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Is Phillies' defense cause for concern?

Certain measures peg Phils as underperforming with gloves; Arano to DL; Santana moved down in lineup
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

MIAMI -- The numbers show the Phillies have done several things well the first month of the season.

They are scoring more runs per game this year (4.67) than any Phillies team since 2010 (4.77). They are seeing more pitches per plate appearances (4.17) and have the highest walk rate (11.6 percent) in baseball. Their pitchers have the sixth-lowest hard-hit rate (33.33 percent). These numbers partly explain why the Phillies entered Monday's series opener against the Marlins at Marlins Park with a 16-11 record.

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MIAMI -- The numbers show the Phillies have done several things well the first month of the season.

They are scoring more runs per game this year (4.67) than any Phillies team since 2010 (4.77). They are seeing more pitches per plate appearances (4.17) and have the highest walk rate (11.6 percent) in baseball. Their pitchers have the sixth-lowest hard-hit rate (33.33 percent). These numbers partly explain why the Phillies entered Monday's series opener against the Marlins at Marlins Park with a 16-11 record.

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Other numbers have not been as kind. Two different versions of Defensive Runs Saved -- a metric which measures a team's defensive capabilities -- ranks the Phillies as the worst defense in baseball. BillJamesOnline.com has the Phillies at -30 DRS, which is 13 runs worse than the 29th-ranked Orioles (-17 DRS). FanGraphs has the Phillies at -22 DRS, one worse than the 29th-ranked Orioles.

"I've seen some of the things floating around about DRS," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said Monday. "What I'd submit is our defense has not been perfect. From the eye test, just from watching in the dugout and looking at our guys, we can make more plays than we've made. The cool thing is that we have the talent to make those plays."

Video: ATL@PHI: Herrera hustles to make a nice grab

Defensive metrics remain highly debated because of their accuracy and volatility from week to week. For example, anybody that watched Freddy Galvis play shortstop last season would say he was one of the best defenders in the game, but the metrics ranked him no better than middle of the pack.

Some defensive metrics do not account for the shift or how hard a ball is hit. So if a ground ball is smashed past Cesar Hernandez at 115 mph and he does not catch it, he is knocked because he did not catch a ball in his zone. If a ball is hit where the shortstop typically plays, but he is standing behind second base because of the shift, he is penalized for that.

"I think the most important thing is that we have good scouting grades on our guys," Kapler said. "Our scouts believe in them. Our field staff believes in them. And so we have the right personnel."

Still, it is worth watching.

Arano to the DL
Phillies rookie Victor Arano has been of the team's biggest surprises, but he landed on the 10-day disabled list Monday because of a "mild" strain of the right rotator cuff. The DL stint is retroactive to Sunday.

The Phillies said Arano had an MRI in Philadelphia and will be reevaluated when the team arrives in D.C. on Thursday. He is not throwing in the meantime. He ranks sixth among NL relievers with a 0.67 WHIP and seventh in opponents' average (.119). He retired the first 25 batters he faced this season.

The Phillies activated left-hander Zac Curtis, who replaced right-hander Jake Thompson on the 25-man roster. Curtis essentially takes Arano's spot in the bullpen. The Phillies also activated right-hander Zach Eflin, who is scheduled to start Tuesday.

Phillies right-hander Jerad Eickhoff (strained right lat) is schedule to throw a live batting practice Tuesday. He remains on schedule to rejoin the rotation by late May. Right-hander Mark Leiter Jr. (strained right forearm) threw a live BP on Monday. Kapler said it went well.

Hoskins up, Santana down
Carlos Santana has started 27 games this season. He has hit second 25 times, in part because Kapler believes the two most important spots in the lineup are second and fourth. But Santana hit fifth Monday, the lowest he has hit in the lineup this season.

Santana entered the game hitting .160 with a .592 OPS, although Kapler declined to say he dropped Santana in the order because he is struggling or because it might help him relax.

"It's lower in the lineup by number, but it's also an incredibly important critical spot in our lineup," Kapler said.

Rhys Hoskins hit second. Aaron Altherr hit fourth.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

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