As we turn the calendar to July, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate the Phillies skipper. Early on, the Phillies were far surpassing their extremely low preseason expectations with a 24-17 record. Now, they stand at 35-45 following the first three months of the season. So how has Pete Mackanin influenced the path the Phillies have taken to get here?
Probably the most impressive part of Mackanin’s season is his fearlessness when it comes to making the lineup. The Phillies had been slowly getting over this problem of not wanting to let go of the 2008 World Series core. For a while, the organization has acted as if the players were owed something. Now, it’s just Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz who remain on the roster from the 2008 squad and Mackanin hasn’t shown any apprehension in benching them.
Howard has started just 50 games this season, but just two of them have been against a left-handed starting pitcher. Tommy Joseph, a right-handed hitter who debuted this season as a first baseman, has started 31 games, but just nine of them have been against a southpaw. Either Howard or Joseph has started at first base in 73 of 80 of the Phillies’s games this season. In those 73 games, Joseph has started in 81% of the games against lefties. However, it hasn’t been a straight lefty/righty platoon because he’s also started in almost a third of the games against righties. At catcher, Cameron Rupp has started over Ruiz in 49 of the 80 games. Mackanin has gone with the hot hand in the lineup regardless of the name.
Mackanin also did an excellent job naming a closer this season. Jeanmar Gomez, who doesn’t exactly have closer stuff and was just 1-for-4 in save opportunities in his five seasons prior to this one, led all of the majors in saves for a good portion of this season. Now, he’s 21-for-23 in save opportunities with a 1.33 WPA. His 5.78 +WPA is fourth-highest among all relievers.
On the base paths, the Phillies have been successful in steal attempts just 55% of the time. That’s the second worst rate in the MLB. They’ve been caught stealing 26 times, third most in all of baseball. Perhaps the strongest critique of the skipper of the second-worst offense in baseball is that he shouldn’t be wasting so many base runners.
It’s no secret that the Phillies aren’t exactly a World Series contender just yet, but it’ll be interesting to see if Mackanin can lead the Phillies to scratch their way back towards .500 and stay a relevant team in baseball.