The Phillies ranked 25th in the majors in Defensive Runs Saved during the regular season.
They are tied with the 2003 Yankees as the lowest-ranked teams to reach the World Series in the 20-year history of the stat. If they won the World Series, they would be the worst-ranked defensive team to do so in the DRS era. The only teams ranked 20th or worse to win are the 2003 Marlins (21st), the 2004 Red Sox (24th) and the 2009 Yankees (23rd).
When the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, they ranked No. 1 in Runs Saved, thanks to the likes of Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth.
This Phillies defense is not like that Phillies defense.
But at the same time, it’s not all bad.
J.T. Realmuto led the Phillies with 11 Runs Saved this season. Most catchers accrue a high Runs Saved total through pitch framing. That wasn’t Realmuto. He rated as about an average pitch-framer this season.
But he was particularly good at two things. One was throwing out potential basestealers. Realmuto threw out 27-of-65 basestealing attempts and also had two pickoffs.
The volume of outs and the success rate (42%) combined to give Realmuto 9 Stolen Base Runs Saved. No other catcher in MLB had more than 4.
Realmuto is also good at blocking potential wild pitches. His 93.5% success rate at stopping potential wild pitches ranked 14th among the 60 catchers with the most opportunities (potential wild pitches are those in the dirt and those in which he had to make great effort to catch).
He’s the best thing the Phillies have going for them. Take note Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, and Jeremy Peña and anyone else who might think about trying to run.
Trent Grisham’s bunt with one out in the 9th inning of Game 5 of the NLCS caught many baseball fans by surprise. But if you’ve followed the Phillies closely this season, Ranger Suárez would be the guy you would most want trying to make that play.
Suárez did make the play. He made all the plays this season, finishing with an MLB-best for pitchers 9 Defensive Runs Saved. He also had no errors and no stolen bases allowed. He hustled off the mound well to get to balls and he threw to the bases from different angles without any issue.
As John Kruk says in our short highlight video below “He is smooth.”
Suárez isn’t the only good fielding pitcher on the Phillies. Zach Eflin (3 Runs Saved), Kyle Gibson (2) and Zack Wheeler (2) each have credible defensive histories. Phillies pitchers finished the season with 17 Runs Saved. Only the Yankees had more.
The Trade Pickups
Dave Dombrowski and Sam Fuld built the Phillies to be a powerful offensive team. The offseason acquisitions of Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos deprioritized defense (although in fairness, both players figured to DH a fair amount until Bryce Harper got hurt).
But with an eye on the postseason at the trade deadline, the Phillies picked up two players with decent defensive pedigrees in Edmundo Sosa and Brandon Marsh.
Sosa has played in eight playoff games this postseason, six as a defensive replacement in either the eighth or ninth inning. All six were to replace third baseman Alec Bohm, who finished last at the position with -17 Runs Saved this season. Sosa has 2 Defensive Runs Saved in 31 games there, with no errors and only 1 Defensive Misplay. He also has 13 Runs Saved in 113 career games at shortstop, where he’s started twice this postseason.
Marsh is better suited for left field (6 Runs Saved this season) than center field (-1 Runs Saved, including 0 in just over 300 innings with the Phillies) but he’s viewed as an upgrade on Odúbel Herrera. Just being average is a big deal given that Castellanos and Schwarber are the team’s corner outfielders.
Rhys Hoskins isn’t Christian Walker or Paul Goldschmidt at first base. But he’s been decent this season. Hoskins finished with 3 Defensive Runs Saved this season, a big improvement on the -7 he finished with in 2021 and the -5 he totaled in the shortened 2020 season.
Hoskins cut back considerably on his mistakes from last season, when he averaged an error or misplay every 31 innings. This season, his rate was one every 43 innings.
Hoskins and the Phillies aren’t likely to wow anyone with their defensive play. But they’ve been good enough to get to this point, so we certainly wouldn’t rule out their doing enough to win one more postseason series.