We all have teams that just rub us the wrong way, and most of the time, we can explain our disdain for the said team with relative ease. Whether it be long-rooted rivalries or a distaste for a specific player, someone’s least favorite teams are usually pretty justifiable. That said, Mets broadcaster Keith Hernandez’s reason for hating the Phillies is just plain stupid.
Fundamentals? Defense? Did this man really just ask for a series off because the Phillies’ defense is so bad that it makes him physically ill?
Come on, Keith! There are a variety of reasons you could’ve given as to why you won’t be in the booth for this weekend’s three-game set against the Phillies. You could’ve said you’ve got a personal vendetta against the Phillies for something that happened during your playing career. You could’ve said you’ve got personal business to attend to. While I applaud you for your honesty Keith, getting sick at the sight of a team’s defense is probably the worst excuse I’ve ever heard — worse than that time my ex-girlfriend canceled a date because she had to “make ice.”
It’s bad for a multitude of reasons. For one, it seems weak. The Mets are playing their best baseball in years, and you won’t stick around for a mid-late season home series with another hot division rival? This is a big matchup! The Phillies have won six in a row and 11 of their last 12. You don’t want to see how the Mets deal with one of the hottest teams on the planet? For shame, sir! Furthermore, there are some great storylines to look out for. Jacob deGrom is scheduled to toe the rubber for the second game of the series. He hasn’t pitched six innings in either of his two starts since returning from injury. While the Mets are still unsure of how hard they want to push the two-time Cy Young winner in his return, deGrom is still one of the most electrifying pitchers in baseball. He struck out 12 batters in 5.2 innings in his second outing of the season. You don’t want to watch that?!
The Phillies’ defense also just isn’t THAT bad. In terms of straight fielding percentage, the Phillies are actually one of the better teams in the league, ranking fifth in MLB in that department (.988). Now, I understand that fielding percentage is a terrible statistic to use when measuring defense. Sure, a player might make the play when they are in front of the ball, but it’s a player’s (or team’s) ability to get to balls and make plays that average players wouldn’t be able to that determines a team’s defensive prowess. The Phillies aren’t a good defensive team, but they’re not the worst.
FanGraphs lists them as the sixth-worst defensive team in baseball this year, posting a -14.3 defensive WAR this season. Do you know who’s worse though? The Phillies and Mets division rival, the Washington Nationals. They’ve been the worst defensive team in the league, posting a -21.3 defensive WAR in 2022, so why aren’t they an issue?
The Mets aren’t that much better defensively either. They rank 23rd in that category (-4.9). In fact, the Mets aren’t a very good defensive team by any metric. Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 innings (a measure of how well a team plays defense compared to an average MLB team)?
The Mets rank 20th with a mark of -2.4. The Phillies rank 25th with a mark of -4.4. While the Mets do rank in the top half of the league in other categories like Defensive Runs Saved (14th in MLB), Outs Above Average (12th in MLB), and Runs Above Average (13th in MLB), they’re not elite in any category. The Phillies do rank pretty low in every category, but they’re not the worst at anything, and more often than not, they rank better than the Nationals.
The Phillies are loaded with subpar fielders, so I understand where the perception that their fundamentals are subpar comes from. In reality, though, they haven’t been a historically bad defensive team by any measure. They’re not even the worst defensive team in the league. Hell, they may not even be the worst defensive team in their own division! That said, the Phillies haven’t been good defensively against the Mets this year. The Phils have played seven games with more than one error this year. Two have come against the Mets. The Phillies have allowed seven unearned runs against the Mets this year more than they’ve allowed against any other team. So, I guess Hernandez has only seen the Phillies at their worst, but those games and runs are not indicative of the team’s defense as a whole. It’s just been a coincidence.
If you want to find bad defense Keith, look no further than any of the 38 innings you spent in the outfield during your playing career. I mean, you posted a -3 Total Zone Fielding runs in just 38 innings? That equates to about -85 runs over the course of an entire season. I know you were a great first baseman, but sheesh, the outfield was clearly too tough for you. (I’ve been informed that this joke could cause serious harm to my health, so please don’t attack me for this).
All jokes aside, Hernandez started his broadcasting career in 2006. Since then, we’ve seen 71 teams worse defensively than the 2022 Phillies based on Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 innings. We’ve seen 51 teams worse in terms of Defensive Runs Saved. Yes, the 2021 Phillies are one of the worst defensive teams of all time, but they’ve actually improved in that category in 2022 despite the additions of Nicholas Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber. That’s worth your time in the broadcast booth. You’re one of the best in the biz, and I’m sure Mets fans will miss you sorely during this upcoming weekend series, so please, for their sake, suck it up and watch the Phillies.