Depleted Phillies Lose McCutchen for the Season

On Tuesday, the Phillies snapped a five-game losing streak and maintained their razor-thin margin atop the NL East, but not before suffering a different kind of loss when they learned that Andrew McCutchen will miss the remainder of the season. The 32-year-old outfielder tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while trying to avoid being tagged during a rundown in the first inning of Monday’s game against the Padres. It’s a costly loss for the Phillies. Not only has McCutchen — the leadoff hitter in 59 of the team’s first 60 games — been one of the team’s most productive players, but Philadelphia’s outfield depth has been depleted by a variety of other means.

The play on which McCutchen got hurt was a strange one. After he led off the game by drawing a walk, Jean Segura popped up but lost his balance and fell to one knee in so doing. Rather than catching the ball, Padres second baseman Ian Kinsler alertly let it drop, then barehanded the ball on the first hop and threw to first baseman Eric Hosmer for the first out. That left McCutchen in no man’s land; he broke for second, then reversed towards first, threw on the brakes, then tried an ill-advised spin move to elude Hosmer. By the time he was tagged, Cutch was clutching his knee:

Rotten luck. “I didn’t feel it pop or anything,” McCutchen told reporters after the game. “Something felt uncomfortable, something that made me grab my knee and go down. I’ve had an ACL injury before and I know what that feels like. This didn’t feel like that.” Alas, the outfielder’s optimism proved to be ill-founded, as an MRI taken on Tuesday showed the tear.

This is just the second time that McCutchen has landed on the injured list during his 11-year major league career. His abbreviated 2009 rookie season aside, he had played at least 153 games in every season since except for 2014, when a broken rib sidelined him for 15 days. In his first season with the Phillies under the three-year, $50 million deal he signed last December, he was batting .256/.378/.457 with 10 homers, a 124 wRC+, and 1.7 WAR. Those last three numbers all rank third on the team, with his home run total trailing Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper, his wRC+ trailing Hoskins and part-timer Scott Kingery, and his WAR trailing J.T. Realmuto and Harper. In other words, he’s been an essential player for a 34-27 team that leads the Braves by a mere half game; a five-game losing streak against the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Padres shaved that lead from 3 1/2 games as of last Wednesday.

Replacing McCutchen will be no small matter for the Phillies, who are already without center fielder Odubel Herrera, who, after being arrested on May 28 for an alleged assault on his girlfriend, is on administrative leave through at least June 17 and could face a further suspension for violating the league’s domestic violence policy. The team is also without reserve outfielder Roman Quinn, who suffered a Grade 2 right groin strain on April 24 and recently had his rehab assignment delayed due to continued soreness, suggesting that he’s still weeks away from returning. McCutchen had made 11 starts in center field amid the various absences of those two, including on Monday night. Kingery, who prior to this season had just 1.2 innings of experience in center at any professional level, has started eight games there.

Beyond the absences of Herrera and Quinn, the Phillies’ outfield depth has been further depleted this month, after losing Aaron Altherr on waivers to the Giants and Dylan Cozens (who had played just one game for the big club this year) to season-ending foot surgery, while optioning Nick Williams, who after playing regularly last year was hitting .159/.205/.232 in a reserve role, to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. It was against that backdrop that the team acquired Jay Bruce from the Mariners on Sunday. He made his Phillies debut by entering Monday’s game as McCutchen’s replacement.

In the wake of McCutchen’s injury, the Phillies recalled Adam Haseley from Lehigh Valley, where he had played just six games after being promoted from Double A Reading. The eighth pick of the 2017 draft, Haseley is a 23-year-old lefty who placed fifth on the team’s top prospect list in January. He doesn’t have any standout tools; neither our prospect team nor those of Baseball America or MLB Pipeline gave him a single grade above 55, though the consensus is that he has above-average hit and run tools, and that he has yet to tap into above-average raw power. Opinions are mixed with regards to his defense, with Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel writing, “Haseley is fringy to average for most scouts in center field. His pitcher arm strength doesn’t translate to the outfield, but he would be an above average left fielder if he can’t stick in center,” further calling him “a high probability, close-to-the-majors 2-3 WAR position player”

On Tuesday night against the Padres, Haseley went 0-for-4 in his major league debut while Bruce played the hero, starting in left field in an all-lefty outfield against the Padres’ Chris Paddack. Bruce doubled and hit a two-run homer off Paddack, then added a grand slam off lefty reliever Brad Wieck; he’s now hitting a very lopsided but potent .227/.293/.576 (127 wRC+) with 16 homers. Kingery, who played third base in place of the slumping Maikel Franco, added a homer off Paddack, and Franco himself tacked on a pinch-hit homer — just his third hit in the past two weeks — in Philadelphia’s 9-6 win.

Going forward, the plan is for Haseley to share center field duties with Kingery, who has turned the page on a disastrous rookie season and a four-week absence due to a right hamstring strain; he’s hitting .333/.370/.575 (147 wRC+) with four homers in 92 PA. Given Bruce’s platoon issues (115 wRC+ versus righties in his career, 91 versus lefties) — Tuesday’s second homer notwithstanding — he’ll likely sit against some southpaws while Haseley, who has held his own against same-side pitching in the minors, albeit with considerably less power than against righties, plays left field with Kingery in center.

The eventual return of Quinn, who last year hit for a 97 wRC+ in 143 PA but had started slowly this year, could ease the pressure on Haseley and Bruce. Herrera could return as well, though he could face a substantial suspension before that. He was arrested and charged with simple assault after an alleged altercation with his 20-year-old girlfriend in an Atlantic City hotel room. According to the Atlantic City Police Department, the woman (whose name has been redacted) “had visible signs of injury to her arms and neck that was sustained after being assaulted by her boyfriend, David Odubel Herrera, during a dispute.” Ugh.

Depending on how all of that unfolds, the Phillies figure to augment their outfield before the July 31 trade deadline. The Reds’ Yasiel Puig and the Diamondbacks’ Jarrod Dyson and Adam Jones (the latter of whom vetoed a trade to the Phillies last summer in accordance with his 10-and-5 rights) come to mind as potential trade targets. In the meantime, the team can hope that the jolts that Bruce and Kingery provided on Tuesday are signs of things to come.

We hoped you liked reading Depleted Phillies Lose McCutchen for the Season by Jay Jaffe!

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Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe.

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MorboTheAnnihilator
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MorboTheAnnihilator

What is the logic behind the infield fly rule applying only when first and second, or first, second, and third are occupied but not first base?

Antonio Bananas
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Member
Antonio Bananas

or when it’s hit into the outfield…Braves fans know what Im talking about

BenZobrist4MVP
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BenZobrist4MVP

If only first base is occupied and the batter runs immediately to first base, that usually prevents a double play, even on a dropped ball. This was an unusual situation because Segura lost his balance.

hebrew
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Member
hebrew

because Segura lazily didn’t run out a popup, you mean?

Lanidrac
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Lanidrac

Yes, this play was unusual, but there are plenty of times when the lead runner is the significantly faster runner (or the pitcher is the one hitting the pop-up) when it benefits the defense to let the ball drop and get the force at 2nd base. Rare plays like this then serve as further argument for expanding the infield fly rule.

kbpms2
Member
kbpms2

The logic is that proper baserunning will always ensure that only one out is made on an infield popup. If the batter runs it out and the runner holds near first, the team will never turn two. This is not the case with a man and first and second or the bases loaded. Without the infield fly rule, the fielder could let it drop, then throw to 2nd then 1st for an easy double play even when everyone is running the bases properly.

Pwn Shop
Member
Pwn Shop

You mean to third then to second, but your point is correct.

Lanidrac
Member
Lanidrac

Even with proper baserunning, it’s still not fair that the defense essentially gets their pick as to which baserunner they want to get off the bases. For example, if Harrison Bader were on 1st base with less than two outs and Yadier Molina hits an infield pop-up, why would you have any incentive to catch the ball?

That’s even before considering that there are rare plays like the one that injured McCutchen where normal baserunning logic doesn’t apply.