What’s been the catalyst for the Phillies?
As the Phillies win games they never would’ve come close to winning in April and May, I wonder: What’s changed?
The obvious answer is the manager, and Rob Thomson has been a revelation. The players really respond to him. Everybody just seems much more relaxed, and the younger guys have really taken off. For example, Alec Bohm looks like a completely different ballplayer. And Bryson Stott is maturing into a very good middle infielder before our eyes. I think one key is that Thomson expects contributions from everyone on the roster, and they’re responding. He’s also handled the bullpen much better than Girardi.
(On a side note, I really enjoy watching Thomson’s postgame comments. He’s knowledgable, honest without being mean, and down to earth. I like hearing his explanations for the strategies he employs.)
The coaches, too, have made a difference. Bobby Dickerson, who instructs the infielders, is credited with the team’s shoring up its defense under Thomson.
Roster construction improves
There’s something else as well. For the first time in years, the Phils have a roster that’s solid from top to bottom. Not perfect, but there’s no one on it who’s simply taking up space. For so long, the Phillies would rely on a handful of players – including Bryce Harper – to carry the weight. Meanwhile, there would be guys like backup catcher Andrew Knapp who couldn’t hit their weight.
Knapp was gone coming into the season, replaced by the much better Garrett Stubbs, but the Phils were still plagued by this problem. Once they acquired Brandon Marsh, David Robertson and Noah Syndergaard at the trade deadline, however, the disappointing Didi Gregorius, Odubel Herrera and Jeurys Familia were let go. Plus, they added an excellent defender to the bench in Edmundo Sosa.
This is a club that’s now deeper than it’s been since the 2007-2011 glory years. And the difference is like night and day.