiques.
An MRI of reliever Pat Neshek’s right shoulder did not show any significant damage. The pain is being caused by inflammation, and he was given an injection as treatment. It does not sound as if he will be back until at least some time in late April or early May, and that’s not great news for a bullpen with a 6.86 ERA.
April 5: Home opener vs. Miami with Nick Pivetta facing Caleb Smith, 3:05 p.m.
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.
Stat of the day
On this date in 1989, the Phillies rebounded from an opening-day loss to the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field with a 12-4 victory behind a three-run homer from Mike Schmidt. Greg Maddux lasted just 3 2/3 innings and took the loss. His older brother Mike pitched four scoreless innings of relief for the Phillies and earned the first save of his career. It was the only time the Phillies could boast they had the right Maddux brother.
From the mailbag
With all the changes in the lineup, why do you think Kap has stuck with Altherr starting every game despite his struggles? Will he keep seeing this many starts going forward?
— Graham Foley (@graham_foley3) April 4, 2018
Answer: That’s a great question, Graham. It makes little sense to me that Odubel Herrera, the team’s best position player the last three seasons, has not been in the lineup twice in five games. It’s true he was 1 for 17 against Noah Syndergaard, who started Wednesday’s series finale in New York, but Aaron Altherr was only 1 for 7 against the Mets’ hard-throwing righthander and I’d prefer the lefty-vs.-righty matchup. In fairness to Altherr, there are a lot of guys who did not hit much on the season-opening road trip, and he was definitely one of them.