Just How Bad Are the Phillies Defensively?

Coming into the season, everyone was concerned about the Phillies defense, but no one could have imagined how bad it would really be.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 30: Alec Bohm #28 of the Philadelphia Phillies reacts after committing an error in the top of the sixth inning against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park on June 30, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

The Philadelphia Phillies can’t seem to get out of their own way right now. After opening the season with a 11-11 record in April, the Phillies went 10-18 in May, as they were seemingly blowing late leads every night thanks to their bullpen and poor team defense.

These were the two biggest concerns most pundits had for the Phillies entering the year and they have done nothing but confirm those fears through the first few months of the season.

For the second year in a row, the Phillies sport the worst team-defense in baseball based on Defensive Runs Saved, with their -31 mark being 13 runs worse than the San Francisco Giants, who have the second-worst team defense with -18 DRS.

Let’s explore why the Phillies defense is so bad and how it ranks compared to other poor team defenses of the past.

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Even Worse Than Expected

Bryce Harper having a tear in his UCL has not helped the Phillies, forcing both Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber into the outfield everyday. This has made what was already projected to be a bad defense even worse.

The Phillies also entered the season with Alec Bohm slated for a DH/bench role with the promotion of Bryson Stott, who was set to play third base. Stott struggled out of the gate, Didi Gregorius and Jean Segura have both dealt with injuries and suddenly Bohm is the Phillies everyday third baseman again. That is not ideal if you are looking to prevent runs.

Bohm is statistically one of the worst defenders in baseball. His -8 OAA is the fourth-worst mark in MLB. Bohm doesn’t fare much better in DRS, as his -9 mark is tied with Thairo Estrada for the second-worst mark in the game.

Who has the worst mark you ask?

That would be Phillies right fielder Nick Castellanos. Worth a league-worst -10 DRS, Castellanos has proven that he can’t provide anything close to replacement-level defense in right field. He has also been worth -5 OAA, ranking him in the bottom-three percent of league defenders.

In the other corner, Kyle Schwarber is not much better. He has been worth -4 DRS and -3 OAA.

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Didi Gregorius (-4 DRS, -3 OAA), Rhys Hoskins (0 DRS, -2 OAA) and Bryson Stott (-2 DRS, -1 OAA) round out the Phillies list of poor defenders, giving them six everyday players who rank in the bottom 25 percent when it comes to Outs Above Average.

Jean Segura was the Phillies most consistent player defensively and he is now out for 10-12 weeks with a broken finger. Johan Camargo (3 OAA) and Odubel Herrerra (1 OAA) have each fared well when it comes to OAA, yet they have combined to be worth -7 DRS.

Bottom line, when a ball is put in play against the Phillies it is almost guaranteed to be hit towards a poor defender and that makes it very hard to win baseball games.

Historically Awful?

Last year, the Phillies had the worst defense in baseball with a team -54 DRS. The New York Yankees had the second-worst defense, with -41 DRS. The difference is the Yankees actually set out to fix that poor defense this offseason, instead of exacerbate the issue by signing more bad defensive players like the Phillies did.

Since 2012, the Phillies have been by far the worst defensive team in the National League. Their -374 DRS trails only the Detroit Tigers (-571 DRS) in baseball and is over 200 runs worse than the Mets, who have the second-worst team DRS in the National League.

Here are the worst team defenses every year, dating back to 2012.

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Worst Team DefenseYearDRS
Phillies 2021-54
Tigers2019-116
Phillies2018-89
Tigers2017-115
Athletics2016-70
Phillies2015-98
Twins2014-90
Mariners2013-99
Rockies2012-115

The worst team defense over the past decade was the 2019 Detroit Tigers, who posted a -116 DRS. This is the high watermark that the Phillies could pass this season.

Through 51 games, the Phillies’ -31 DRS is bad, but not quite on pace to be that historically awful. If we average out their team DRS over a full 162-game season, the Phillies are on pace for a -98 DRS season.

Only time will tell if things will get better or worse as the season progresses, but one thing is for sure. The Phillies are not going to be winning any games based on the strength of their defense.