Yes you read that correctly, I don’t believe Gabe Kapler is a bad manager. As the Phillies 2019 season mercifully came to an end this weekend, there is obviously a ton of blame to be passed around. After an offseason where half a billion dollars were spent, the Phils managed to finish 81-81, placing 4th in the National League East. Fans’ disappointment in this year’s baseball team is indescribable, and many are calling for second-year manager Gabe Kapler to be fired. And while Kapler definitely had his fair share of bad moments, this is NOT all his fault.
Before you all start freaking out and send nasty tweets at me, I am by no means a Gabe Kapler supporter, I agree with the notion that he should be fired. With that said, it would be foolish of us as a collective fanbase to sit here and pin all of our problems on one man. Kapler did a lot wrong as a manager, but his hands were tied at points.
The Phillies 2019 starting rotation ranked 10th in the entire National League in ERA (4.61), 13th in home runs allowed (1.6 per 9 innings), 13th in wins above replacement (7.9), 10th in opponents’ batting average (.297), etc etc etc. The list goes on and on. It doesn’t take a genius to realize the Phillies starters outside of Aaron Nola were horrific.
Now yes, some of this is on the manager and his staff. Kapler and his pitching coach (Chris Young) play a major role in how pitcher’s prep for games. However, when your rotation contains guys like Drew Smyly, Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta, Jerad Eickhoff, Jake Arrieta, Jason Vargas, Vince Velasquez, and even Cole Irvin at one point (all had ERAs at least over 4.10, most over 5.00), there’s only so much a manager can do.
Keeping on with the theme of pitching, the Phillies bullpen was arguably an even worse situation for a potential manager. Guys like David Robertson, Pat Neshek, Seranthony Dominguez, Tommy Hunter, Adam Morgan, and Edubray Ramos were all expected to be major players in the Philly bullpen, and all fell victim to serious injuries. That’s an entire bullpen worth of injuries right there.
This left Kapler with a ‘pen filled with major league rejects that GM Klentak had acquired (Jared Hughes, Mike Morin, Blake Parker) and younger guys who were never supposed to be bullpen pieces to begin with (Nick Pivetta, Cole Irvin, Austin Davis). This band of misfits led to a bullpen that was ranked in the bottom 5 in the entire MLB (0.6 WAR).
*The bullpen’s ERA was actually middle of the pack (4.42) but their tendency to exclusively allow runs in close ball games led to such a terrible WAR ranking.*
A common complaint thrown around this season was that Kapler misused his bench, and while once again I do agree with this notion, there are still questions to be asked about the actual quality of his bench.
Kapler’s top two bench bats this season actually did a fairly good job (Jay Bruce and Brad Miller), both recording OPS’s in the 700+ range. However, after those two there is quite a serious drop in quality. Andrew Knapp, Nick Williams, Maikel Franco, Sean Rodriguez, Logan Morrison, and Phil Gosselin are guys who are just barely serviceable as backups. Most of them bounced back and forth between the minors and probably won’t find another ballclub in the 2020 season.
Kapler had his moments in 2019, he really did. He got the best out of outcasted talents like Brad Miller and Drew Smyly at points, and overall appeared to develop strong relationships with his players. Put Kapler on the Marlins or the Orioles and I genuinely believe he could bring those ballclubs up near .500 in a few years.
But unfortunately, Kapler is just that, an average “.500” manager. For a city and a team that is obsessed with winning a World Series in the coming seasons, an average manager is simply not good enough. The fact that we witnessed career-best years from both Harper and Realmuto and yet our season is over in September is alarming. Philadelphia needs a winner, a manager with experience and who knows how to get his guys to give 110% every single game. A manager who can help develop our young players, not give up on them and ship them off to AAA. With so many guys like this open on the market, it seems the Phillies’ departure with Kapler is inevitable.
Kapler was not a bad manager, he was an average manager, managing a team that needed (and still needs) someone great.
-David Esser via Philly Sports Insider
~image via nbcsports.com~