Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Nick Williams has been considered a key piece of the team’s future for years now. The 24-year-old first made prospect lists in 2014, and turned in an impressive debut in the majors in 2017.
With the Phillies finally ready to compete, Williams believed he would get a chance to build on last year’s success. Six games into the season, Williams has started just two games.
When asked about his lack of playing time, Williams told Philly.com that he blamed “the computers.”
“I guess the computers are making [the lineup], I don’t know,” Williams said, referencing the team’s reliance on analytics when charting a lineup. “I don’t get any of it but what can I do? I’m not going to complain about it because I have zero power. I’m just letting it ride.”
The quote looks like a not so veiled shot at both analytics and manager Gabe Kapler’s style. Kapler is known for embracing analytics. They have likely played a role in his willingness to pull pitchers before their third time through the batting order.
There are two ways to view Kapler’s handling of Williams. On the one hand, outfielder Aaron Altherr’s wRC+ — an advanced stat that measures offensive performance — was better than Williams’ against both righties and lefties last season. Kapler has started Altherr over Williams three times. In that sense, it’s a smart baseball move.
On the other hand, Williams is a young player with strong potential. While he wasn’t better than Altherr last season, the only way he’s going to improve is by receiving more playing time. He’s not getting that right now, which makes it tough to evaluate whether Williams is going to be part of the team’s future.
Williams could get regular playing time in the minors, but he probably doesn’t want to go back there after hitting .288/.338/.473 last season.
The quote adds to what has been a rough start to the season for Kapler and the Phillies. The manager has come under fire for his decisions. Fans booed him on multiple occasions during the team’s home opener Thursday. He also got in trouble with the league after trying to make a substitution without anyone warming up in the bullpen.
It’s also not the first time a player has spoken out against Kapler. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports said one player told him the team would be fine, but they “Just need the manager to get out of the way.” That anonymous player could have also been Williams. But if it’s not, that presents some more problems for Kapler.
While no one wants to overreact after just six games, the issues are piling up for Kapler already. A winning streak would go a long way toward winning over some skeptical fans and players.
But if the Phillies continue to struggle, things might go from bad to worse for Kapler sooner than anyone expected.
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