Montemurro/Sarris: How the Phillies are working to improve their MLB-worst defense

From Meghan Montemurro and SABR member Eno Sarris at The Athletic on January 17, 2019:

The​ Phillies knew​ something needed to change.

Rated the worst​ defensive​ team since Defensive​ Runs Created​ was established as​ a statistic​ in​​ 2002, the organization entered this offseason with work to do.

A defensive overhaul and improvement over one offseason isn’t an easy fix. The reality is that turning a bad defense into an even average group typically takes time. General manager Matt Klentak, the rest of the Phillies’ front office and the coaching staff understood the 2018 defensive performance cannot be replicated in 2019 if they are to reach the postseason for the first time since 2011. The difference between their batting average on balls in play and a league average one added up to three wins last year, but that alone doesn’t capture the magnitude of the problem.

The pitching staff, particularly the starting rotation, carried the team for nearly five months before they too struggled, leaving the Phillies’ collective flaws to hinder them in the season’s final weeks. Their defensive deficiencies were noticeable before their late-season swoon, though.

For the Phillies to execute their vision of turning an 80-win team into a 90-plus-win playoff team in 2019, the defense must improve. So, how are the Phillies going to make the worst defense in baseball better?

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Originally published: January 17, 2019. Last Updated: January 17, 2019.