We are only 1/6th into the season and articles like this can be thrown in the dumpster with high certainty towards the middle of the season. Every year we see breakout players. Every year we also see people catch lightning in a bottle for awhile and then fizzle out. Why? What is the difference with these players?
I have to admit, when Marsh came to the Phils, I didn’t know much about him other than playing MLB on the XBox with my then 13 year old. I’d play the Phils, and he loved playing the angels with Shohei and Trout. Well – “Marsh had wheels” is what I remember from his time in the virtual game.
When he was traded to the Phils, my work friend Chris was like, “he is gonna shine, he played behind Trout”. I watched. Like many in Philly, I was happy with the upgrade in defense at center, but he seemed to be “light hitting”. I did a deep dive one day and read his scouting reports. The thing that stood out the most to me was “line drive hitter”. I was then hyper focused on that when watching.
However, as the games went on, a pattern emerged. He was striking out chasing high fastballs.
I was a pure hitter in my playing days. Overweight, and built like a heavyset John Kruk. I could hit. I prided myself in launching balls into orbit during practice, but game time for me was about line drives. I had read Mike Schmidt’s book on hitting in 10th grade and I was enamored with the science of hitting.
Most of these guys today have an upswing, of sorts, to get the “best launch angle”. However, in Schmidt’s book, the mental approach is to “hit down”. As your body spins, and you hit down, it takes your bat level through the zone.
These are fantastic drawings by our highly paid art department (ummmm….sorry about my shitty MS paint drawing). I am over-dramatizing the angle here so you can see WHY Marsh was striking out a lot – and why the strikeout rates are so high these days. In the first drawing, you see how there’s an up angle in the swing, and with this, if you catch the ball with this, the angle is the best angle to hit home runs. With Schmidt, however, the idea of “swinging down” as your torso was moving on an upward angle provided a flat plane for the bat to go through the zone. What happens with Schmidt’s type of swing is that your bat has a higher time in the plane of the ball, statistically speaking, which gives you a higher probability of contact.
What I noticed time and time again with Marsh’s swing late in the year he was chasing these high fast balls and was late on them. This billionth of a second late, or whatever it was, was the result of his bat coming up and missing the precise moment the ball was coming by. Instead of trying to “catch up” to this fastball with “choking up”, a better approach is the “flatten the swing”.
I had read in the offseason, they were changing his swing, and for me, I was hopeful someone saw what I did. I’m not an MLB scout, but I had the mind to play baseball but not the 6’4″ 220 pound frame you need to today to play it at a higher level. No one gave two shits I hit .389 in legion, or that virtually every hit I had was to the left center or right center fence for stand up doubles. I had power, but I took the ball where it was thrown. I also did situational hitting, where my approach was different with a guy on third down a run and one out as opposed to no one on and we needed a guy on second to start a rally. This is also an art of hitting that is not taught at ALL to our youth. In the first, you want to pull the ball to first at all costs (I’m a lefty). This would have me perhaps crowding the plate so I could turn on an outside pitch. In the latter, I would take pitches until I had my perfect pitch – I walked a shit ton. This would then allow me to take a 3-1 pitch deep to left center or right center. If I had guys on second and third and no outs, I’m adjusting my launch angle, just a bit, to try and take it over an outfielder’s head. In my entire baseball career, I can probably count the times I had a pop up to the infield out on two hands. I was a pure line drive hitter, and watching Marsh got me excited.
I bring up my glory days because when I watch pro baseball, I get frustrated with guys who have the best talent in the world, but have the brains the size of peas. In a way, you need to not be a deep thinker to play baseball. Sometimes you get up in your head thinking about stuff, and that leads to an error the next play. So these guys also need to have a talent of NOT thinking, believe it or not lol.
Anyway, back to Marsh. I’m also a stats nut, and the amount of games these guys play with the amount of plate appearances, stats works well with this sport. One thing that jumped out at me last year was March’s strikeout to walk ratio. I am also a “ratio guy” and feel this type of thing can show you problems with an approach or hole in your swing.
So, he played 1/4 of the season with the Phils, and with this, he had 41 strikeouts and 6 walks. That’s almost 7:1. With the low walks, he also had a low OBP. In those 41 games, he had 9 doubles, 2 triples, 3 HR. But only 2 SB and 2 CS? This guy is one of the fastest people in the league, but only 2SB? Why a 50% SB percent? In those 41 games, he had 132 ABs, which is only 3AB per game. The .774 OPS isn’t terrible, as he had a .288 avg (very good with today’s numbers) and with this, he was young and had some upside ahead.
His stat line with that would project out to 36 doubles, 8 triples, 12 HR, 24 walks, 60RBI, and 164 Ks.
The question is, how would he fare with a full year in Philly?
Now let’s take a look at his line with 1/6th of this season.
This projects out as 42 doubles, 24 triples, 24 HRs, 72 walks, 84RBI, and 162Ks. Still, only 1 SB which is a problem for me. However, his OPS of 1.097 is staggering. Let’s take a look at Bryce Harper’s best three seasons for OPS ever
This looks to avg about 36 doubles, 1 triple, 35 HRs, 90RBI, 100 walks, and 125Ks. Bryce also batted about .320 in those – but the OPS was…..1.05.
Marsh, today, has about the same OPS is Bryce Harper’s best season, EVER. Harper at this point in his career is heading towards the HOF, as long as he stays healthy and keeps putting up numbers.
So the question then is, is Marsh a flash in the pan here or is he a breakout star in the making?
One big thing to also consider is how a lot of people, especially left handers, might start killing it with numbers with the change in the shift not being permitted. With someone with the speed of Marsh, this should instantly increase his batting average. This has had him bat about 50 points higher!!!
Additionally, what the shift would have no bearing on would be the strikeout to walk ratio. Where Harper is a freak that has power – he also has a VERY low strikeout to walk ratio. In 2015, you could see this UNDER ONE. The Phillies last year, who lost to a dynastic Astros team in 6 at the World Series, has a 2.86 strikeout to walk ratio last year. Marsh had a 6.83:1, and this year it is now down to a respectable 2.25:1.
To me, this is telling me he’s making a ton more contact with those high fastballs he was striking out on last year we saw.
I haven’t watched a lot of my Phils this year, but as summer comes and all of my shows are over, I tend to watch 4-5 games a week until playoffs. One thing I remembered seeing a lot last year was they didn’t play him against lefties a lot. Turns out in 2022 he had a TERRIBLE .486 OPS against lefties – and a .188 BA. So I looked up some recent games and saw he sat against a lefty from Houston. Why?
In 2023, he’s actually hitting better against lefties than righties. It’s a smaller sample size, but the point is there’s no drop off. Maybe they are shielding him from the best lefties on the planet, BUT – have you ever heard a team sitting Bryce Harper against a lefty? No. Are you platooning an MVP with a right handed bat? No. So this is the barrier Marsh has at this point, to me, statistically, to really be a breakout star. The manager needs to do his best to put in those who give him the best chance to win every night, and my problem here is we potentially have a breakout star in the making and you might be psychologically telling him he can’t hit lefties, so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Lastly, if you look where his is in the batting order – last year he was near the bottom with Stott every night. The team was loaded with HR hitters, and you had Marsh at like 9 most nights. In half the games he played this year, he’s batted 5th (against righties) and towards the bottom of the order against lefties. Now the question is, if Harper comes back soon, where does this leave Marsh for the batting order?
We have to now look at JT Realmuto as an aging star with all star catching abilities, but a declining bat. There’s no real mistaking it at this point. I need to start looking at Realmuto towards the bottom of the order. Sorry.
While that average is very respectable at .283, the RATIO problem here is 26:3 or 8.67:1 strikeouts to walks. This has him on pace for 156 strikeouts against 18 walks. Remember what I said about bat speed slowing down and holes in the swing? Last year, Realmuto was about 3:1 strikeouts to walks. Year before, about the same. Same in 2020. There is now a glaring hole in his swing, and I believe this is age catching up with him. His speed helps him a ton get on base to leg out singles, and that speed may slow down a lot over the next 1-2 years. His 5 SB projects out to 30, which is respectable. But I have to do a HARD EDIT to this lineup with Bryce coming back. Remember, Bryce has never in his career NOT faced a shift. This could get fun.
Nate’s Phillies order
- Marsh (L) – CF (OBP at .400 is otherworldly). Needs to work on stealing bases, by a lot. This guy could project to be one fo the best leadoff hitters of all time IF he can get his SB numbers going. An OBP of .426 gets you a guy on first 42% of the time. Fixed his K:BB ratio. His speed can get you doubles and triples to lead off a game, as well as draw walks you need to get on first, with the potential speed to reduce double plays from the second batter.
- Trea Turner (R) – SS. His avg isn’t great right now, about 35 points below last year. His OBP is FIFTY points below last year. IF you have Marsh getting on 43% of the time in front of you, this guy could be a prototypical 2 hitter in the NL and bunt. He can be disruptive on the base paths with massive steals.
- Bryce Harper (L) – DH (RF when healthy). His massive power plus avg makes him the best hitter on this team. Statistically speaking, he may be up to bat with people on base MOST OF THIS ENTIRE YEAR
- Nick Castellanos (R) – RF (DH when Harper healthy). .300 hitter with 30HR power. He is a VERY aggressive hitter, which is what I want in the 4 hole.
- Kyle Schwarber (L) – LF. I don’t like his low BA, but with 50HR last year, he has a LOT of pop. Statistically speaking, you will have a LOT of people on base every time he’s up. He has a really good K/BB ratio (about 2:1), which gets his OBP higher than his avg would project. What’s interesting about him here is either he will put a ball into orbit, strikeout, or walk. Meaning, I feel this guy here won’t ground into a lot of double plays. This player here will continue rallies or put pressure on pitchers for new rallies by walking.
- Alec Bohm (R) – 1B – I love this guy’s hitting, and in person saw him hit like 4 doubles off of the left field wall in one game last year. He doesn’t have the 40HR power you want from a corner infielder. He has gotten better at 3B, but many don’t trust him there LT. We had Schmidt and Rolen here, so Phillies fans are spoiled. If Schwarber is on first, he’s a doubles machine to perhaps drive him in and continue rallies.
- Bryson Stott (L) – 2B. Has an Utley upside here for the next decade. Stott is batting .322 with a .350 OBP, but I feel like his 4:1 K/BB ratio is too high at this point in his career to be near the top of the order. Not a ton of power either for this lineup, which has him lower in the order.
- JT Realmuto (R) – C. With his higher K:BB ratio, I need to get him lower in the order. Still has a good BA, and if Bohm/Stott can get on base, he can drive in the runs. With his speed, he can steal bases and create some distractions to help out the 9 hitter.
- Edmundo Sosa (R) – 3B. My main issue with him is the K:BB ratio. This puts you in the 9 hole on my team as this means you aren’t making a ton of contact and getting on base. While he’s batting over .300 and playing great defense, on this team, I need his glove. Anything he bats over .250 is gravy, but I need the other guys on the team to do the heavy lifting offensively.
I feel Rhys Hoskins played his last game as a Philly, and everyone loves his exuberance. But in that batting order, he’s an IDENTICAL HITTER to Schwarber. Too many ground into double plays and another 200 strikeout guy. I need the ball put in play, and with this, THIS YEAR, I’d choose Bohm over Hoskins as first. You don’t get the upside with the HR, but you reduce the Ks and GIDPs. And putting Bohm here with all of the doubles he hits will makeup for Hoskins HR in the form of RBIs. While all many of you care about is the HR, I am thinking with the small ball stuff and thinking with RBI. This year, Bohm is on pace for 120 RBI, and Hoskins had 79 last year. Additionally, last year you had both Hioskins AND Bohm liabilities at their positions defensively – with Bohm going to first, it’s an upgrade over Hoskins there. With Sosa at 3rd, it’s a major upgrade there. Defensively, perhaps these moves also save the team 10-20 runs over a season.
Long term, I cannot see Bohm at 1B. Most likely, we would see Harper come to 1B. This sort of leaves Bohm in no man’s land. Do you put him back at 3B? While he was a liability there, he did improve over the year. Can he go to LF? He projects to be a 15-20 HR guy, which isn’t really going to cut it for the OF. He might have a home in a rotation between LF, 3B, 1B, and DH in the next 1-2 years until longer term solutions are addressed. I can’t see Sosa as a LT 3B solution while he has this abysmal K:BB rate. He needs to address that, ASAP.
The Phils offense this year is impressive, but their biggest problems have been starting pitching being consistent. I think a lot of teams are having problems adjusting to the pitch clocks. I think Nola and Wheeler getting there. Nola has been the Phillies’ ace, but he’s more of a 2 because he has a tendency to at times to get blown out in the 3-4th inning. Wheeler is more of an ace. Then you have the lefty with Ranger Suarez who has the numbers to be fantastic for his career. A solid addition of Tijuan Walker at 4 and Falter at the 5 is a solid rotation. Painter got injured, and is projected potentially to be a Phillies ace. I could see them letting Nola walk and Suarez take the 2 with Walker at 3, Painter at 4, and Falter at 5. Painter will someday take the one hole, and Mick Abel isn’t far behind. I see Suarez, Abel, and Painter being in the top of the Phils rotation for 6+ years – and any more years they get from Wheeler is a bonus. This leaves the Phils in a bind with what to do with Bohm longer term, and what their 3B solution is LT. For 2023, I think we have a workable solution.
May 5, 2023 at 2:49 pm
Hi. I agree with you 100%. He is an MVP candidate!! He has really stepped up for the Phillies in big ways. He has made a lot of good plays out in the outfield. I think he might have a chance at earning the MVP. We’ll have to see if he can beat Bryce Harper the MV3. Feel Free to subscribe and take a look at my blog. Here is the link to my blog…https://sophiakd4.wordpress.com. I would appreciate it if you could come to see my blog. Thank you so much!!