Oct 26, 2022 - Sports

Phillies keep winning despite awful defense

Data: FanGraphs; Table: Jared Whalen/Axios

The Phillies offense is on fire, which is great news for the Fightins, because it's rare to see such a bad defensive team in the World Series.

By the numbers: Of the 40 teams to make the World Series since 2003 — when defensive runs saved (DRS)* was first established — just two have had a worse mark than Philly's -34.

  • That ineptitude isn't surprising: The Phillies ranked dead last in DRS last season and chose not to shore up their defense in the offseason.
  • Instead, they spent $179 million on sluggers Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber, two notoriously poor fielders.

Between the lines: As ugly as their advanced metrics look, the Phillies actually make most of the plays they're supposed to, committing the third-fewest errors and sporting the second-best fielding percentage in the league this season.

  • Yes, but: While those two realities — bad advanced stats but good traditional stats — may seem at odds, they're actually connected:
  • Because of their fielders' poor range, the Phillies simply don't get to many of the balls they might otherwise make errors on.

The big picture: The 2022 Phillies were built in the image of the team one spot ahead of them in the chart above: the defensively-inept 2012 Tigers.

  • Dave Dombrowski built a perennial winner in Detroit, where he was president of baseball operations, through elite offense and starting pitching.
  • Now in the same role with Philadelphia, it appears he has once again found success via sluggers and aces — and in spite of bad defense.

The bottom line: "Defense wins championships," goes the old adage. The Phillies didn't get the memo — but they're four wins from a title anyway.

*Defensive runs saved: Indicates how many runs a player saved — or hurt — his team in the field compared to the average player at his position.

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