Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

Phillies News

'We're better' than projections, Klentak says

GM confident acquisitions will lead to first winning season since 2011
@ToddZolecki
February 13, 2020

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Matt Klentak said he has not seen Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections for 2020. It predicts the Phillies will win 77 games and finish fourth in the National League East, which would be a major disappointment for a team with one of the highest payrolls in baseball. It

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Matt Klentak said he has not seen Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections for 2020.

It predicts the Phillies will win 77 games and finish fourth in the National League East, which would be a major disappointment for a team with one of the highest payrolls in baseball. It does not mean it will happen. It is a projection and nothing more.

But the Phillies, like almost every team in baseball, believe strongly in numbers. They use them to select, promote, sign and trade players and build rosters.

“I think we’re better than that,” Klentak said Thursday morning at Spectrum Field.

Asked about the Phillies’ internal projections from their own analytics department, Klentak said, “We won 81 games last year, which is a one-win improvement on what we’d done [in 2018], and we had a lot of things go wrong for us. When you take that baseline and you add Zack Wheeler, Didi Gregorius, Joe Girardi, Bryan Price and Joe Dillon, and add a lot of the pitching and bench depth that we’ve added for Spring Training, I think it is very reasonable to project that this year’s club is going to be better than last year’s club.”

The Phillies need to be. Klentak and much of his front office is entering its fifth season. Philadelphia has not had a winning record in that time. The Phils started well each of the past two seasons but collapsed in the second half each time. Managing partner John Middleton overruled Klentak in dismissing manager Gabe Kapler and hitting coach John Mallee. Pitching coach Chris Young also lost his job.

There is pressure on Klentak and his front office to win.

“I think first and foremost, we made a ton of progress in five years from the very early stages of a rebuild,” Klentak said. “Look at how many players are on our roster today that were on our 2016 team. I think it's Hector [Neris], [Adam] Morgan. It's not very many. [Vince] Velasquez. I think we've made a ton of progress both on the field and off. I feel very good about that. I think we're realistic about the division. The National League East is about, if not the toughest division, the most competitive division in baseball. We have four teams that are going for it. And you don't often find that in any division, so there's a little bit of a reality check too about the competition level this year.

“But I said it at Joe's press conference [in October] and I'll say it again now. The last years, we're two games below .500 and then we were .500. It's time to take another step forward and produce a winning season and play baseball in October. We have the talent. We've got a winning manager to do that. We've got committed ownership. We've added players to the roster this year to help get us there. I think that's true. I think that's what our fans want. I know that's what our owners want and it's what I want. That's why Joe is here, because that's what Joe wants.”

Klentak said he believes the Phillies have enough pitching to win, both in the rotation and in the bullpen. But he knows they need things to break their way. They need their pitchers to stay healthy. Klentak said he believes the way Girardi and Price run the bullpen will help in those efforts.

The pitchers believe so, too. In early conversations in camp, Phillies pitchers and others in uniform are excited about Girardi and Price running the show. The team believes it will be better just because of their presence in the clubhouse and dugout. If they play better, then maybe the Phils will be aggressive to find help in July. Maybe they will exceed the $208 million Competitive Balance Tax.

“I don’t think [the luxury tax is] a barrier,” Klentak said. “I think it’s a guide. But by no means is it a hard cap. Our ownership has always encouraged us to pursue every opportunity, and if we think it makes sense from a baseball perspective to bring it to them … I certainly believe them when they say that. They’ve got a track record of following through on that."

The reality is the players need to show something first. Klentak believes they can, no matter what the numbers say.

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