When the Phillies acquired Brandon Marsh from the Los Angeles Angels last August, it was clear he was brought in more for his defense than his bat. In his two years with the Angels, Marsh hit for a measly .239 batting average and .653 OPS over 163 games played. What Marsh lacked in offense, he made up for in speed and his defensive ability in center field.
The Phillies, at the time, were looking for some defensive security in the outfield following failed experiments ranging from Odubel Herrera to Mickey Moniak to Roman Quinn. Marsh was set to bring security and continuing stability to center field, but this security did come at a heavy cost as the Phillies traded highly-touted catching prospect Logan O’Hoppe to get the deal done.
An Instant Fit in the Clubhouse for Brandon Marsh
From the moment Marsh joined the Phillies, there was an automatic sense that he would fit like a glove in the clubhouse. Then 24 years old, Marsh joined the ranks of the Phillies Daycare, jumping in on the pranking of Bryson Stott (and occasionally falling victim to it).
This season, especially with the loss of an important clubhouse leader like Rhys Hoskins, it’s important for the Phillies to have a unified front. Brandon Marsh, doing his part, brings a lot of energy, goofiness, and wet hair with him on the daily.
Hot Start to the Year for Brandon Marsh
To start the 2023 season, however, Brandon Marsh has brought a lot more to the table than just a clubhouse presence.
Like his fellow Daycare alumni, Marsh has put up a strong season. On Opening Day, Marsh went 2-for-4 with two extra-base hits against the Rangers. On April 10, Marsh played a key role in the Phillies’ 15-3 victory over the Marlins, going 3-for-5 with two doubles, a home run, and three RBI.
In 13 games played, Brandon Marsh has led the Phillies with three triples and nine extra-base hits overall. While Marsh has hit for a high average, he is among the league leaders in both slugging percentage and OPS Or… at least he would be, if he had enough plate appearances to qualify.
In order to qualify for the Major League Baseball leaderboard in any rate-based category (ex. batting average, OPS, etc.), a player needs to have at least 3.1 plate appearances per team game played. Now 15 games into the season, Marsh would need at least 47 plate appearances to qualify and he currently stands at 44 on the year.
Splits-Based Performance is a Huge Focus in Philly
But if the Phillies made a big trade for Brandon Marsh last season, why is he not playing every day? Splits. As a left-handed batter, the former Los Angeles Angel has struggled against left-handed pitching on his career. While his career slash line of .264/.327/.431 against righties is acceptable, his numbers drop against lefties to .227/.258/.303.
When a lefty tends to perform poorly against lefty pitchers, managers will often, especially in today’s analytics-focused game, sit the lefty in exchange for a righty with better stats against lefties.
That being said, especially when the lefty in question is in his third Major League season, how is the player going to improve against left-handed pitching if they never play against it?
This is something that the Phillies have been cognizant of in the case of Marsh. Over the offseason, it was an area of focus for Brandon Marsh as he sought to improve his game.
“He’s done a really nice job of fixing his swing to the point where it’s explosive, it’s tight, it’s compact, it’s powerful,” said Phillies hitting coach Kevin Long toward the end of Spring Training. “He’s in a better position, so it allows him a little more time to make decisions.”
Marsh’s improvements have been clear across the board this season, but especially so against left-handed pitching. In 12 plate appearances against lefties this season, Marsh has four hits, all of which for extra bases (three doubles and one home run).
If Marsh is to continue his improvement against left-handers, he needs more live at bats against them. Combine that with the fact that Marsh is one of the hottest batters not only on the team but in all of Major League Baseball, the Phillies need to keep Marsh in the lineup every day moving forward.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke