Everyone who watches baseball highlight shows enjoys seeing amazing defensive plays. This year I have seen many memorable defensive plays that took my breath away. However, what impresses me the most is flawless defense day after day. This is what helps teams win championships.
At the beginning of the season, no one thought the Philadelphia Phillies would have a winning record in mid-May, but they do. During this past offseason, every knowledgeable person in baseball thought the Phillies would have one of the worst records in 2016. They didn't sign anyone who was well known since they elected to give their youngsters valuable experience on the Major League level, and many thought these young players weren't ready to play in the Majors yet.
Going into Tuesday's game against the Marlins, the surprising Phillies are 22-17. The Phillies have a good fielding percentage, eighth highest in the NL. Their manager, Pete Mackanin, must have stressed fundamentals during Spring Training. Their pitching staff also has satisfactory numbers.
Before the season began, most pundits thought the St. Louis Cardinals would compete with the Chicago Cubs for the NL Central title, but so far the Cardinals have struggled to stay above .500 and are currently 20-18. Although the Cardinals have a potent offense, their defensive woes give the opposition more opportunities to score. They have committed the most errors in the NL -- 34 in 38 games.
Having poor defense puts unnecessary stress on the pitching staff. Most teams want their pitchers to pitch to contact, so they can keep their pitch counts down and stay in games longer.
At the beginning of the season, no one thought the Colorado Rockies would be in contention for the NL West title, but they are 19-18 and just 1 1/2 games out of first place.
Once again the Rockies are near the top in every offensive category in the NL. Still, they have major pitching problems with the second highest ERA in baseball. How can they be competitive? Defense.
The Rockies have the No. 1 defense in the NL. When their fielders make almost all the plays they should, it eases the stress on the pitching staff. Their pitching staff already has unusual stress when they must perform well in thin dry air for at least half their games at Coors Field. Nolan Arenado, the only third baseman who has won a Gold Glove in every year he has been in the Major Leagues, turns hits into outs, and his fantastic defense helps the Rockies' pitching staff perform better at home.
No one should discount the importance of defense to a team with championship aspirations.