Spring Training for the Philadelphia Phillies is a little more than a week old, and already the vibe in Clearwater seems to be different under first-year manager Joe Girardi than in the past two years under former skipper Gabe Kapler.

Players are optimistic about what’s going on in camp, and reading between the lines, it’s easy to see how Kapler’s lack of managerial experience and to feel for the game really impacted the Phillies during his tenure.

A slimmed-down Jean Segura talked about how the stress of last season led to some poor lifestyle habits, and subsequently, one of the worst seasons of his career.

“I think last year, I didn’t do it too much because there was a lot of stress.”

He went on to say how the inconsistent lineups – notably him hitting fourth, something he’s never done in his life, really impacted him. Knowing where he’s going to bat in every game is a big change over last year, and should help Segura get back to form.

Girardi has talked about having Scott Kingery play one position for the majority of the season, which is another change from the super-utility role that Kapler forced Kingery into the past couple of years. Then there’s been all this talk about how the bullpen is going to be a weak point for the team this year. Try telling that to closer Hector Neris.

In a pretty damning interview, Neris talks about how his delays in leaving the bullpen when he was called were more of a statement against Kapler’s poor use of the pen and last-minute pitching changes. Those are just a few of the ways Girardi is bringing stability back to Philadelphia. And he’s not the only one. His staff is getting in on the action too.

Jake Arrieta is pleased the down and away fastball is being touted again by new pitching coach Bryan Price. While he blamed the move away from this over the past few years on a league-wide trend, Kapler and his staff were high users of analytics and didn’t really think about what works, just what the numbers say should work. There’s a big difference there.

Vince Velasquez, who’s battling it out with Nick Pivetta for the fifth spot in the rotation, has been heaping praise on Price.

And we can’t forget about new hitting coach Joe Dillon. The Phillies offense was an inconsistent mess last year, John Mallee was fired in the middle of the season and Charlie Manuel had to come down from the front office to finish the season out. Rhys Hoskins was one of the worst hitters in the game the second half of the year.

During the offseason, Hoskins had talked to both Girardi and Dillon and is excited at the prospect of learning from them and improving his game.

The three new coaches will have a huge impact on the players and every game of the 2020 season. That is why it was so surprising to see Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA rankings project the Phillies to finish with a 77-85 record, good for fourth place in the National League East. This new coaching staff is not going to lose more games than Kapler ever did in his two seasons at the helm. It’s just not realistic.

The good news with these rankings – and the competitiveness of the NL East – is that not many are expecting the Phillies to be the cream of the crop.

There’s little pressure on the club, from a national viewpoint at least, to make the playoffs. Which is just fine with Girardi and his staff.
Don’t be surprised when they lead the Phillies to their first playoff appearance since the 2011 season.

Featured Image: @NBCPhiladelphia 
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