Hopefully, it’s a new day for the Phillies outfield defense and base running

The Phillies have hired a new outfield and base running coach, Paco Figueroa.

Pictured above is Paco Figueroa, playing second base for Spain in the 2009 Baseball World Cup as he avoids a head first slide by Elvis Andrus of Venezuela. His face is obscured in a sadly appropriate representation of Spain’s anonymous presence on the international baseball stage.

Figueroa, too, is likely not known to you, even though yesterday evening it was announced that he has been hired by the Phillies as an outfield and base running coach. The 35-year-old had been drafted by the Orioles out of the University of Miami in 2005 at a late enough round that you had stopped paying attention. No matter where his career has taken him, he has never been far from his twin brother Daniel, with whom he played in college and in the Orioles farm system, as well as on Team Spain.

While the majority of his career has taken place in Baltimore’s farm system as a second baseman, Figueroa did find himself in Reading in 2011, playing for the Fightin’ Phils in the last 68 games of his career with an affiliated minor league outfit. He’s existed since then in a few coaching roles, but mostly as a minor league hitting instructor and coordinator with the Orioles and Dodgers, the latter of which he was hired for by former Los Angeles player development executive Gabe Kapler.

It’s interesting that the Figueroa twin who isn’t an outfielder will be taking over outfield instruction for the Phillies, but at least, according to an interview with the twins, the Phillies are getting the Figueroa brother with superior dance moves. Sam Fuld handled Figueroa’s responsibilities last season, and with his replacement coming aboard, Fuld will be moving into a more data analysis role.

The two areas for which Figueroa has been hired were two of the Phillies’ more visible problems in 2018 (but then again, what wasn’t?). As far as outfield defense goes, check out Ethan Witte’s review of how things went out there. It includes this rather damning summation of the Phillies’ outfield :

It’s not like it was just bad. It was historically bad. Even if you’re like me and skeptical of advanced defensive metrics, there is no denying that this team was terrible with the leather.

They were so bad that one month of 38-year-old Jose Bautista getting playing time actually made things better. And base running? Well, I think about this play from July a lot.

Why couldn’t this team run the bases? Herrera, Aaron Altherr, Scott Kingery, Cesar Hernandez, Nick Williams, Roman Quinn; there were some genuine weapons in Kapler’s arsenal. But night after night, they nullified their success on plays like this, and wound up 69-for-95 on stolen base attempts, good enough for 23rd in the league.

It seems that Gabe Kapler has brought in one of his own guys whom he trusts in the realm of player development. Hopefully, Figueroa knows the formula to turn raw speed into more intelligent baseball running, as well give the outfield defense a boost. Because one of this team’s low key priorities should be avoiding two rundowns on the same play.

…I think about the play a lot.

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