2018 Recaps

Kapler’s decisions lead to sickening opening day loss



Heading into this game I felt more excited than I had in years about opening day.

So right now, even after a half-hour of hindsight, I haven’t felt this angry about a Phillies game in years.

Aaron Nola was on the mound commanding a newly minted 5-0 lead. He was cruising, striking out three while surrendering just two hits. He barely let a Brave hitter get one out of the infield. Then Ender Inciarte knocked a double off the wall. And then, after 68 pitches with one out in the fifth, Gabe Kapler emerged from the dugout to remove Nola from the game.

What followed was the systematic beheading of the Phillies by way of their bullpen. Freddie Freeman, naturally, homered. Ozzie Albies, naturally, homered. As the Braves top hitters willed their team back in the game, Kapler removed his top hitter, Rhys Hoskins, for defensive purposes. Edubray Ramos malfunctioned and let the Braves tie the score. Then, in the ninth, of course, Hector Neris surrendered a dinger to Nick Markakis. A walk-off on opening day, on a day when Nola had a 5-0 lead in the sixth and literally looked like he could go all nine.

Now, I’m not advocating he went all nine. It was the opener, remember, and arms aren’t completely stretched out. But Nola is unequivocally the best pitcher on the staff. Let him go six. Give him up to 80 pitches. He’ll have six days rest until his next start. Lean just a little on him, and then play bullpen roulette in the seventh. Instead Kapler got a little too cute with his decisions; I completely believe in using data to help make decisions, but Kapler forgot to read the room. Nola looked outstanding. It wasn’t the time.

Along with that Kapler let Nola hit in the top of the sixth. If he had such a short leash, why hit him there anyway? All of that, the Hoskins substitution, the failure to protest a failed strike call, and the decision to pinch-hit Pedro Florimon and not Scott Kingery in a key situation all lead up to one obvious truth tonight: Gabe Kapler lost this game.

Yes the bullpen was atrocious and should be able to hold a five-run lead, but Kapler didn’t give his team the best chance to win. And if he’s going to treat every game like it’s the most important game ever, then pitch your damn ace through the sixth.

This was a sickening game. The Braves had no right being back in it. Yes Freeman is a stud. Yes Albies is awesome. But they’re supposed to show up when Nick Pivetta pitches tomorrow, or when Vince Velasquez goes on Saturday. When Nola is out there, you have everything you need to win the game. Kapler took out his best weapon far too soon, and he paid the price.

The Phils are back at it tomorrow. Pivetta will try not to give up three home runs against the Braves. Good luck.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. "Dr. Bob"

    March 29, 2018 at 8:57 pm

    We both saw the same game. Kapler too eager to push buttons, Ramos apparently already in mid-season form.

  2. Jeffrey Orbach

    March 29, 2018 at 9:12 pm

    I’ve said this before he reminds me too much of Bobby Valentine,the smartest man in the room. Given to making decisions whether he needs to make them or not.

    Sometimes it’s much better to let your hand play out rather than force the issue. That was how Charlie did as well as he did , he let the boys play.

    Gabe needs to do that as well.

  3. czontixhldr

    March 29, 2018 at 9:38 pm

    Repost from the previous thread:

    Going into the game –

    Freeman vs. Neris: .111/.333/.111 – 12 PA
    Markakis vs. Neris: .500/.533/.571 – 14 PA

    In short, Neris owns Freeman, and it was a major fail on Kapler’s part.

    • Ken Bland

      March 30, 2018 at 1:09 pm

      I’ll just say this. While I totally get riding the trend, there’s something to be said for a terrific hitter like Freddie Freeman finally performing to the law of averages as a small sample size of 12 plate appearances grows. The only fact of the matter is it didn’t work out. I wouldn’t overplay the point, particularly with Freeman, and only 12 PAs, but the point has a good degree of merit.

  4. Lefty

    March 29, 2018 at 9:54 pm

    My opinion has always been that managers rarely win games, but they do lose a lot of them.

    I agree with you Tim, that’s about as angry as Ive been over a game in a long time, but I have to say that I think that may be a good thing. I think it means I’m back fully invested/excited about this team again.

    Yes this game was annoying, but it’s a long season, Go Phils!

  5. bruce

    March 29, 2018 at 9:58 pm

    Phillies lost. What’s new? It’s HOW they lost that is unforgivable. You’re damn right the manager is as much the blame as the bullpen. Kapler’s sabermetrics as part of his management tool certainly didn’t helped him in this game. His obsession with it allowed the Braves to make a comeback that really should never happened. Brave’s starter tossed 90 pitches before being relieved. Phillies starter, Nola was more effective but was taken out after just 68 pitches thanks to Kapler. Thus the 5-0 lead disappeared before our very eyes.

    This could be another LONG season if Kapler’s on-the-job learning as manager does not improve.

  6. Andy

    March 29, 2018 at 11:40 pm

    As wretchedly demoralizing as it is to lose like this, perhaps it’s good that the insanity of Mismanager Kapler’s “logic” over common sense is exposed so early on and so blatantly. Whether or not he learns from it remains to be seen. Hard to imagine Nola or Arrieta putting up with this kind of crap for long.

  7. Craig Glessner

    March 30, 2018 at 8:23 am

    Hindsight is 20/20 did he pull Nola out too early yes definitely I bet he was thinking I have a 5 run lead and the opportunity to not have Nola go too far on the first day of the year. I bet nobody is taking this loss harder than Kapler but honestly I think the bigger issue is how bad every one of the relievers looked. This was Nola pitching wait till Pivetta or Velasquez is starting and struggles to get through 5 I don’t care who is coaching they need to bring in a solid pen and you win or lose as a team blame Kapler if you want but the bullpen lost this game. We have 161 left everybody has a bad day the pen will bounce back, Kapler will learn as he goes and the lineup regardless of who is in it will produce the sky is not falling GO PHILLIES

    • Vernon Dozier

      March 30, 2018 at 10:08 am

      I agree. This is literally why the roster is constructed the way it is. It’s why they’re carrying nine guys in the bullpen and playing with a short bench. If Kapler doesn’t have the confidence that his nine man bullpen can get 11 outs, than the team is in big trouble. I probably wouldn’t have pulled Nola that early, but I can see Kapler’s point of view. Nola has spent a considerable amount of time on the DL the past two seasons. His delivery has been a concern since the day he was drafted. If pulling him early with a five run lead reduces the risk of him ending up on the DL again this season, it may be worth it. Especially when you think you’ve constructed a good bullpen (and a lot of people do). They had a five run lead…getting those last 11 outs shouldn’t have been that hard. The Brave’s bullpen performed well yesterday – the Phillies’ bullpen didn’t.

  8. Mitchell Nathanson

    March 30, 2018 at 9:59 am

    Kapler’s either going to learn to adjust or he’ll be gone by June as there will be a revolt in the clubhouse. Before the game even started he had managed to piss off his best all-around hitter by sitting him. He then pissed off his best pitcher by pulling him after 68 pitches. He managed both feats within the first three hours of the season. It’s not so much that any particular decision backfired (that happens all the time) but that he pissed people off in the process. It didn’t help that he appeared to throw his entire team under the bus afterwards by failing to take any of the blame for all that went wrong (thereby pissing off anybody in the clubhouse who was not already pissed at him). I can’t recall a time when a coach/manager pissed off so many people within the course of his first official day in the office. When your players give up on you you’re done. They’re not going to give up on him today or even next week or the week after that. But give it a month and if he’s still as tone deaf then as he is now, he’ll lose the clubhouse and force his ouster more quickly than anyone would have imagined back in December.

    • Jeff Orbach

      March 30, 2018 at 1:21 pm

      If you check Bobby Valentine’s record (especially in Boston) you’ll see glaring similarities. I hope Charlie Manual and Larry Bowa sit him down and have a talk with him.

      Baseball is not just about analytics, there’s a feel for the game. If someone’s on a hot streak, you let him play until he cools off.

      Much of the analytics are based on full season stats, it’s dangerous to over use them in a single game like that. I hope if one of our pitchers is throwing a no-hitter he doesn’t lift him in the 5th. Listening to what he said after the game he just might.

  9. Chuck

    March 30, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    Rough to watch. Gabe has to do better than that.

    Don’t take your ace out unless he’s hurt or in trouble. Let’s go to next game.

  10. Ken Bland

    March 30, 2018 at 1:03 pm

    I don’t recall too many sporting events that carried the emotion of an overreaction that was not one bit overreactive. Not one iota. I guess realistically, not quite as bad as the way Kapler managed, from the lineup through the last out were a couple post game comments. One, he said he’d do the same thing with Nola given the chance to do it again, and two, he said he has a week’s worth of lineups in his plan already. It’s possible this is more common than I think, but it strikes me as absurd.

    Have to admit, was positive on Kapler at the hire, good diversified back ground, seemed a good communicator. Please remind me that the next time a managerial candidate is considered to prioritize can he run a bleeping game.

    Nice game by Franco. Lost in the shuffle of the horrific loss. Eddie Sawyer quit after the Phils 1st game in 1960. Phils led 4-zip in the second, and by the 5th, trailed 9-4 as Robin Roberts got whacked around.
    Not that Sawyer had many if any pitchers on that woebegone club, but now, 2 of the more resonating openers in club history had themes of when do you pull a pitcher. Horrible, pathetic loss.

  11. Louis Schweickhardt

    March 30, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    Kapler is treating metrics as his bible and not giving his common sense enough credit unless he is so inexperienced as a manager he does not know enough to trust his own self. Lets hope he is a quick learner and we won’t have to go through a year like last year.

  12. Dennis Lutz

    March 30, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    It’s not going to be enjoyable following the Phillies if this is going to be the mode of operation. Analytics and sabermetrics is nonsense. Kapler has established himself as an idiot after just one game. Hopefully there will be a new manager soon and the season and fan interest in the season will be saved.

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